Thursday, April 27, 2006

Now, That's a Man You Marry

We sat closely in one side of a wide booth in the corner, criss-crossing arms to put hands on each other's thighs.

"A woman will love a man forever if she can trust him with her fears." Our pastor sat across from us, looking earnestly through round lenses. He had said this to us before. It always makes me wince.

We were at our second pre-marital counseling session, this time on a Tuesday night at a rib joint.

The Boy, who had been buttering a slice of sourdough, held my hand under the table. "I've struggled with that," he admitted. "It's sometimes hard to remember my job isn't always to fix everything."

I stared at him openly . He was right, and we had fought about it. I had promised myself not to sell him out. But life is scary; marriage is scarier. Of course there are fears. We discussed them that night. Aging. Changing. Drifting. I don't need to be told, "That'll never happen," or, "Don't be silly," and I especially don't need to hear laughter. The Boy looked through me when he apologized for saying those things. Promised to try harder, to listen when I am afraid.

That session is already serving us well. Lately I'm afraid. Sometimes trembling, often terrified. But one thing I am absolutely, unequivocally not afraid of is that I'm marrying the wrong person. The day I lost my job I was crushed, embarrassed. I felt I had let our new family down.

"Don't think for a minute you've let me down," The Boy said, no-nonsense. I didn't say it, but I knew taking that job had been a risk. We both did. We had discussed it openly. I felt foolish-- like a failure-- because we faced the worst-case scenario that could have been prevented. But I didn't say any of that.

"You took a risk, honey. A big risk."

Uh-oh, I thought. Here it comes.

"And I have never been so proud of you, " he proclaimed. I knew he meant it.

We are concerned about our lack of money. It's not every quarter that he starts a new job, I lose a new job. Not every quarter that we spend thousands on one day of festivities and two weeks of South Pacific marital bliss. We admit openly that this timing leaves much to be desired. We fear. But we are gripping hands, always with fingers tightly interlaced, facing the same direction.

I cannot wait to marry this man, and I usually hesitate to write about things like this. What if it's sentimental, I wonder. Today, I don't care. Honesty, in writing and in life, isn't just for the snarky or funny or bad. And this man makes it worth it for me to look forward. I don't care who knows-- in fact, crickets, tell all your friends.

I'm working on trusting. Doing what I can do and not worrying. Not furrowing my brow. Praying more, focusing less on unknowns I can't predict. Enjoying the wind blowing through my hair while I drive the car I never thought I'd have.

I'm working.

But the next person who asks me what I do all day is going to get a to-do list to last them the next 24 days. I kid you not.

Monday, April 24, 2006


I probably should've known the day was about to take a sinister turn when I heard Mike's voice on the phone.

"This is the second hardest thing I've ever had to do."

I silently wondered what the first hardest thing was.

"What's up?" I asked, maybe a little out of breath. I had been stripping beds in preparation for Amber's arrival later that afternoon.

"You know how we lost that contract yesterday." I had heard but knew little about it-- it had been before my brief time with the company.

"Christina, they've decided to let you go." I had a feeling the sheets would stay in the washer until we needed them to be on the beds.

I remembered the definition of reeling. My body felt lightheaded-- dizzy. Confused. I asked the standard why's and how's. I looked at the calendar on the desk in my "home office." Friday, April 21st. Exactly one month before my ruthlessly impending nuptials.

Mike was nothing but helpful, gracious. Looking out for me. Calling with possible consulting deals.

I dried my tears (with a towel), updated my resume and drafted an email to HR. The HR rep called me back (clearly ignoring my preferred method of communication). She used the words "departure" and "pay in lieu of notice."

"Can you please explain the difference between severance and pay in lieu of notice?"

Judging by her tone of voice, in her opinion, it was a big difference. "Severance," she said tersely, "asks you to give something up in exchange for something else." Confused, because I thought that was the definition of "quid pro quo," and irritated, because her southern lilt and calmness were unnerving, I put the phone on speaker and held it from my face while I groaned. "With pay in lieu of notice, we're not asking you to give up anything!" That was all I could take. I got off the phone as quickly as possible.

Amber arrived with her burgeoning belly. Shortly after that, a basket of daisies arrived with an I Love You balloon and a hand-written card that began, "Pookie." They were The Boy's words, but not in his handwriting. We laughed and Amber and her fetus took me to Coldstone after a couple of moping hours on the couch. Then we got our toes done and walked home in the rain.

The Boy greeted us at the door in his "I'm a Catch" shirt-- the one I got him last time he saved me. We sat on the couch after a long, tight hug. I hid my face in his shirt.

"I sent a prayer request out to the church," The Boy announced, referring to the church-wide emails that often bombard our inboxes. Amber burst out laughing. So hard she cried and had to leave the room. I wondered if he had considered the possibility of my embarrassment. "I ran it by your dad!" He exclaimed. "I thought I did the right thing!" And he probably did. But I still had visions of my Dad confronting Mr. O'Brien, the man who would become one of my favorite teachers, on junior year back-to-school night. He told O'Brien I was intimidated of him. O'Brien made a scene in front of the whole class the next day. When I confronted Dad, he did not apologize.

I explained this to The Boy. "In the future, if you ever have a question that involves potential embarrassment, do not consult him! He has no sensor for that kind of thing." The conversation spanned the weekend.

We faced our previously scheduled shower, reminding ourselves that our wedding is more than a series of dollar signs, even if it doesn't feel like it. For better or for worse started early. In the car, we started facing forward, together.

Today, my first official "business day" of unemployment, I took care of all the supposed-to's. Breakfast. Cleaning the kitchen. Taking care of the dog. Checking my email. Putting on my workout clothes. Then I did my first real act of unemployment. I went back to bed.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Ticking Away

At 6:14 a.m. on Tuesday, I walked outside with Mosotos and saw the Super Shuttle blocking the driveway of the converted firehouse across the street. I pretended I didn't see it and yanked the dog down to the holly bush and mulch patch at the condos on the corner. He peed, and I pulled him back toward the house. He looked at me, confused. This wasn't how we did it, and it was a good hour too early. Poor little dog.

I handed my luggage to the friendly Nigerian man and climbed into the shuttle. It was still a couple minutes shy of 6:23, the earliest time I was supposed to have been ready. "We can wait," the driver said. I knew I had left my sunglasses on my desk. I told him to go ahead. We headed out in the opposite direction of the airport, and the Nigerian's marveled over laborers waiting in the 7-11 parking lot on Broadway. I explained the phenomenon. We delved into a conversation, or really a monologue, on immigration laws, "carboats," Castro and landfill living. We arrived at our destination and retraced out steps back to my neighborhood. The Nigerian was telling outrageous stories of favors passengers had asked him. "Drive me 26 miles back, I forgot my dentures," and "Can you come back in an hour? I haven't taken a shower yet." When I noted that I had driven all over town with them before 7 in the morning, he said, "Do you want to go back? We can stop."

"No," I sighed. "Then I'd just become a story you'd tell other passengers." He laughed heartily.

A full forty minutes after I began my journey, people who were practically my neighbors boarded the shuttle, having had at least 30 minutes more sleep than I did. I learned about their grandfetus and their houseboat. I arrived at curbside check-in just ahead of my grandparents. We sat together on the plane.

I'm fresh off my first roundtrip flight to Charlotte. I didn't miss the 16+ hours in the car, but I did I spend hundreds of dollars and 30 hours to be at my brother's Senior Recital. He wore a long white tuxedo jacket and a faraway expression, sang in four languages, and was fantastic. I flew with my family for the first time-- the whole family. Grandparents from both sides.

Fast food, fast talking-- many voices all at once-- fast trip. Mosotos was beside himself when I returned, exhausted, late last night. And it was nice to have someone to come home to.

I was six miles from The Boy twice while in Charlotte, but we never connected. He was done with training at 5 this evening but can't come home until tomorrow. I'm headed to D.C. way too early in the morning, and The Boy's father will be in town for a quick car delivery/repair trip. Easter on Sunday and I can't believe we're that far into the year. Two separate friends remarked to me, "It just occurred to me how soon your wedding is. It's like really soon." It is like really soon. 38 days and counting. I'm aware that most of my sentences lead to wedding details or worries. Amber reminded me today, "Don't worry friend, this won't last. Soon you'll be putting together wagons and filling sandboxes," she alluded to her afternoon plans. She's right. I'm looking forward to that, but it wouldn't hurt me to enjoy the trip.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Pre-Marital Absurdity

Florida: Come for the empty promise of sunshine, stay for the torrential rains. Witness The Boy walking on water. Take a good look, I feel certain it's as close as he'll ever get...

We took his mother to her first baseball game in Ft. Lauderdale and we established a plan of attack for our rapidly (rabidly?) approaching Blessed Event. We remembered why we're doing this. On the plane home, we played hangman (as always), with words like "Mosotos" and "Tahiti." The Boy video taped me saying I would not freak out about the wedding and that "everything would be fine." He has already played it back for me twice since then.

I have done enough fake calligraphy that I feared my finger cramps would never go away. Yesterday, The Boy carried two boxes of double-bagged invitations to the post office and weighed them a second time, just to make sure. "There's no turning back, you know. Not now," he told me when he returned. And I did know. And it felt fantastic.

My grandmother accompanied me to my gown fitting and took pictures that make me wonder how I'll actually feel about how I look at the Blessed Event. I accompanied my mom to search for her dress, and The Boy's mother called to inform me that, instead of wearing a dress "the color of water," as she had originally planned, she has now purchased a dress that is cream. When I reminded her that my dress is ivory, she said, "Yes, but it's a dark cream. It doesn't look anything like yours." I felt rather stuck, assuring myself that no one would get the two of us confused, but I also wondered if maybe Betsy at BridalMart was right-- maybe I do need a veil. Just so people know that I'm the bride.

Thank you for indulging my insanity-- this has become my world. And if you've never done it you're going to have to take my word for it; no matter how much I've tried to avoid this consumption, it is in fact, unavoidable. If you're not interested in the inevitable insanity, I suggest you take a 45 day vacation-- or longer-- from this publication. Now, if you'll excuse me, I have work to do. Not to mention Pilates and teeth-whitening and tanning. And various other clichés.

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