The Purple of Life

She told me to hold on to the purple in my life.

My Photo
Location: Chicago, United States

I'm a 37-year-old editor and city dweller, wife and mother, moderately liberal and radically optimistic. I would fill my perfect day with a cup of coffee and the Op Ed section, a flea market and the playground, a run along Lake Michigan, a walk through the neighborhood with my son and my greyhound, a Cuban dinner and a bottle of red with my husband, and an evening flight to some European city. I wouldn't be picky about which one.

June 22, 2006

Five years

He did not want to move to Chicago. I know this. He would have been happy spending the rest of his days in the Michigan town where he was raised, went to college, and began his career.

It’s a nice town. But I couldn’t see myself staying there. I wanted Chicago, a publishing career, a big city where I could blend in (where it didn’t matter that I’m not a Calvinist of Dutch descent, like so many of the folks in John’s hometown). I wanted to go. And he agreed to go with me.

If I ever had doubts about what kind of person John is, they were banished in November of 2001. He left a decent job, a bunch of college friends, his family, and the town that he’d lived in for 26 years to move to another state—because I wanted to. I knew there was a chance that it wouldn’t work, that he’d be miserable, that we’d move back. But that didn’t happen. We both have great jobs, strong careers, good friends—we’re part of little communities in our building, our neighborhood, our workplaces, our church. We’ve built a good life here, something that belongs to the two of us. And because we moved a mere five months after we became husband and wife—on June 22, 2001—we’ve built a marriage at the same time.

I have been married for five years today. There is something almost nonsensical about that statement—how can it be possible that this much time has passed, that I’m 30 and he’s 31; was it really five years ago that we stood up in a small Catholic church and promised to spend the rest of our lives together? In that Michigan town, where people often married while they were still in college, I felt old and worldly to be marrying at 25. I had waited. I had lived alone for two years, supported myself, backpacked in Italy solo for two weeks. And now I was embarking on the next chapter of my life, a much longer chapter that would contain plot points I couldn’t even imagine.

I look at photos from our wedding day and I’m taken aback by how young and eager and fresh-faced we look. I think my face shows the joy I felt that day. It was the most joy-filled day of my life so far. I was so ready to bind my life to this person’s life.

John is a man who has never expected me to vacuum or mop the floor because I have ovaries. I have never felt denigrated because he makes more money than I do. The equal partnership we’ve created is incredibly precious to me.

He does, however, ask me almost every day what’s for dinner—even though we do the weekly grocery shopping together, and he does most of the cooking.

John plays the guitar. He taught himself when he was in high school. He can play Dave Matthews, Jack Johnson, REM, Bruce Springsteen, the theme song from Brokeback Mountain. When we had just started dating, I told him that I loved the song “Blackbird” by the Beatles, and he learned how to play it for me.

He was somewhat shy when we first met. He used to ask me if I would hold his hand. I always said yes.

On our third date (a swing-dancing lesson at a local bar—yes, it was 1999), he brought me a bouquet of carnations “just because it was a Tuesday.” He loves making chocolate milkshakes with malted mix. He loves Guinness and shiraz, guacamole and apples and salmon and chocolate pie. His favorite restaurants are Italian, Spanish, and Cuban.

Sometimes, in the middle of the night, half-asleep, he’ll put his arm around me and kiss my shoulder.

He cried with me when Murphy died. I had never seen him cry like that before.

His favorite part of summer is camping. He loves it all—the fire, the grilling, the beer, sleeping in a tent, playing his guitar under the rustling trees in the dark night. I first told him I was falling in love with him during a camping trip. He proposed to me on a camping trip. (He is lucky I like to camp.)

He has a sensitive stomach. He gets heartburn (especially when he eats my mom’s food), and he has asthma. He hates cigarette smoke.

We have gotten drunk together in pubs in Ireland and Maine, and we’ve soaked up the sun on the shores of Cape May, Key West, Tortola, and the Outer Banks of North Carolina. We’ve driven up a mountain in New Hampshire, hiked up part of a mountain in Colorado, and explored the cities of Dublin, Paris, Amsterdam, and Bruges. He is a good traveling companion, even though he likes to take mid-afternoon naps and I don’t.

I always know where he’s been in the condo, because he leaves the light on in that room.

He threw me a surprise party for my thirtieth birthday. I didn’t write about that here, did I? That boy organized a huge party for me at a neighbor’s house, and he invited friends and family from Michigan and Chicago, college friends and work friends and church friends and neighbors. He sent out invites, did all the shopping, agonized that I would find out, but I didn’t. The party was an incredible success, and I was nearly drowned by the realization of how much he loves me, to do something like that.

When he cooks, I do the dishes, and vice versa.

He is almost equally good at every sport he attempts to play. He loves softball and runs his work’s team.

He wholeheartedly supported my decision to go to grad school. Tuition wasn’t cheap, but he never complained about the bills. I don’t think I realized how lucky I was to have that support.

He doesn’t watch much TV besides sports, HBO, and The Daily Show. He loves the original series of The Office and taught himself to play “Freelove Freeway” on the guitar, much to my endless amusement.

He’s a CPA, but I pay our bills every month.

When he gets home and Moose comes to greet him, he says, “How’s the boy??” and rubs Moose’s head against his leg.

He enjoys playing with our neighbors’ toddler, picking her up and swinging her around to make her squeal and laugh. He is going to be a wonderful father someday.

He’s a huge fan of Bruce Springsteen. When we first started dating, I was like, “Springsteen? ‘Tunnel of Love’? Whatever.” He made me a mix tape, and then I started to get it, the supreme awe that the Boss can command. We own every Bruce Springsteen album ever recorded.

He also likes folk music, as I do, and I’m really grateful for that.

Right before we were engaged, I had to have a painful and somewhat scary biopsy done. That afternoon, he sent me an email that I can quote here verbatim, because I printed it out, folded it up, and have kept it in my wallet since that day:

Date: May 24, 2000
Subject: You’re invited
A date: this afternoon on the back deck at [123 John’s Street] with 22 oz of New Holland Zoomer Wit and malted-mix ice cream dessert (whatever’s left) at 4:00 or 4:30. Please RSVP by email.


On our anniversary two years ago, I wrote this:

I’m still not sure what lies ahead for us—we’re not even 30. But I’m beginning to realize that the unknown isn’t scary, and the unknown doesn’t really matter. Because whatever happens to us, neither of us will be alone. And when death does part us, we’ll have created something beautiful and complex and strong and weatherbeaten and true—a marriage—and it will be one of my life’s greatest accomplishments.

Now we’re done with our twenties, and there’s still no way to look into our future together and know if it will be peaceful or turbulent, with illness or health. I don’t know how or when the family we’ve created will grow. But I still believe that the unknown isn’t truly all that scary, because whatever happens to us, neither of us will be alone. One of the reasons I love my life so much is because he’s in it.

(Thanks to Eliza, whose beautiful Father’s Day entry about her dad inspired the format for this journal entry.)

Labels: , , ,


Anonymous Libby said...

Happy anniversary! I enjoy reading your entries on marriage, it sounds like you have a wonderful one. We should all be so lucky!

12:48 PM  
Blogger eliza said...

Well, goddamn it, Strass. I'm sitting here boo-hooing at your entry and then see that you acknowledged my entry about my dad, and that made me boo-hoo some more.

Happy anniversary. I loved reading this.

3:17 PM  
Blogger Jessamyn said...

Happy anniversary! I loved this one, too, and it makes me want to invite the two of you over for dinner RIGHT AWAY. Let me know when you are free! :)

3:45 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home