Wednesday, December 31, 2008

The Most Romantic Thing

Photo Mendocino

A couple we know commemorated their 40+ years of marriage with a big outdoor party. Their property is a plot of land in the woods near the coast in Northern California. They operate a small retreat center, and have had their share of ups and downs over the years. But on that day, they were truly able to celebrate their lives together.

One of their guests said to the man, “That’s a long time to be married and still be in love with each other. What’s your secret?”

Every now and then, I encounter a question-and-answer moment that seems to make time stand still. This was one of those moments. But the answer surprised me.

“A common vision,” he said.

That’s not the most romantic thing I’ve ever heard. But the more I thought about it, the more sense it made.

I’ve often thought that marriage is a lot like holding hands in a crowded mall. At first it’s delightful. But there’s so much to see and do. I slow down to read this on the left and she speeds up to have a look at that on the right, and all these people keep trying to get between us . . . You quickly decide that it’s easier to just let go and be two. That way, each of you can wander free, or maybe go separate ways altogether, and plan to meet up later to eat.

But when you both agree that walking hand in hand is what you really want to do, it changes everything. You get to share his intriguing read and her fascinating find together. And it’s a blast to discover how deftly you can navigate a crowd when you’re truly one.

That unity, that common vision, makes it possible to become and remain as one. And after 40+ years of life, that is the most romantic thing I’ve ever heard.

With this post, I’m completing my first year of the Loving Her Beautiful blog. Thank you so much for reading – and Happy New Year!

The retreat center mentioned above is Antioch Ranch in Mendocino, California.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

“God Bless Us, Everyone”

Photo courtesy of Clip Art

One of my favorite Christmastime treats is the music. Year after year, I listen to the same delightful songs and passionate melodies and never tire of them. Each one is like a single holiday cookie set on a plate filled with cookies, inviting you to indulge in yet another magical piece of the season. I play a little piano, but only a very little. I often think how wondrous it must be to just sit down and create beautiful music off the top of your head, especially for others to hear, and especially at this time of year.

My most favorite Christmastime treat is what the season does to us.

Among my family’s social circle during my high school years was a man who could be truly obnoxious, even in the eyes of a teenager. He was frequently loud and crass, and I remember the looks on the other grown-ups’ faces as they tried not to let his behavior annoy or offend them. He once sang an impromptu song at a party that shocked us. Nearly three decades later, the memory still makes me cringe.

But then one Christmastime, my dad told us that this man had nowhere to go for the big day. Somehow, even with a girlfriend, three children and plenty of social contacts, he was going to be all alone for Christmas. So my dad, who years later still referred to the man as a barbarian, announced, “I’ve invited him for Christmas, and he’s coming.” I’m happy to report that at that moment, the spirit of the season arose in me. I was horrified at the man’s predicament, and adamant that he should absolutely join with us, come what may . . .

All of Christmas day, my thoughts bounced between certainty that we’d done the right thing, and concern about how many ways he might do the wrong thing. When he arrived, he was all smiles and graciousness, as he could always be. Throughout the afternoon, he was jovial and witty, and appropriate. Then the end of the evening drew near, and he shocked us again.

He sat down at our piano and began to play.
Beautiful, lyrical music.
Christmas music.
Off the top of his head.

It is indeed more blessed to give than to receive. But perhaps that’s because in giving our best to others, they give and we receive their best in return. And in that moment, Tiny Tim’s prayer is answered, because God truly blesses us, everyone.

May you and yours be filled to overflowing with all the wonders and joys of the season.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

There’s No Place Like Home

“Be it ever so humble . . .”

Ours is. It frequently evokes phrases like, “If only we had one more bedroom” and “It looks like they didn’t invent storage until after 1952.” The plumbing often rattles behind the scenes at night like a tone-deaf symphony. The kitchen counters are routinely cleared of everything, but over time, one or two items appear, and then they seem to breed or invite a few friends over, or both, until sure enough: oy.

But as we continue to talk about our house, our comments become more about our home. We start saying things like, “But boy, in the spring for just a few minutes at dusk, when the last of the sun’s rays just glow through those curtains . . .” and “Remember our first Christmas tree, right over in that corner . . . ” and of course, coming home from anywhere, walking in the door, setting everything down in the most familiar of surroundings, and happily sighing, “Ahh.”

What I’ve realized is that a home is a lot like a relationship. A relationship is not insufficient because one of you never does this and the other one never does that. Nor is it a treasure because one of you makes $150K a year or can really keep up with the laundry. It’s a treasure because of the moments, like the time he sang you to sleep when you were sick, and the time she held you and stroked your forehead when you finally broke down, and that night you laughed so hard together you thought you’d stop breathing. The real value of a home, much like a relationship, is not what it brings to your life, but the life it brings to you.

No matter how flawed the partners, it’s those moments that make a relationship. And no matter how humble the house, it’s those memories that make it a home.