"I can easily find my way home, for I marked the road with my breadcrumbs." ~ Hansel, in Hansel and Gretel
We work at it. We work it like a boss (<--shout out to my homeboy). I have never read relationship books before, yet I have a library of them now. Mark has participated in men's groups focused on building a healthy, happy marriage and home. Taking the recommendations of marriage counselors, we are discussing our strengths, weaknesses, goals and fears now, to make sure no one is sucker punched later (e.g. "What do you mean I can't have this Hugh Jackman poster over our bed?"). We pledge to tackle the big issues and address the smaller ones before they become the big, honkin' problems of tomorrow. We're also learning everything we can about the stepfamily dynamic.
We remember that none of this is about a wedding, and all of this is about a marriage. (That said, it was crazy fun trying on wedding gowns the other day. I recommend this even if you aren't getting married. You literally are put on a pedestal and everyone is paid to tell you that you look fabulous. I plan to go at least once a month.)
But there's something else I still need to do. Something important.
When Mark proposed. I didn't want to forget anything from that moment, so I kept souvenirs: the ring box; the cork from the bottle of wine, tiny pieces of the confetti that had been scattered across our dinner table. But I also said to him, "I wish we could find a way to save everything we feel right now. That way, when we desperately need to remember -- and there will be those days -- we could feel this way again."
I thought of Hansel leaving his trail of breadcrumbs, so he and Gretel could find their way home. Yes, I know the birds ate the breadcrumbs, but the kids found a house made of cookies and candy, so they shouldn't complain.
Unfortunately, there is not a special bag or box that holds the feelings we cherish most. This bothered me, until I remembered I am a writer (not really - but I play one on this blog). With that in mind, I want to leave some breadcrumbs, so if Mark and I are among the 70 percent who lose their way, we hopefully can find the path home (or even better, a house made of cookies).
My high school daughter has already told me that I have regressed to a lovesick 14-year-old girl, but I deny this. I haven't spent hours on my bed listening to Air Supply (yet). That said, if declarations of love make you want to barf, this isn't the place for you. These are my breadcrumbs for Mark, and I can leave them wherever I want. So there.
Mark, these are only a handful of the things I always hope to remember:
- I like that I've known you for more than 20 years. While we weren't in touch for many of those, there is weight to those shared experiences and college memories. I recall the night you showed up at my college apartment with your hometown friends, and I'd had some beer (Mom, if you're reading this, it was my first beer ever, and I only drank it when I mistook it for a cola after that church revival). Anyway, I called the local radio station, and for inexplicable reasons (a.k.a. beer), I publicly dedicated Color Me Badd's All For Love to you in some long, silly, ridiculous dedication. I don't know why you didn't cut all contact with me then and there. You must have been mortified. But the good-natured guy that you are, you laughed. Or maybe a guy who had proudly shown me his movie soundtrack collection a few days earlier didn't have any room to talk about my bad judgement in music. Who ya gonna' call? GhostBusters!
- I was shocked to learn you still have the "Mac's" package store t-shirt and Lewis Grizzard book I gave you in college. I don't think it was because of any great sentiment, but I'm glad you held on to some pieces of me all those years.
- On that note, I am so grateful we were friends before we were more. And we were good friends, friends who trusted each other, talked to one another, listened to and advised each other. I already knew your flaws, and you already knew mine. We both saw each other falter and flounder in relationships. Remember all that relationship advice I gave you, and vice versa? We always wanted the best for each other. I like to think we always will.
- Of course, there was that day, that moment, when we -- two good friends enjoying a couple of chocolate chip cookies -- looked at each other for the longest time, puzzled that everything suddenly seemed different. We just stared at each other, both of us knowing the world had shifted, wondering what the hell had happened to us. Later, we shook our heads, insisted we'd never be more than friends, which was plenty. But dude, those were really good cookies.
- Speaking of cookies, I'm glad you enjoy baking and cooking -- because I enjoy eating and eating. You're talented, and you know your way around a kitchen. One of my favorite things to do is open a bottle of wine, turn on some music and cook dinner with you. We move around each other, chopping dicing and sauteeing, like a well-orchestrated ballet. Or maybe we just think we do because of the wine. Whatever. It's still lovely.
- Three words: Baked hot chocolate.
- We read many of the same books. I dig that. We do not, however, watch the same cable news networks, which makes for some feisty Sunday morning discussions. You're the Matalin to my Carville. I mean, if Matalin had man parts -- like Hillary Clinton.
- I adore that the same movies play in our heads. We constantly create imaginary, impromptu stories about anything and everything. One of us starts the scenario. The other soon adds to it, until we're both laughing because we see the same movie, the same characters, the same storyline, the same ending. That's rare, to sync with someone like that. WonderTwin Powers Activate!
- Speaking of, no one makes me laugh like you. Thanks for making me laugh every single day -- even on days I am certain laughter is impossible.
- You're amazing with children. Truly. Kids flock to you. They must recognize that you're young at heart. I love that about you.
- More importantly, you're amazing with my children. Thank you for loving them, for treating them well, for always considering their feelings, for supporting them in various ways. Thank you for the day you suddenly turned to me while we were stopped in traffic and said, "You have really good kids. They are really, really good kids." What I saw in your eyes in that moment told me everything I needed to know.
- I also love our imaginary kid, Rickywayne. He's chunky; a little lazy; loves Twinkies; and likes to walk around the house in a too-small t-shirt and underwear, but damn. He's a good boy. We've raised a fine imaginary son.
- I like the way you love people. You love your family. Your best friends from childhood are your best friends today. And I'm not sure any woman will ever have more of your heart than your grandma had. That's okay by me. A man who puts his grandmother above all others is a fine man. I only wish I could have met her.
- I've heard that a man's soul can be judged by the way he treats his dog(s). Piper, Sandy and I can attest that your soul is golden.
- You're wicked smart, and you're very good at what you do. I actually like to watch you work. Sure, that's because you're usually in a suit. What can I say? Every girl's crazy 'bout a sharp-dressed man.
- I like that you run marathons, that you push yourself, that you test your endurance. Marriage, after all, is the ultimate endurance test.
- You once asked me to dance under a full moon to Patsy Cline. That's on my top-10 list of Life's Best Moments.
- You call me "beautiful" ... then I feel that way.
- You're a man of faith and prayer. I had a terrible Sunday once. You persuaded me to go to church, knowing it was exactly what I needed to be restored. You turned to me during the service and whispered, "Aren't you glad you are here?" I was. And I was glad you led me there.
- You remember my college dreams, the things a younger, fearless version of myself told you I would do someday. You still want those dreams for me, and you encourage me, in big and little ways. Thanks for believing in me.
- Last Christmas, you made me feel like a little kid again. I sat under the tree, surrounded by such perfect, thoughtful presents. I still can't get over everything you did, how careful you were about the gifts you chose for me. A man who gives me the Complete Poems of EE Cummings AND zombie targets is a man who gets me.
- To quote from ee, "Since feeling is first / who pays any attention / to the syntax of things / will never wholly kiss you..." You, sir, have wholly kissed me. By gosh you have.
- On those rare occasions when we fight, you don't let me run away from it, which is my standard m.o. You pull me back. You work at it. You make it right, even when you think I'm wrong (I'm never wrong, by the way. Well, okay, maybe once, but who's counting?) I think my favorite fight -- are we allowed to have those? -- is the time we were arguing over where washrags should hang in the shower. (Clearly, these are the serious issues that divide our nation.) I was mad, and you knew it. After I stewed for a while, I went in the bathroom to discover that you had taken every single washrag you own from your cabinets and closets and piled them all where I like my washrags. If I never told you how much that made me smile, how that sweet gesture opened another window in my heart, I am now.
- Remember that night we were walking, and you yelled, "Stop!" (to prevent me from stepping in front of a car) and I yelled, "HAMMERTIME!"? We sang MC Hammer all the way home. Everyone can find a soulmate. But you? You're my nerdmate. That's way better.
- You know exactly who I am. You always know what I'm thinking, even when I lie and tell you you're wrong. It's infuriating sometimes, but I also relish that I am never more free to be myself than I am with you. Thanks for loving me in spite of me.
- Whenever I need you, even if I don't say so, you find me. That's huge. At the end of the day, that's everything.
- I like a soundtrack for my life, so you send me songs for it. Remember the first song you ever sent me? I do ... I can only thank God it was not too late.
Honestly, I could go on and on, but people are spewing on their keyboards, and that's awfully tough to clean.
I'll scatter these crumbs occasionally, so I can always find my way back to you. I never want us to stray too far from home. If we do, we remember the crumbs -- and the cookies they came from.
We'll beat the odds.
Why? 'Cause we're 2 legit. 2 legit 2 quit.