Memories of July 4th

When I was a kid, my family would go to the local park on July 4th for chicken shish-kabobs, funnel cakes, sno-cones and games. We’d end up at the church nearby to watch the fireworks. My brother and I would roll down the hill, staining our clothes green and arguing over who was faster.  To this day, July 4th feels weird if I don’t get a chicken kabob.

More recently, my husband and I gather with friends or family to grill, maybe play some cornhole or other yard games, and try to catch some fireworks. Last year, we were on the roof of our building in Arlington, struggling to see the national fireworks across the river through the oppressive cloud cover.

One of my favorite Independence Days in recent years came a few years ago. We met up with a friend in Arlington, where we porch-sat and day-drank American beers before heading across the street to a little park for some wiffle-ball. There was only three of us, so it was mostly one person hitting, one pitching, and one fielding. It still felt very patriotic and youthful. As the day moved toward evening, more people showed up. I’m sure we grilled, and I know we took a walk to get ice cream. The grand finale was watching the fireworks at the Iwo Jima Memorial. It felt beautifully “American”, snuggled on our blanket or crowding along the curb, shoulder to shoulder with strangers of all colors and backgrounds, sitting near one of the most iconic memorials, watching the firework reminders of “bombs bursting in air” that brought us our great nation.

We were sunburnt and sweaty and together, a thousand different stories sharing a single experience for a snapshot in time, celebrating freedom and independence and joy.

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Saint Louis Bound

My husband and I are moving to Saint Louis, MO next month. (I’ve mentioned it in past posts, but here’s the post specifically about it.) He’ll be pursuing his MBA through Olin Business School at Washington University, and I’ll be there for moral support. Also for financial support, and to make sure he eats well, and because I’d miss him for two years.

When he interviewed, he fell in love with the campus.

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Okay, maybe that was me. He did say he really wanted to go here and it was his number one choice. I’m the one who wanted to say my husband goes to what is basically American Hogwarts.

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We were in Saint Louis for the day and didn’t experience much beyond the Delmar Loop, Campus, and a fraction of Forest Park.

The second time we visited, we were already apartment hunting. We wandered around the Central West End and into Clayton, but again, we only had one full day to explore. Sight-seeing and touristy-stuff would have to wait.

We chose a lovely apartment overlooking Forest Park in Central West End. Then we flew back home to D.C. to start preparations to move.

And by that I mean I made an insane amount of lists while my husband pretended nothing was happening. Now that we’re officially less than a month away from the move, he’s had to acknowledge that our lives are headed for a big change.

We’re looking forward to the adventure. Our families are on the coasts, so it will be nice to be a half-country closer to his sister, but also be sad to have to fly 2 hours to our parents, rather than the fairly easy drives we have now. We’ve met or spoken with plenty of people who have lived in Saint Louis or know someone who lived or is living there currently, but we’re going in virtually friendless ourselves. Through the business school, among other groups and activities and my work, we’ll both have lots of opportunities to get to know people, so we aren’t too worried about loneliness. Still, we’ll miss the friends who have made our lives great for so many years.

Saint Louis isn’t a place either of us would have chosen. My husband would have happily moved to Charleston, SC. I’d love to live in Long Beach, CA. There are probably a dozen other cities we’d choose before even thinking of Saint Louis. And yet, here we go.

That’s part of what makes it magical. We’ve barely spent a full weekend there. Neither of us is already in love with the city. We don’t have any preconceived notions of what makes it great, so we can’t be let down by the difference between living and vacationing, which is a very real possibility in any of the places we’d have picked given the choice.

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Gotta say I already love Forest Park

We have at least two years to experience Saint Louis. We’ll learn its secrets and enjoy making it ours.

You are the Best Thing

This weekend, my husband and I will celebrate our first year of married life. It’s insane to me that a full year has passed since the “I do”s and the big dress.

Recently, someone asked how being a newlywed was going. I surprised myself by responding immediately with “it’s really wonderful.” That’s not to say it’s surprising that being married is wonderful — of course it is; why else would people do it? It’s just also hard sometimes, and annoying sometimes, and honestly, a little bit terrifying. But when faced with the question — asked in a way that was meant to illicit a deep, well-thought-out response — my first associated feeling was warmth and light and safety. My lips lifted. And then the words tumbled out. “Really wonderful.”

Trust me, this wasn’t some platitude to change the subject. It wasn’t naivety or boasting or sugar-coating reality. Sharing a living space with someone is annoying. Especially when one is introverted and has grown used to living alone. Suddenly having another person eating my food and using my bathroom and watching my TV 24/7 was uncomfortable (note: I should say that it is “our” food now, and “our” bathroom, and –if anything– “his” TV). I like coming home from work and writing or watching a good, detailed show on the DVR (like GoT) or reading a book or whatever it is that is silent and solitary and not peppered with questions. I’ve had to get used to there being someone who wants to hear about my day and tell me about his (and eventually ask for the umpteenth time “why does she have dragons?”) — literally every single day.

My husband is neurotic about very particular things. We all have our quirks. I’m seriously blown away he loves me so freaking much considering all of my own little weirdo-things.

We are also different people. This should go without saying, but being different people, we have different thoughts and ideas and different things are important or not important or done differently and this leads to fights.

This year has not been a walk in the park, though we’ve taken many. We’ve experienced loss, and learned how difficult comfort can be to find when he grieves differently than I. There have been eye-rolls and firmly-shut-doors (okay, I might have slammed one or two). There have been tears (in my defense, he knew going into this I’m a mess of emotions) and there has been heavy silence. I’ve learned (read: still learning) that sharing a life can be as windy and rocky as it is smooth.

But I’ve also learned that if I’m not feeling well, my husband knows without my saying which mug to serve my favorite soup in. I know he’ll go to three different stores to track down one ingredient for dinner if I say it’s important (and sometimes, even if I say it’s not). He always cleans up after dinner — he’ll say it’s because I cooked, but even if he makes his specialty rice-and-avocado-burritos, he cleans up.

When a funny movie makes him belly-laugh, he reaches for my knee. It’s a subconscious tick — he just likes to be physically connected to me while we’re doubling over with laughter. Sometimes he holds my hand as he’s falling asleep. He tells me he loves my singing (no matter how loudly, stupidly, or off-key I make it), and insists he’s not lying when I scoff.

He thinks I’m strong, and beautiful, and that I see the world with childlike wonder. He can be utterly selfless, my modern-day hero. He epitomizes one of my favorite lines from my favorite movie about my favorite fictional crush: “That boy would stand on his head if I asked him to!” (okay, so the original quote said “Gilbert Blythe” but I’ve thought it so often of my husband that it’s forever warped in my heart to “that boy”).

So despite the challenges that go along with all of life, despite the discomfort of fitting my life with another human being, when asked to dish about all the anxiety marriage can bring, the word that came to mind was “wonderful.” Really wonderful.

There were points during the past year where I questioned everything. I had panic attacks and really low periods and felt really lonely. There were also times I couldn’t fall asleep because my husband wasn’t home yet, and now I’m used to his arms around me at night. It’s all a beautiful, painful, wonderful journey to weave my life with someone else, the best someone else. It’s a journey we’ll continue on for a lifetime of years.