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In all of the talk leading up to our move, BWB has been very focused on it only being for a year. It’s been so heart-wrenching to say goodbye to our friends and to leave our city that he kept telling people we would be back next year. And hopefully, we will be. We have our fingers crossed that the match this year will finally work out for us, and that we’ll find ourselves back in New Orleans again this time next June.

Still, the way he kept saying it was bothering me, and I couldn’t quite put my finger on why. After some thought, I came up with an answer.

When I was four, we moved from a small town to a small city. It was supposed to be just for a year or two, and so I approached the situation as temporary. It wasn’t until six years later, when we moved from one permanent house to another, that it dawned on me that we were not, in fact, moving back to the small town I still for some reason thought of as home. This perception of impermanence colored how I interacted with the city I grew up in. After watching the documentary BRATS: Our Journey Home with my father, I realized that not only did this movie give me insight into his childhood, but it explained a little bit about mine, too. The expectation of leaving made it harder to feel rooted to any place or person, even though in my case that expectation was false.

It would be easy to approach New City with this same transience, to resist putting down any solid foundations or making any solid connections here. After all, we think we’re only going to be here for a year. Or will it be three years? Or five? It could be five. And even if it is a year, aren’t we doing a disservice to ourselves to spend a year feeling disconnected and disjointed? I brought this up with BWB, and we talked about it.

It’s true that this town is only going to be home for a year. It is, however, still going to be home. Rather than rest here only long enough to take off again, we have made the decision to land here with our full weight, build a nest, and settle in. It might make leaving harder when we go, but the time between now and then will be richer for it.

Last year, I ran the Mardi Gras Half Marathon, my second half-marathon. A few weeks later, BWB and I were visiting his mother and discussing this event. I had been trying to convince him to come run with me, and his mother got involved. The short version of this story is that BWB agreed — nay, promised — to run the Mardi Gras Half Marathon 2011 alongside me. In front of his mother. Oh yes, he was definitely doomed at that point.

Fast forward to last December. We had been gradually increasing our running, but the time had come to commit to the marathon training program. To say BWB was uncertain would be putting it mildly. In retrospect, he says that his “I could do it if I want, I just don’t know if I want to” attitude was probably a cover for something more along the lines of, “I don’t think I can do this.” Early on, we had a couple of training runs which ended, quite frankly, in tears and yelling. After the second or third of these calamitous endings, we sat down and talked. Well, mostly, I talked. I told him that I didn’t want him to do anything I wanted to do, or to feel forced into something, but that the idea of crossing the finish line together was incredible to me. Nobody I love runs, so nobody understands exactly why I do these things. I wanted to share that feeling of accomplishment and joy with him. For his part, he told me he was scared that he wouldn’t be fast enough, that he’d slow me down, that he would disappoint me in some way. I said that wasn’t possible, and I promised to be patient.

A few days later, I registered both of us, and it was a done deal.

Training began in earnest, and except for a few missed runs while we were in very cold places, we stuck to the schedule. In evaluating our pace, we figured out that we were probably going to shoot for a 15 minute mile, with our goal to finish at around 3:15:00. BWB asked me what time I finished at the last time I ran it, and I mumbled something faster than that. He looked crestfallen, “I’m slowing you down.” No, no, honey, it’s not about that. This is exactly what I want to be doing.

Race Day. Out the door by 6am, parking at the finish line, and a shuttle to the start line. It was cold, but we had planned for this, and the next thing I knew we were standing with our start wave, bouncing up and down to keep warm (and from the excitement), then crossing the start line, then running down Tchoupitoulas. Together, every step of the way.

In the middle of the race, we were doing really well, sticking with the plan and pounding through. At some point about mile 8, I realized that if we managed to maintain that pace, we would finish at under three hours. I started to push us towards that goal, run a little harder, move a little faster. BWB figured this out in the middle of a scheduled walk break and gave me a hurt look, “Why are you pushing so hard? I thought this was about finishing with me.”

I paused. The drive to finish faster was mine, not his. When I had been pushing him, I thought it was because he would be even more proud of himself if we managed to finish so much faster than expected. I thought he would be delighted by that finish time, that the race would be even better for him. All of that was me, though — I was pushing my feelings, my goals, my interpretation of success and achievement, projecting them onto my husband. His goal was to finish, to finish around 3:15:00, and to finish together. Those were the goals I shared at the start of the race, and it wasn’t fair to decide on his behalf that he would be happier if I changed them for him mid-stream.

So I said, “You’re right, honey, I’m sorry.”

He looked at me suspiciously and asked me what the catch was.

I explained, apologized again, he forgave me, and we went on to finish the race.

Together.

Crossing the finish line with him was even more amazing than I expected it to be. If I hadn’t been slightly dehydrated at that point, I think I would have cried. We finished in 3:03:00, twelve minutes faster than expected may I point out. It was amazing and wonderful and beyond worth all of the effort and struggle.

BWB says he wants to do another half, and then start looking at a full marathon. I’ve never done a full, although I’ve wanted to. It seems big and scary and long, and I’m a little intimidated by the distance. That’s not going to stop us, though. We’re going to do our first marathon, and cross the finish line holding hands.

Together.

Right after BWB and I started dating, I went away on a trip.

Six months or so before I met BWB, my friends and I had decided we would go on a cruise for Thanksgiving. It happened in the most backwards way, with all of us sitting around bemoaning the horrifically bad spring we’d had that year, and someone said we all deserved a vacation. Yeah, someone else said, we should all go on a cruise or something. And then someone else said, hey, we SHOULD go on a cruise! And we all looked at each other and realized we were brilliant, and it was done.

A few months later, I was in the middle of falling madly in love with this crazy boy I just met, and the idea of spending an entire week without seeing him was bothering me more than I liked to admit. I tried to play it off, I really did, but at dinner one night the 6 other people on the boat with me all groaned and threw me out of dinner to go call him already! For pity’s sake, call him, put us all out of our misery! Apparently, I was not doing as well at covering up the missing-my-new-boyfriend as I thought I was.

In any case, while I was missing him on this cruise, I was looking for just the right present to bring him back. Something unique, more than a t-shirt or a keyring, but not so expensive as to be awkward for our 2-month-old relationship. Finally, on our last port day, I found it. There amidst a pile of knick-knacks in a junk shop in the Bahamas was a tiny little ship inside a tiny glass globe. It was nothing big, but it was perfect, and I wrapped it in socks and underpants and stuffed it inside a shoe (because that’s what everyone does with tiny glass globes containing ships, right?) and brought it home to him.

He loved it. I glowed. A month later, we said “I love you” for the first time, and about 6 months after that, we were engaged. I’m pretty sure the ship had something to do with it.

Last year when we were moving, the tiny glass globe got caught in a cord and was thrown off the counter while I tried to unpack. I cried and cried, and BWB came to find out why. He looked at the broken glass, and at me, and smiled. Picking up the still-intact sailing ship, he held it out for me to see.

“You didn’t break it. You set it free!”

This, my friends, is love.

Earlier this week, BWB put a pint of strawberries in the cart at the grocery store. This pint of berries came home with us, of course, and then proceeded to look sad in the fridge.

Yesterday, my husband asked me to make something cool out of them, because he wasn’t going to eat them and it would be very sad if they went to waste.

Tonight, having decided to make a tart out of them, I threw together some dough for the crust and stuck it in the freezer to chill. Meanwhile, BWB came home from his very long day at ICU and was poking around in the kitchen, looking for something to snack on. (Can you see where this is going?)

I went into the kitchen to set the oven to preheat and absently noted that my husband was pouring some sugar into his bowl of nice fresh strawberries. Such a shame, really, because strawberries are really plenty sweet without all that add-

“YOU’RE EATING THE STRAWBERRIES?!”

My dear husband froze in mid-motion. I could just about see his thoughts racing as he tried to figure out why this was evoking such a strong reaction. Weren’t they his strawberries? Did I want some? Are strawberries junk food now? What did he do now?

“Honey, do you remember asking me to make you something out of the strawberries?”

Realization begins to dawn and he nods.

“You know how I’ve been making something in here, with the tart pan out and the oven…”

Nod.

“…so the berries…”

At this point he looks stricken and explains that he didn’t MEAN to eat the berries, he just had one and it was so good and he thought the rest would also be good and he could put them back! Here, have berries!

I laughed and laughed and told him to eat the berries. There will be other berries, and the tart shell dough will be perfectly fine in the freezer for a while. Berries (even with sugar) are much better for you than strawberry tarts are, anyway.

Really?

Yes, really. I’m not mad, I promise.

He ate the berries. I turned off the oven.

I love my husband.

It is no secret that I love tradition and ritual.  They aren’t just about doing things the way they’ve always been done, though; to me, traditions and rituals create a safe space, a feeling of belonging.  Anything is fair game — if we’ve done it twice, it must be a tradition — but it is the traditions of my family and my faith which I hold closest to my heart.  As BWB and I build our life together as a married couple, we are establishing our own traditions, some of which are treasured childhood rituals and some of which are new to both of us.

One of the new to both of us traditions is Shabbat dinner.  While my family obviously never observed Shabbat, we did sit down to dinner together more nights than not.  Looking back, those nightly conversations were hugely important to my development as a person as well as my relationship with my family.  I am determined to give my someday-children the same thing.  Combining ritual, tradition, discussion, and food — it should really come as no surprise that I love the idea of celebrating Friday night Shabbat dinner in our home.

To that end, a few weeks ago I ordered The Modern Jewish Mom’s Guide to Shabbat. A couple of the reviewers on Amazon had said it was helpful for non-Jewish mothers, and I have to agree.  While it didn’t answer all of my questions, it did answer most of them, and offered information I didn’t even know to ask about.  I’ve read it a couple times through, and I’m sure I’ll go back a few more times before I’m done.  I would definitely recommend it for anyone, mom or not.

Friday afternoon I called BWB to ask if he wanted to go to temple or not.  He said no, he was just too busy, and I could tell from his voice that he was super stressed.  I was exhausted myself, so I said I’d pick up some food on the way home and we could just stay in.

When I got home, he was upstairs studying.  I got out the kiddush cup and two little candles from our wedding.  The only white tablecloth we have has embroidered menorah and dreidels on it, but I put it on the table anyway.  The food was nothing special (a rotisserie chicken, red pepper strips and frozen corn for him and peas for me), but I put it on the plates and made it look pretty anyway.  A few weeks ago I made four small loaves of challah and froze them, so when this week’s loaf came out of the oven, I called him down for dinner.

“Oh, you can start without me.”

“Um.  No, really can’t.”

“…fine.  It’ll be about ten minutes.”

About ten minutes later a stressed out and distracted BWB came down the stairs, but as soon as he saw the table, his tense expression eased and his face lit up.  “What do we do now?”  I pulled out the book, and opened to the part explaining the prayers.

I covered my head with the wedding shawl one of my bridesmaids made for me, and somewhat sheepishly lit the candles. After waving my hands over the flames the way I’ve seen my Orthodox friend do, I said the prayer (almost from memory, even!).  He said kiddush over the cup, and then we followed the steps through the rest of the book, giggling a little from time to time.  Dinner was not excessively long, our conversation wasn’t particularly enlightened, and the soundtrack was the TV coming in from the other room where our housemate was watching something.  Despite all of that, I could see BWB re-centering.  At some point, he thanked me for setting it up.

“You needed Shabbat.” I said.

“Yeah, I did.  Shabbat Shalom, honey.”

I love tradition and ritual because of the shared sacred space they have the ability to create, any time, anywhere.  Last night, our imperfect prayers created a holy place in our house.  Amazing.  A slightly belated Shabbat Shalom, yall, and God be with you tonight and every night.

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