A Love Story

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A story courtesy of my therapist with little embellishment on my part.

Once upon a time there was a couple, who like most couples, were as different from one another as night and day. The man was sturdy and pragmatic; a man of few words. He loved to take things apart to see how things worked and LOGIC was his middle name.

The woman had an openness with people and was sentimental about those things she deemed important. She was a lover of words and was as bohemian and adventurous as her husband was stalwart and they lived together in a rather small house, that was dominated by a rather large hutch, that the wife inherited from an uncle she met once when she was four years of age. As often happens in these cases, a large piece of furniture like a hutch can rarely be left to stand empty; so the wife slowly began to fill it with cups, which after several years became a collection of sorts.

The first cup that was bought came from a grand old lodge in the Adirondacks where the couple spent their honeymoon. It was a good solid cup in a rustic and homey sort of way. It cost $20 which seemed wildly extravagant in those days but she loved it and so her husband surprised her with it when they got home so “our honeymoon can continue forever,” he said.

The second cup, the one with a small chip on the handle,  was picked up at a flea market at a small country church. The couple had stumbled upon it on their way home from the annual pilgrimage to his parent’s farm which was located in the boon docks of the state. It was a place people rarely visited and home to more cows than people but the imperfect cup needed a family and so it came home with them and their new puppy, a mottled brown dog that they named Boonie.

About a year later the third cup was won at the local county fair by the husband after he successfully threw a ring around a bottle. It surprised them both because neither had known that the man had a talent for this particular kind of endeavor. It was an ugly pea-green color that was too big to hold a decent amount of coffee without going cold and it was too small for a pint of cold beer but nevertheless it was given a place of honor on the shelf.

And so it went…a fourth cup soon joined the third and the fifth came after the birth of their first child. Soon the top shelf was filled with cups of all shapes and sizes and every morning the wife was delighted as she opened her hutch and studied the cups pondering which one she would use that day.

As the years went by upon occasion the wife began to ask her husband  to buy her a cup when he was away on business. But he was a pragmatic sort of chap and didn’t see the need for yet another cup in the house. He always used the same cup day in and day out and saw no reason to change. He was baffled about his wife’s cup “obsession” and began to resent the money she spent buying them and the time she spent taking each cup down for a decent dusting and so he refused to indulge in his wife’s request for more cups.  But sometimes when he went out-of-town on business he would remember her request and bring her home a piece of homemade candy or something that the area was known for instead; but he never brought her a cup. And while the wife appreciated his gesture it sometimes hurt her feelings that he would not give her her hearts desire…a cup that he had taken the time to pick out just for her just as he had on their honeymoon. Then after a while she began to wonder if he even loved her at all because he wouldn’t give her a cup when he knew how much she desired this of him. And while she knew her worth could not be measured by the appearance of a mere cup sometimes it felt as if its absence spoke volumes about how her husband saw her and it validated her belief that her husband didn’t love her enough to do something as simple as buying her a cup. Slowly their connectedness to each other began to diminish due to her resentment and his withholding.

One day, as the woman was dusting her collection, her husband asked her, “Why is it that you seem to delight in taking each cup down and dusting it? It is a lot of work to keep those cups clean. Why do you do it?”

“I do it because everyday when I open the hutch our story together continues. When I reach for this one, she said, pulling out a dark purple cup covered in roses; I remember the first time we went to the public gardens over by the shore. I bought it because it reminded me of how you picked that lily and handed it to me with a flourish. Then we left immediately, afraid we would be thrown out of the gardens forever and hauled off in the paddywagon. We laughed hysterically as we made our getaway….remember?”

Her husband chuckled. Yes, he too had fond memories of that summer’s day.

“And this one with the hearts on it is from the time you surprised me with tickets to see my favorite band.”

“Let me guess. Was that the time I took you to see Heart?” he said with a laugh.

“Of course” she said with a smile.

As his wife shared her memories about each cup her husband realized that he had not understood his wife’s delight in each cup because he did not understand the story. His unit of measurement of love was different from hers. While he had just seen cups; she saw more and she remembered the closeness and the joy she felt when she was with her husband and bought a cup in remembrance of those special times together. To her the cups were proof of their love story and for that reason she treasured each and every one.

The next morning the man watched as his wife opened the doors to the hutch and pondered which cup she would use that day. Her face lite up with delight as she removed the tiny white one adorned with four-leaf clovers and his did too as he remembered the trip they took to Ireland for their 20th anniversary.

Several weeks later the man headed off on yet another business trip. But this time when he arrived home he decided he would surprise his wife with a cup. So he searched high and low until he found the perfect one at an old antique shop on River Street. It reminded him of the weekend they had traveled the South searching for the perfect painting to go over their mantle but brought home a four-poster bed from Georgia instead. A bed that had brought each so many nights of pleasure since the day they hauled it, huffing and puffing up the stairs and through the hall to their room which lay furthest west from the front door.

As she unwrapped the box her husband felt a kind of happiness he hadn’t felt in a long time. It was a sort of hungry anticipation for seeing the delight he knew his wife would feel when she saw the cup and he wasn’t disappointed.

“Georgia?” his wife said as she admired the cup and her husband’s good taste.

“That was one special weekend, wasn’t it?”

“I think about it every night we lay together in our bed,” she replied with a shy grin.

These days, when he goes away, the husband, upon occasion,  looks for the perfect cup to give his wife. Sometimes he comes home with one and other times he doesn’t because he hasn’t found one that would be meaningful to them. But when he does arrive with the perfect cup in hand he savors the simple delight of his wife has when receiving her cup, while his wife savors the connectedness she feels with him as they discuss each of his finds. Because once the husband understood the entirety of the story sitting within the hutch it allowed him to give his wife her hearts desire and she began to see the other things her husband did to nurture their relationship. Their story was no longer about the absence of a cup. Instead, it was a story that morphed into the connectedness and delight  the couple felt towards one another that was renewed once each understood and appreciated the other’s story and soon they begin living with hearts wide open towards each other just as they had when they were first married .

It never really was about the cups after all.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Childhood Memories

Cottage from lake

Going to my Grandfather’s cottage on the lake holds fond memories for me. It was a long drive north with stops to see the bears who were caged next to gas stations in an attempt to bring in the tourist crowd.It was back in the 60’s before PITA and other such organizations existed and as a result bears who had lost their mothers became entertainment for bored little kids traveling the backroads in old station wagons. Kids like me.

I  still remember the blue Rambler pulling up to the cabin. The smell of the leaves and the fresh clean air. And mushrooms “Don’t touch those!!!! They may be poisonous!!!” poking their heads out from under rocks and growing alongside north facing tree trunks. I can still remember the loons calling out a greeting from the lake below while squirrels flew like acrobats from tree top to tree top. And I recall the sun filtering through the leaves making them light up like the colors found in a stained glass window. No doubt about it there was beauty and tranquility no matter which way you turned. All of it was amazing in the eyes of a six-year-old kid.

After being released from the confines of the car the first thing I would see in the cabin was the old refrigerator that stood guard in the service porch. It smelled musty and was in desperate need of air. My mother would clean up inside while my father would go after the spiders whose webs were proportional to the amount of months that had gone by since the last visit. Of course, there was no television, so my sister and I would go outside to chase leaves, find critters, and do the things six year olds do while in the woods. It was a time of discovery and a place where life slowed down to a crawl.

Memories fill my mind of this special time in my life. I remember the day my father laid his head down on the pillow to go to sleep and inside was a mouse nest filled with babies. I remember a green frosted cake. I remember Chippy the Chipmunk who would scurry over to take peanuts out of my hand as I sat barely breathing on the porch. This is the place I first learned how to swim in waters so cool it took your breath away. This is the place I learned that the sandy bottom of the lake felt silky like the fuzz on the ear of a puppy. This is the place I learned how to dive and this place was where I first got the sense of my own self. I loved this cottage in the woods.

Unfortunately, my grandfather died when I was six and the cottage was sold soon after. He had been the outdoorsman not my grandmother. The trees held little meaning for her as did the hunting. It was the water that captured her attention. Yes, the water was her thing and every day started in the same manner for her. She would arise early in the morning, make a cup of bitter black coffee, and head down to the lake. I can still picture the daily the ritual of my grandmother trying to pull a too tight rubber bathing cap down over her head while snapping off the  cheap rubber flowers that lined the outside in her hast to be the first one to  produce a ripple on the sheen of the sleepy and slowing awakening lake. Yet, my dreams about this place are short and often disappear in confusion … gone the way of bathing caps… which are now regarded as relics and left to rot in a box on a museum shelf somewhere.

Anyway, with these recollections comes a distortion of the truth which often occurs in a young girls mind. For instance I remember a yellow cottage…it was red. I remember it being HUGE. It was tiny. And I know all of this because for years I had told B about this special place, the place of my youth. But what  really stood out in my mind about the cabin were the million steps that it took to get from the cabin down to the lake. Yes, you could have hooked me up to a lie detector and I would have passed…there were a million steps top to bottom.That was the one thing in life that I was absolutely certain of.

Then one year we were visiting my grandmother. By then she was living in a nursing home and she had lost her only daughter, my mother. So B and I asked her how to get to the cottage. We both wanted to see this place that built so many happy memories for me.

“You’ll never find it,” she said. “I guess I will just have to go up there and show it to you myself!”

So my 84-year-old grandmother plunked herself into the front seat of the car and we took off. The roads were better than they once were and we made it there in record time. But by there I mean the lake not the cottage because as we stood in front of three of them which lined the lake she didn’t know which one it was and neither did I.

“Well, we’ll just have to go find the one-armed man who built the place for us. He’ll know. Never saw a man who could hammer faster and better than him,” my grandmother muttered.

And so we set out for his place. We were unsure where he was located or even if he would still be alive but as luck would have it there was an ancient one-armed man standing next to a bright red mail box alongside the road and my grandmother charmed the information right out of him. So back we went over slick rutted roads…this time to the right cottage sitting in the right place.

It was wintertime and it was bitterly cold, yet, we trampled the snow and the decaying leaves around the cabin trying to peek through the blinds which lined the windows. I was trying to see inside just enough to grab tight to the memories that were floating around somewhere in my head. And then it came to me. I could gather those memories by way of the steps  down to the lake…all one million of them.

So I raced around to the back of the cabin looking for a very long stairway leading down the hill to the lake. The one with the millions treads. The one that it used to take half-a-day to climb from top to bottom when I was a little kid. Yet, it was not to be found. Instead, I saw an old rickety set of stairs, hidden in the trees, twisted with age, descending down the hill towards the water. So I began to count the stairs…it didn’t take long. For there were only 14.

I have to confess that am not sure when 14 stairs became one million in my mind. Perhaps it was as my chubby three year old legs had to take so many steps between the steps leading up the hill. Or maybe it was when the horseflies were out and you couldn’t get up the hill fast enough. All I know is that there were once one million stairs and you cannot convince the six-year-old in me otherwise. Never. Ever.

Not surprisingly, I have found that when you venture back to the past you find it is never how you left it. For better or for worse it will have changed. Yet, our memories often remain the same, stuck in a place we want to remember rather than in one that actually existed. And I’m okay with that because childhood memories should be some of the best memories of our lives. They should be the memories that were created in a simple time that was free from expectations and fear. They should be the recollections made when hope was still alive and when our imaginations ran free. A time when conquering the world was doable and when our kryptonite could be found in a fresh-baked chocolate chip cookie. For childhood memories are precious, even though imprecise, and they are what motivates us to create a world the way we would like to see it rather than the way that it is. And even though one million steps may seem insurmountable when you are six, one  day you come to realize that a million steps isn’t as daunting as you once thought all thanks to the memories created during a simpler time in our lives.

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Sweet Emotions…Or Not…305 Days To Fix This

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This is REAL music

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DfTa8QhbB_M&list=RDDfTa8QhbB_M#t=0

The other day B and I were talking when he said, “When you express your emotions you are not thinking about others you are only thinking of yourself. It is selfish.”

I was dumbstruck. Stopped dead in my tracks. Bowled over and stone cold. After twenty-nine years of marriage I finally found this out. Well, that explains a lot…especially about our relationship and about B himself.

You see, I thought my wearing my heart on my sleeve and being totally transparent was what attracted people to me. You know what kind of person I am within five minutes of meeting me. Yes, I have deep layers, but people who know me understand that for the most part what you see is what you get. All these years I believed my openness and honesty were a few of the qualities that make me irresistible to B. Obviously, I was wrong.

Where do I go with this information? I honestly do not know. For if sharing your emotions makes you selfish then what he is saying is that I am one of the most selfish people he knows because I don’t believe in hiding who you are from anyone. Never have, never will. I think it stems from situations I encountered as a child. Whatever it is, I don’t like trying to guess other’s emotions or being less than candid about my own.

At the same time, I do recognize that the uninterrupted emotions of a Drama Queen can be overwhelming for those dealing with her. Constant emotional chaos is draining  and having to live within a cloud of emotional debris is life defeating not life affirming.  But I am not one of those women. I’m just your normal run of the mill woman who near her period gets a little more emotional than the other 25 days of the month. Nothing extreme.

If being a normal person with normal emotions whose expression of them makes B uncomfortable than he has a HUGE problem and it is one that I cannot fix for it is his issue alone. I can hand him the shovel but ultimately it is B who has to dig down to find the treasure chest of emotions that makes life rich, full, and complete. I hope for his sake that he will dig fast.