Lullaby...and good night...
As some of you may know, Herb and I met at a professional conference many years ago. We were colleagues for many years, and later, friends. We supported each other through dark times, and laughed together. But most of that time, what we shared was our letters. We were on opposite coasts and enmeshed in work situations that were painful in different ways. In one workplace, when I had been treated poorly, Herb wrote me a letter that said, "people are advised not to burn bridges, but I am sending you a Zippo lighter." I reciprocated with the same words, many years later when he was also struggling at work. When he was still smoking, though I wanted him to quit, Mom and I gave him my father's Zippo lighter because it was evocative of his own remembered past.
A marriage seems to be made up of many of these things. He tells people of how we met. It is a story I like even if it is gilded a bit around the edges. He also counts things and estimates their cost as we drive along the road to work. It made me crazy for a while; now it makes me laugh. I have called these stories "lullabies" for their totemic quality and the way they are repeated again and again. As children, we ask our parents to sing the same song or repeat the same story they told us the night before, and the night before that, and the night before that; when we get older, we grimace at hearing the same hoary tales. Truth to tell, this is one of my lullabies that Herb has heard too many times for even the rain man to count.
But our friends Nelson and Betti were over the other day and asked whether we had gathered the words spoken at the wedding. We have not, though we should have. We have a video of Jonno singing, and Howard playing, and the words that Ursula and Linda spoke, but we are missing Susan's and Neoma's and Elie's and Deborah's and Grazyna and Howard's, though I doubt they were written down. But Nelson and Betti's words reminded me that Herb and I have not written each other letters in a long time, other than this blog. So I started thinking about the nature of the letter I want to write to him, now that we have been married for 90 some days.....
Once many years ago, I read of a conversation between a mother and her daughter. Fearing that she would develop dementia, because it was in her family history, the mother wrote to her daughter telling her about her rituals, the things that centered her, so if she could no longer ask, the daughter would know. So I have been thinking of what our rituals are, because this is what we know now that we didn't know before.
I would like a glass of water at the bedside at night, a sheet over my shoulders, and a blanket folded on my feet. I would like an open window without shades to watch the moon; you would like the shades drawn and the nightlight off.
You will want chocolate chips in a bowl beside your elbow in the morning. You drink water and cold strong-brewed tea with no cubes, and an IPA with your dinner meal. My morning coffee is light, with 2 sugars, and 3 cubes of ice. I like orange juice (extra pulpy) with seltzer in late afternoon, and in summer, some unsweetened cranberry juice mixed in.
You like darkness and close walls, and clarity of surfaces. You read one book at a time. Quickly. I like things that fit in the hand and things that are shiny or opaque, crafted or clear or colored, and things that make me laugh, and things that grow and flower, or once grew and flowered, or flew. I read a dozen books at a time, and many are never finished.
If you wash the dishes, I will put them away. You will make dinner when I return from travel and that will make me smile; I will make dinner and salad and dessert and extra food for the freezer when we are due to go someplace else.
I will load the laundry and you can fold it. And when you are done, you will find me beside the light-most window or in the garden, with dirt under my nails.
You will want music; I will want silence (or sometimes, when I am writing, the sound of native American pipes).
You will want speed: I will want slowness. You will walk quickly; I will be behind you examining a mushroom or a leaf or the texture of the gravel underfoot.
And at night, when we fall asleep, I will know the sound of your breathing, and you will know mine.