We had been married for four months. We had moved three times (another memory). Marc had moved from Starbucks barista to an admissions counselor at our college. And I was knee deep in my senior year.
Part of Marc’s glamorous job responsibilities as admissions counselor was to visit and recruit from his territory – Ohio. So the time came. Our first significant time apart since our wedding.
I don’t remember feeling terribly apprehensive or nervous about this separation. We were busy enough that I imagine it must have been more a matter of course – but this is through the lens of 25 years of his travelling for one thing or another. Maybe I have forgotten. But what I do remember about this trip is spending a night or two or three with his mother and sister in the condo at Old Orchard Beach Maine. The main living room faced out into the ocean. It was fall and I think our days were surrounded in endless grays and whites in the sky and Atlantic.
I remember cooking. I remember sitting on the couches under heavy knit afghans as we all worked on knitting projects ourselves. We watched either Pride and Prejudice (BBC, 1995) or Anne of Green Gable followed by Anne of Avonlea – either way it was VHS style binge-watching.
I remember being warm and not alone. That first time Marc travelled.
Our college required attendance at chapel. Most of the time, this was fine. A large percentage of the community gathered together (I liked our community) and the speakers and leaders were gifted.
I remember I was in a class with Marc’s (Beloved and Revered) academic advisor that met immediately after chapel at the other end of the campus on the top floor at the end of a hallway in an old castle. And it was during this brief transition time between the chapel service and Old Testament Prophets class that Marc decided to propose.
The proposal itself wasn’t exactly a surprise. We had been talking about the direction we thought our relationship was headed, and even about the timeline. But the actual location and timing was a surprise.
Here is how it happened: Our chaplain had been doing a series called “God’s will for your life, one wife or two’. It was a pastoral (and humorous) look at Free Will and PreDestination. There were robots and stuffed frogs involved, if I remember correctly. At the end of the chapel service, as we all rose and began collecting our things, Marc looked around and saw “All the people I want to be with me when I propose are here”. His sister, my roommate, dear friends.
So he knelt (I think on the pew, not between the pews) and pulled a blue satin pouch with Hindi lettering on it out of his pocket. (He had bought the diamond in Calcutta where we had been on a missions trip just weeks before!) and asked me to marry him. I remember saying yes. He remembers me saying “I’m going to be late for class”.
Either way, his sister screamed “I just got a new sister” and my roommate screamed “my roommate just got engaged” and the chaplain (who had been mentoring us in our dating relationship with his wife) wondered if maybe he should have done an altar call.
The tradition at our college was to ring a bell to announce the engagement to the whole campus. So after we accepted congratulations, we hustled to The Bell and rang it. (Once or more, I don’t remember.)
Then we hurried me to class. Where I was late. And I have no idea what I learned that day. But I am beginning to understand what I signed up for with a yes that day and continue to be learning with my best friend over the course of the years to come.
I’m not sure which came first – the horse drawn surry with the fringe on top clomping through the high school cafeteria in small-town Maine or sitting in a Boston theater with my Aunt and Uncle and some cousins experiencing “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat”. Both happened before fourth grade. Both still evoke a gut-rooted delight showing up as a dimpled grin on my face.
I remember my first On Broadway Broadway show, when we were working on Long Island (“Footloose”, thank you Rob Wenner). Most days I could barely believe that we lived so close to NYC. And here we were going to a show that I would only have ever seen on the Macy’s Day parade. I remember taking both sets of our parents to see “The Music Man” – reliving my high school performance as an extra, and crying at the end of each performance with perfect satisfaction. And then Marc and I took an overnight to see “Phantom of the Opera” when I was 8 months pregnant with Anna, and this included my first domestic bicycle rickshaw ride.
I remember taking the kids to their first touring Broadway Show in SC – “Anna and the King”. We pulled off a total surprise going to a conversation series offered by the theater telling them it was so we could hear from some of the actors and technicians of the show. Then, we pulled out the tickets and hustled to the main theater for the whole shebang. We have gone to several more shows since that first one – each feeling like a Christmas morning surprise.
And now I will get to remember taking the girls to their first On Broadway Broadway show in NYC. I had only ever written this desire on my secret “Wouldn’t it be amazing if I got to do this with or for my kids” list. I’m not sure if I enjoyed the performance or the act of making the experience happen more.
Live performance, live music, live theater, live musical theater fills my deep Self. A perfect blend of story, entertainment, music; an ensemble seen and unseen combining their best selves to create a Whole; exaggerated gestures, colors, conversations that lap onto the coloring page I carry with me into each performance. Professional and polished or in a high school of earnest, hopeful cast-members – I adore it.
This year I am challenging myself to remember and write about 52 things. I have called it a Remember52 challenge in my mind and on my to-do lists. I’m choosing #remember52 for myself because I spend so much time wondering what to write about that I just don’t. And being in a season of increasing significant transition (and hopefully self-discovery), remembering seems just write.
I don’t hold to many possessions too tightly. We’ve moved too many times for that. But this is something I have treasured for myself at least since we got married, maybe earlier, I don’t know. It is shocking to me how this little naive wish has yet to find a peaceful resolution. My first Remember52 coincides with a tense global climate with someone being killed, some bombs being sent in retaliation, an airliner ‘accidentally’ being shot down.
As my daughter prepared for high school finals, I remember studying for my high school midterms with Wanda and her family as they heard that her cousin was to be deployed. I remember friends losing friends and family. I remember trying to get off of Long Island on 9/11 with a 2yo Caleb and a not yet pronounced but almost certain Anna within.
But of this framed piece, I remember sitting around a warm evening meal, my family holding hands. God is great, God is good, let us thank God for this food. Or some other child’s dinner prayer. We never said PS. But we always added “and please help there be peace in the Middle East”. Amen.
I didn’t know where or what the Middle East were. I probably didn’t even know East, yet. If I’m honest, I still have very little grasp of what, where, or who the Middle East are. But we prayed every night, for peace. And we still are. In fact, I’m guessing I have a pretty narrow understanding of what, where, and who Peace is, how it is brought.
Is peace captured in one of the first essays of a second grader – a midyear version of ‘what I did this summer’? I remember struggling with this assignment because I knew that it wasn’t quite right to wish for material things for myself. I didn’t want to let on that I really wanted a particular doll or book or some other toy (though I remember that that was the year I got a beautiful full series box set of Little House on the Prairie books that I still have). I remember where I sat – in a row where I could stare out the window. I remember Ms. Heal read Charlotte’s Web out loud to us that year – and she did it just right. I remember my classroom was across the hall from my first grade classroom at Ella P. Burr Elementary School. Ms. Fogg was my first grade teacher. It was her mother who penned the calligraphy piece.
All of our My Wish essays were hung in the hall. Was there a parents night or some other open house? Who were the hallway bulletin boards decorated for? They were up too high for me to see and read. Maybe elementary teachers decorate some bulletin boards to encourage and amuse themselves and each other.
I had no idea that weather patterns wouldn’t cease fighting and war. I knew that when it rained or snowed in my life, things stopped. We stayed home and were family. Sometimes treats were baked and served. It was quiet. Less interrupted than usual. Together.
Maybe I wasn’t wishing for weather patterns. Maybe I was wishing for peace.