A memoir of love: how I met my wife
|So there’s this short olive-skinned Italian lady that has my heart. She held her hands out on February 4, 2009 and I deposited my heart and everything I have into them and trusted that all my stuff would be okay, because she had really strong hands, I saw that right off. They were plain and needed a ring so I sent her one in the mail that she put right on and to my knowledge, has never taken off, even when she works so hard that her fingers swell up and the ring cuts into her and makes her cry. She switched it to the other hand long enough to put on a slightly better version that we exchanged on our wedding day, but I’ll get to that. She swears (and told everybody) that I added her first on Facebook but that’s a lie, she added me, but it doesn’t matter now because she had to pay the $1,200 phone bill we ran up in that first two weeks, so I figured I could let the lie slide ‘cause we’re even. After a few minute debate it was decided that a plane ticket would be cheaper than our phone bills so she got on a plane and headed, sight unseen, to my tenement yard home in the Cayman Islands where I could have been a black market porn seller, a sex-slave trader, a 400 pound hairy male drug dealer or anything else but what I claimed to be; a slightly funny looking island girl with curly hair, no money and 4 kids, a beat-up jeep and a dead-end job. She decided I must have sounded like I really did have curly hair so she jumped on a plane despite the dire warnings of friends and family and headed to the Caribbean, hightop pink Converse on her little feet and laptop in hand, and walked off the tarmac and into a clusterfuck of a life that she has somehow managed, with limitless patience, perseverance, and commitment to un-clutter and sort out one 5,000-piece-puzzle-sized-piece at a time. We sat on those crumbly concrete steps in my chicken-scratched-mostly-dirt yard and ate Gino’s Pizza Rolls, Jamaican hard crackers with tuna and watched Pink and Sarah McLachlan videos on YouTube with my head on her shoulder and our hearts already firmly secured in each others’ hands. We were - to the consternation of the Cayman Islands, my friends, family and the local police force - in love. They would cruise by slowly and have a look at the two heathen lesbians snuggled up together in plain sight, go back to the station, pick up a few more brethren in uniform and cruise by again. Sometimes they would even stop and roll down the window and we would have ourselves a little awkward stare-and-wave session and a few of the braver souls would chat a minute, I suppose to see how Lesbian People sounded and if perhaps we might fall down onto the ground and give them some mad passionate girl-on-girl action right there. She saw chickens roosting in trees, had iguanas fall on her head, hung out laundry on a line, existed on Cocoa Pebbles and tuna fish, laughed, got sunburned purple, blistered and peeled and then ate some more hard crackers and laughed some more. I saw that when she laughed she had the cutest crooked teeth. She said:
Should I fix them?
I said if you do don’t come back because I love your crooked teeth and if you didn’t have those crooked teeth you wouldn’t be the girl I want to marry.
She said okay then, I’ll leave them.
I was happy. We had this cooky-crazy kid that would stroll around the house in Dora panties and Nancy’s bras and serve us left over garlic bread on a tray and an Oreo for us to split. She made friends with local Kings and a few queens and some that were in-between and we were happy. My roommates made her gnocchi and cake and we were happy. My kid called her “mama” and she called my kid “kid” and we were happy. We cried together the night before she left and Lia stood there with big tears rolling down her little brown cheeks and and we held each other with tears rolling down our big white cheeks and we cried and weren’t happy anymore because my life was where she was and she was leaving and taking it with her and it wasn’t fair and it wasn’t right and it hurt. So we got on a plane and went to Canada where we were shocked to find not only was there no snow, it was hotter than the island and no moose or beaver greeted us at the airport. Suddenly everything was to big and too loud and too Canadian-y and nobody said words we understood and everyone carried cups of coffee around when everyone knows you only drink coffee at home in the morning time, and there were too many white people and not enough brown ones and this didn’t seem like a place where it might ever snow, much less where we might ever see a real moose or a beaver. The man at the border wasn’t impressed by Lia’s missing teeth or crazy hair or her hitching herself up on his kiosk with a grin and a (very loud) query of, Hey, you ok, man? Nor was he moved at my attempt to seem like I had never seen civilization before (which wasn’t too far from the truth). He waved us through however, finally, after much loud sighing and perusal of my pitifully folded and stained documents, more, I think, in an attempt to escape the now slitty-eyed suspicious look of my small daughter and her (very loud) comments:
BUT mummeh wha hap’n ta HIM? He mad or WHA? We did him sump’n or wha?
than to actually facilitate our entrance into the Great White North. In any case, we had arrived. Just as I began to panic and turn on my heel and head right back through immigration, I saw her. I saw the smile and the crooked teeth and everything fell away...the long trip, the tears and the fears, the border man. She enclosed us in her arms and we were home. It took me a very long time to realize that it wasn’t arriving to a destination that made it home, it was those arms. If those arms held me in China I would also have been home. If they had held me in Timbuctoo I would have asked where to hang my hat, because SHE was home. Not where she WAS or where WE were, SHE herself is home. Many of my first impressions of Canada are from that initial drive home...so many Christmas trees were just everywhere for the taking!
She said, well you can’t just cut them down.
Stores! Malls! BEER STORES?? Are you freaking kidding me?? They just sell beer?
Yes, she said, nothing else, just beer.
My face fell for I realized it was Sunday and I could not get my hands on the goodness, the mysteries, the many foreign objects awaiting me inside of the thousand stores I saw on our way from the airport.
The crooked teeth smile again...ummm, honey, things are open on Sunday here.
What? Why? I was suspicious. Is this some kind of secret Canadian holiday?
Nope. They’re just open on Sundays.
All Sunday? Every Sunday?
Stunned, I tell you, stunned. Never in my life had I ever heard of such a thing. I remained suspicious of heathens that shopped on Sundays instead of worshiping the Lord or sleeping or visiting family for Sunday dinner or maybe playing dominoes. And I never was really comfortable with it but it was nice to be able to get a Snickers if you were craving one or a spare tire or a Monopoly game or a gift box of hot sauces from all around the world or a pack of underwear should you be needing more and run out on a Sunday. There they were, just as ready for the taking as you can imagine, on a Sunday. It was craziness all around I tell you but nothing was crazier than arriving to her mother’s house for our first family dinner. We could hear the commotion as soon as we turned in at 11 Cleveland St., a little unassuming brick house that was nearly bursting at the seams with more people than I cared to see in one place. And when we opened the door, they attacked. All of them. At once. Lia screamed, and might have cried a little. I was kissed on both cheeks, times 20 people. I was groped, fondled (in the nicest ways! They’re Italians, not perverts!) hugged, pinched and yelled at. By all of them. All at once. I was grasped and bodily taken into the kitchen on the wave of this massive group of people. There were big ones and small ones, tall ones and short ones, old ones and young ones. But every face had a smile and every smile was aimed at me which naturally made me want to sink into the floor. Lia was whisked away and given money, chocolate and cakes. I was commanded to eat. I listened to rapid-fire Italian shooting all around the room and ricocheting off the walls as I took in the spread of food that was on the table, a lot of which I had never seen but all of which I was willing to try. We ate ourselves into a food stupor and I looked up to find a pair of gentle brown eyes surveying me through all the commotion. Nonna. She smiled and gestured, innocently, toward another dozen meatballs. Me, trying to be cool:
Oh God, no, thanks, I can’t. I’m so full I could die.
There were several awkward moments of eye to food to eye exchange.
What? You no like Nonna cooking?
I looked around the table which was now suspiciously silent, and felt every Italian eye in the place on me. Even Lia was staring at me reproachfully from her new perch on Zia’s lap as if she had never seen me before. With money clenched in both little grubby fists and pasta sauce on her nose I swear she was sneering at me, the little traitor. I gulped.
Um, okay. Sure. I guess I’ll have some more pasta.
And with that the wild ruckus resumed, everyone nodding and happy that I was going to vomit soon, if not outright drop dead from food consumption. So was set the pattern of all visits to Nonna’s and after realizing that I had no choice but to accept the love and acceptance given to us so generously, we settled into Canadian life. We bought the clothes next. The snowsuits and the fur trimmed hats and the 30 pound fur lined coats and the water repellent boots, the 20 pairs of dollar mittens (of which 7 singles MIGHT still exist after a month of winter and none of those 7 would match.) We got the long-johns and the hoodies, the fleeces and the footie pajamas, the sweaters and the flannel lined jeans and the scarves with face guards and the ear muffs and the ski masks. And then we put it all on and tried to go play in the snow. I sent Lia to school looking like the Pillsbury Dough Boy and comforted myself with the knowledge that even if she slipped on ice on her way she would be well padded. We made a home, in several homes, and I missed Cayman and cried for warm weather and bitched about being lonely and moaned about being bored, but then she would come home after a long week at work and everything was good again. We baked and laughed and visited friends and went to cookie exchange parties and drank rare brands of beer with cool people and we lived. We went to concerts and restaurants and did things I had never done and we gave Lia a life she had never lived. We painted bedrooms and made scrapbooks and stuck up wallpaper and scraped windows sills and put down tile and ripped up linoleum and made our Christmases and Easters and Halloweens like something out of Martha Stewart magazines. We did it so perfect that it was easy to skim over and ignore the not-so-perfect parts. The parts that left me wide-eyed in bed at night, with fears beating upon the window panes, scratching cold fingers against our beautifully decorated front door. There were tears. There was pain. There was screaming and spankings and punishment, there were long days and longer nights when the money ran thin and the patience ran thinner. There was hurt feelings and mean words. But, there was beauty. I stood by her side and vowed to love her for all of my life. There was death. I stood by her side as she laid her precious father to rest. We stood strong together through the agony of lowering my son into the ground. There have been many roads un-taken and some we took that we probably should have just read the damn signs and turned back. We have stood together on these roads, confused and hurting and unsure when we hit another dead end or fell into another pothole, but we stood together, all the same. There have been dreams left behind and new ones discovered. There have been promises broken and negotiations made that bankrupted us emotionally, mentally, physically, sometimes financially. There never was a white picket fence, or a cute fluffy dog. There never was a happily ever after or riding off into any sunsets because we all know that Nancy and I would bust our asses if we ever tried to get on a horse. But. There has been love. There has been joy, and there has been forgiveness and patience and commitment and unconditional acceptance. And still, after all, there is no where else I will ever be than with her. Don’t we all want to just go home at the end of the day?