The Last Tater Tot and E"turtle" Love

I got married in a tiny winding staircase in the first apartment Paul and I shared. We were navigating a flower patterned love seat up the labyrinth with careful precision of lowering a corner, raising the middle, much to the chagrin of the audience of pale peach painted wood paneling. A game of centimeters, we miscalculated and took to unscrewing the cheap plastic feet of the love seat while balancing the entire thing on the ancient railing and one of our knees, both hanging on by moments. Once feetless, it seemed to float up by itself, finally resting in our equally tiny attic apartment. Exhausted and eventually distracted, it lay feetless for a while like a helpless baby bird, in a nest of the ugliest 1970s carpet in the tristate area, complete with the iconic swirl of shitbrown, eggshell white, and peppered with black specks. The whole of it was matted down, perhaps after years of angry pacing. And it was the seventh address I'd had in four years. 

We stayed in that tiny place with a bed sheet for a bedroom door for two blissful years, where we navigated domestic chores: who makes dinner, who does the dishes, who sweeps the carpet to make it look exactly like it looked before. The house was built in the early 1900s and age settled into every crack, so much that when one cleaned, it never looked any different. But we adored the built-in bookshelves that hugged the living room windows and showed off the square window that led out to a tiny shelf at the very top point of the front of the house. Paul would feed the squirrels with discount mixed nuts we purchased with our pennies at Big Lots and he would smile when they came down from their tree houses to snack. A sweat lodge in the summer, it ushered us outside to enjoy the outskirts of the Old West End, a historic neighborhood just outside downtown Toledo, oscillating between startling poverty and gorgeous architecture.

We moved out of what was eventually called the Mustard Jar, a comment on its musty yellow exterior walls and its enormity of three floors and a basement, four months before Paul proposed by way of my Easter basket. He slipped my mother's ring on the wing of a tiny owl that made a magic wand sound when you pressed its tummy. As a new Beyonce (what I called fiancé, because I'm funny), I was met with a host of crabby women in teacher's lounges, event planning meetings, grocery story lines, that would always caution my excitement with "Wait 'til you're married."

But ever since the flowered love seat, the built-in bookshelves, the sheet for a door, I had already been. Which led me to vehemently deny that I wanted marriage, because the fact that Paul and I made a home, the first address that felt like home in four years, that was all I needed. Why wait for a man in a suit to give me a new name in a church on a Saturday afternoon when I already said "I do" to the audience of friendly squirrels, pale peach wood paneling, who witnessed the first fight over dishes, the creation of mashed potato pizza, the stress of making rent, having gas money, food in the fridge, on a college kid job and a long commute to not much better?

I'm not sure what those old ladies were referring to when they told me to "Wait 'til you're married." Instead of getting excited and offended, maybe their stank faces and eye rolls were cleverly hiding the fact that I should wait for it to, every year, improve exponentially. Wait until he loves you enough to give you the last tater tot! Wait until he haphazardly agrees to be a "turtle in love" for Halloween, with shells that spell "E-Turtle Love." Wait until he looks at you on a Sunday night while you binge watch "Gilmore Girls" in your sweats and crazy bun hair and you will swear that he is falling in love with you all over again. Wait until you celebrate 8+ years of marriage and the memories between you will fill the room with stories of that Volvo you named Murphy with the crank moon roof and no heat, the bats that took over and ran you both into the iconic windy stairway, the squirrels that got too familiar and took to breaking in to find their cashews and peanuts, the dishwasher that solved 89% of your arguments. 

So many things have happened in four years that it's hard to keep track. And if you throw in the four years before, these eight years have felt like a life time, and easily the best eight+ years of my life. Paul makes me better, separately and together, and I practice gratitude everyday because of him. And if these eight years are any indication of what's next, those ladies were so right. Wait until you're married for years to Paul Young: it will make your smile so much wider than when you only wore one ring on your ring finger in your six month engagement.

Married for four years, together for eight, making you all nauseated with all this love.

And now your annual viewing of the Jubilee video.