My best friend, Mandy, took some of these lovely photos.
And some of the not-so-lovely ones. (Real life, what’re ya gonna do?)
My husband’s (gosh, that’s fun to say!) friend, Josh, took some too.
We are slowly but surely setting up our new life together. That includes packing up everything Edgar and I own and moving it down to the Lake to be with Seth. It’s going to take time. And patience. And lots of boxes. But, as with everything else that’s been happening around here – it’ll get done. (To offer a very quick update: in a matter of eight weeks I have started a new job, planned the wedding with Seth, then had the wedding, only to then move to Seth’s, and finally travel to Europe.) And it’ll be wonderful. Just like our wedding day.
“If you don’t mind – I’d really like you to be in the picture with us.”
We were sitting around the table, finishing up the catered breakfast. We’d been up since 4am to make it to breakfast at 7:30. Farmers and their early mornings. All around us other farmers were eating and drinking, discussing crop yields and “this weather we’re having.” We swam in a sea of plaid shirts and dirty baseball caps, a chorus of “You betcha!” and “Where ya from?” rang out.
Seth and his father were being honored for their farmhouse in Shawano – it had been in the family for over 100 years, a true milestone. Even I, a non-farmer raised on a non-farm, knew that. Seth had asked me to be there, at the State Fair, when his family was awarded. To share in the moment, hear when his name was called.
I cheered and whooped when the announcer said his county, his last name. Correctly, I might add, which wasn’t the case with all the other farmers. (I don’t know if you know this, but Wisconsin is home to some doozy counties and even doozier family names.)
More names were called, more weathered hands were raised – acknowledging the achievement and then quickly returning to seats. Most of these folks weren’t used to being in the spotlight, they were just doing what they’d always done, what their parents (and their parents’ parents) had always done. The tent was filled with a quiet and certain pride, the recognition may not have been desired, but it was well deserved. The list was longer than I expected, the calling and clapping continued through two cups of coffee – hot, strong, fuel to get through a morning at the Fair and a day in the fields.
Then came the photos with the plaque, the flowers, the smiling shoulder to shoulder. I was honored to be involved. Honored Seth had wanted me there by his side, with his family. The photo would be framed and hung at the farm. Maybe for the next hundred years.
Seth thanked me for being there – as if I would want to be anywhere else. In reality, I should have been thanking him. And I try to every day. Because, he doesn’t wait for an awards ceremony to support me, to celebrate me. He’s here, every day, reading my words, listening to my worries, and eating my wares. Constant and consistent care for my dreams, ideas, hopes, and feelings.
You held my hand. You didn’t have to. I’d been swimming for two decades, gone to this lake during summers growing up. There was no reason to be scared. But I was.
Scared and excited. And with you.
I shook and smiled. It was too dark to see the bottom. Your hand was warm. Warmer than I thought it would be.
We jumped. Feet pushing off the dock, metal leaving indentations in our skin.
The water was warm. Warmer than I thought it would be.
And, unfortunately for you, shallower than you thought it would be. How is your ankle? Still sore?
We got acclimated to the water, the waves, the seaweed, the sand. Swimming. It had been one year for me. Two for you.
I dove under, came up for air. You swam out further, bobbed and buoyed. Floating apart and coming back together, over and over. Talking, playing, loving.
You held me, supported my back as I floated, your arms still in the moving water, palms flat on my back. I was nervous, unskilled. I’d never mastered this part in swim lessons. I didn’t want to sink. You steadied me, spun me. Slowly. We kissed. You didn’t let go until I was ready, certain.
I was free. For the first time in weeks. Happy to hear the sound of my own breath beneath the water. In, out. In, out.
I don’t know what it’s like to love someone with depression, I’m sorry you’ve had to learn.
The clouds came, your eyes turning grey with the sky. But it never opened up, never rained. You explained why. Why that lake saved us from so many storms. You were detailed, descriptive. Talking with your hands, you lifted your arms, opening up. My heart followed suit. Swallows swooped overhead, catching a late dinner.
I knew then what you had asked my dad. I knew what you were going to ask me. I knew what I was going to say.
Two weeks ago I broke one of my favorite coffee mugs. It was vintage, stoneware, and had “Home, Sweet Home” written on it in a glorious script. It slipped out of my hands while doing the dishes and the handle broke right off. It’s still lying in the sink drain – I can’t bring myself to throw away the last piece of it.
I don’t know why we form attachments to material objects like that. But it’s happened to me time and time again (my china cabinet full of Pyrex and coffee cup collection can speak to this). I’ll come across something and feel tethered to it, wanting it in my world – to make it fuller, brighter.
It happened earlier this week with a cake stand. Seth and I were in a local furniture store, perusing the floors for items to fill his new home. Then, in the corner, I saw it, made a beeline straight for it, grabbing it hungrily. I held it in my hands, felt the smooth glass, the weight of it. It was unique, beautiful. I wanted it. Desperately.
But it was too much. More than I wanted to spend on a cake stand, a prop for photos, another dust collector. I put it down and we continued up the next two flights of stairs – testing couches, mattresses, chairs. Three floors up, we sat on a couch together, the steel colored fabric matching the overcast sky outside. The large windows behind us let in more than enough light despite the clouds, the constant drizzle quietly tapping against the panes. We dissected the couch, its pros and cons, compared it to others we’d sat on, imagined his home, someday our home. My head rested on his shoulder, my mind drifted to the ground floor, back to the display.
We readied to leave, heading back down the stairs. I wandered back over to the shelf holding the cake stand. I picked it up again, made a mental note to come back for it some other day, and put it back.
“We can do 30% off,” the saleswoman said.
“No, no, that’s ok.” I said.
“She’ll take it,” Seth said.
“What? No!” I protested.
“We’ll take it,” he insisted, reaching for his wallet.
I couldn’t believe it. I never expected him to do this, let him know he didn’t have to, it wasn’t expected of him.
“I can. I want to. I’m going to.”
He smiled down at me, paying the saleswoman. She gently wrapped up the cake stand between layers of tissue paper and bubble wrap. I took it gingerly – my cheeks aching from smiling so big, my eyes bouncing between the bag in my hands and the man by my side.
Outside, Seth opened my door, (something else I have told him he doesn’t have to do, but am grateful whenever he does.) and I looked up at him, stood on my tiptoes and kissed him. Despite the rain and the gray day, I felt bright, light. In awe of my gift, and the cake stand he’d just bought me. The heft of the bag, still in my hands, was the only thing keeping my feet on the ground.
He knew it was thanks for more than just opening my door that time.