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It began in October of 2002, with tender embraces and lingering caresses; the way we held each other during the incipient stage, is how the branches cleave to their blooms in the autumn.
Don’t let go, they seem to say. Hold on tighter. Just a few days more.
We couldn’t bear to be away from one another, and because of that, often spent countless hours — not to mention tanks of gas — commuting back and forth from Orange to Dana Point, roughly 35 miles separating us.
The nights Michael arrived on my doorstep, well after he should have gone on home to bed, and after a 10 hour shift at On The Border (a Mexican restaurant where he waited tables), were some of the most exhilarating nights of my life.
Pacing the entry way, peeking out the window, checking my phone to see that 2 minutes had passed since the last time I’d looked. And then . . . A flash of light of my driveway and a figure emerges from the oldest Honda Accord on the face of the Earth. The four seconds between the door and his arms felt like an eternity, but eventually I found north. He reeked something fierce of margarita mix and tortilla chips, but did I care? Heck no. He was there and and that’s all that mattered.
The restrictions in my house regarding boys and such were fairly liberal. That may surprise some of you to know; however, as Michael and I had met at the College group of our church, we were striving to uphold certain ideals and standards. That said, we tried mainly to paw each other in the well-lit living room, where any one person was liable to walk by at any moment. I think our hormones had the last laugh. It is my opinion that hormones, like an inheritance, should be something you come into–after marriage. Until then, they just screw everything up.
In my marrow, I knew this was the man I wanted to spend the rest of my life with. The only problem was we were 20 years old. And dirt poor.
Michael, a stable lad (that’s stable as in reliable, not equestrian protege) was just beginning his first year of Bachelor studies (that’s Bachelor as in undergraduate work, not a single man investigating the art of playboy-ism). The goal was a master’s degree in School Psychology; a feat I undertook for one day, after enrolling at Vanguard University in the fall of 03. College wasn’t for me. This master’s degree, though, it was going to take at least 3 years, and then he needed an find internship, — preferably paid — and then . . . a job.
So, do we wait?
Things would sure be a heckuva lot easier if one of us had a “real” job. At the time, I was eking out a living as a nanny, making great money as a matter of fact. College was on a lark, really; my goals never superseded anything beyond wife and mother. But this waiting. My goodness, it felt interminable. Three years at least, before we could even begin to fathom a lifestyle reminiscent of our parents. The days felt long. The nights felt even longer. I wanted wake up to Michael’s sweet face, fall asleep to his breathing. If I could just stare at him all night and watch him sleep, then I could die a fulfilled and contented woman.
Have I induced your vomitory reflexes? Boy, did I have it bad for that boy . . .
So, as you will have likely guessed, we didn’t wait. We were married in the spring, May 22nd, 2004. The day I became Mrs. Cara Rosalie Olsen was one of the happiest, confusing, most terrifying days of my life. Don’t think I didn’t consider running past our family and friends without even a glance back to see if I had trampled any children; the thought had crossed my mind a time or two. What the heck was I doing? I’m 21 years old, for crying out loud! Didn’t I need date more? Sow my oats or something? And then, in what felt like both five minutes and five eons, I was descending that old rickety staircase, my sweaty hand pasted around my father’s sturdy bicep, praying I didn’t tumble head first into the pond below. Canon in d minor gradually faded into the soulful “Kissing you” by Des’ree. Well, it’s too late now, I thought to myself. Better go on and just do it.
And then I saw his face.
My darling, Michael. And somehow I knew it would all just be okay.
Nerves scattered like ambushed bees. All trepidation fled in the face of true love.
And so, I was finally able to wake up to Michael’s sweet face and fall asleep to his breathing. Turns out his face isn’t so sweet in the morning . . . Kinda looks a bit like a lumpy potato.
And his breathing? Yeah, it’s more like stentorian gulps of oxygen, primarily taken in through the mouth. And all this “watching him sleep” I had planned on doing, that didn’t quite pan out. You see, in order not to live on cup of noodle and water, we both had to work grueling hours. Michael had the joy of going to both work and school, while I elected to be the primary source of income, the bread-winner if you will.
But we had our independence! We were officially “living on our own.”
Our first closet — ahem — first apartment was less than 600 hundred square feet. If at any point I desired to cook something on the stove, use the lavatory, while watching television and folding laundry, I could do it all without getting up.
It made us both a little nuts, you see.
For the next 3 years, Michael got up, went to school, went to work, and came home. I did the same, minus the school. We lived paycheck to paycheck. I battled through bouts of malicious insomnia.
Marriage was really hard.
I’ve decided to skip the part where I briefly considered what is now referred to as “The stupidest decision I ever contemplated” and say only that, being married at 21, with not a whole lot of money, no friends in the same life-stage, and feeling as if we never saw each other or could get enough sleep, was difficult. It didn’t look like the pictures in the magazine. A handful of times, at least, we zeroed out our bank account. And of course the lovely bank people thought that the opportune moment to penalize us with a $25 fee, sending us into negative figures.
The hardest part, though, was learning to adapt to another person. Someone who threw the toothpaste away when it still had at least 10 good uses left in it. Someone who could disrobe and drop his clothes on the middle of the floor, even though the hamper was less than a foot away. Someone who went silent and clammed up when confronted with an argument, when I was ready to claw ceilings open with the talons that had somehow manifested on the ends of my fingers. Someone who found it painful to keep his eyes open for more than seventeen seconds once his head hit the pillow, while his wife was just warming up for pillow-talk. If there is such thing as polar opposites, Michael and I aren’t even on the same grid. Every inherent prosperity the one possessed, the other possessed its antonym. Except, thankfully, for a few things: music, food, and faith.
And so we survived.
Some time passed, and the dark days became a little less dark, and eventually Michael graduated with that long awaited master’s degree.
Oh boy, were we ecstatic. For about five minutes, until the economy decided it would implode on itself. Jobs were scarce. Finding a job in any sort of school-related field was like finding a rainbow at nighttime. By the sheer grace of God, Michael was offered a job that he was wonderfully overqualified for and terribly underpaid for. We took it! With a smile!
And somewhere around year 5 of our marriage, things began to meld a bit. A year later we even moved into some posh digs — a 1400 hundred square foot town-home. I continued to make exceptional money as a nanny and house-manager, and Michael worked hard at his job.
We were happy.
. . . then my job ended, Michael was laid-off, and we couldn’t afford our town home.
And we survived that, too.
So where are we now? Well, I’ll tell you. We live with my mother-in law, my sister-in-law, my brother-in-law, one senior Labrador, and one ridiculously addable Chihuahua. Michael’s face still looks like a lumpy potato in the morning, and I now beat him with the underside of my foot when his snores wake me.
God, I do love that man.
I hope you don’t mind my sharing these sentiments with a couple hundred people. I know you’re as private as I am open, but I just needed some of my friends (I’ve come to love quite a few of them) to know how special you are. Because for a writer, nothing’s been written until someone’s read it.
8 years, my sweet man . . .
8 years, and I love you more today than the day I said “I do.” And actually — and you know this of course — that day I was still mostly in love with the idea of being in love, of launching into womanhood, amassing some sort of clout as a Mrs. instead of a Miss.
This — commitment, trust, devotion, and fidelity — is love. I fall in and out of love with things and ideas every day. You, Michael, you are my forever.
I refer to you as my Prince Charming, and you are . . . in a hunky Bill Gates kind-of-way. You’re intelligent, you’re trustworthy, you’re handsome, and you’re kind. Simply put, you’re my favorite. Being married to you makes the bad bearable and the good relevant. This world is a painful place to exist sometimes . . . especially for someone like me. The injustices that seem to maim and strike at every turn somehow skip over that hyde of yours. And when I come to you, broken and hurting, over some otherwise trivial matter, you do not tell I am being silly. You do not make me feel small and insignificant. You don’t dismiss my feelings or invalidate them. You love me. You wipe my tears. You tell me I am the most special woman in the world. And it is in those moments, the ones everyone else would see as neither consequential nor important, that I fall in love with you all over again.
You are so much more than a “husband” to me. You are confidant and sage. You are counselor and dolorifuge. You are heart-mender and fellow foodie-afficianado.
Michael Olsen, you are . . . my very, very, very best friend. Thank you for making life an adventure. And thank you for still wanting to keep me company when it’s not.
I will love you every day, mundane, momentous, or melancholy, until the day the Lord takes me home.
And then I’ll still love you.
Happy Anniversary, my love.
Cara Rosalie Olsen