This one’s dedicated to my husband, my beloved scholarly couch potato. We will have been married seventeen years tomorrow.
When I brought my future husband home to meet my parents for the first time, my father immediately recognized a kindred spirit. He watched knowingly as my fiancé gazed in wonder and admiration at his groaning bookshelves overflowing with exactly the same kind of scholarly tomes that he himself loved to read.
The day before our wedding, my father took me aside to give me the only piece of marital advice I ever got from him.
“If you want to have a happy marriage, don’t expect him to be handy, or to do things around the house. Basically, he’s a scholarly couch potato. All he’s going to want to do is sit around all day long reading his books. Let him.”
I thought this was hilarious. My dad’s own attempts to be “handy” have often ended badly. One of my earliest memories is particularly horrific – I remember seeing my dad coming into the kitchen with a river of blood gushing from his knee. He had just chopped it with an axe while trying to split a log. On another occasion, he cemented over the dryer vent by mistake. How many times have I heard my mother muttering darkly to herself, “He can do nothing!“? (Nothing but write more than fifteen books and accumulate two doctorates, a masters, and two bachelors as a non-native speaker in this country that is).
My dad had peered into the depths of my future husband’s soul and had found it to be the perfect mirror of his own. He had dispensed his paternal wisdom in an attempt to create for his son-in-law, his fellow scholarly couch potato, the life he himself craved. I foolishly told my husband what my dad had said about him, thinking that he would take it for the compliment that it truly was.
He did not.
During the first year of our marriage, we lived in my parents’ house, which was vacant while they were living in Korea. We had just left New York City where supers took care of any maintenance issues in the apartments we had lived in. Now, in the heart of suburbia, we were faced with the care and upkeep of an aging house.
Still stinging from my dad’s assessment of his practical maintenance skills, my husband set out to prove him wrong. There was nothing he wouldn’t tackle. Leaky faucet? He’d diligently watch youtube videos to figure out how to fix it. Elecrical issue? He’d work at it relentlessly, cursing like a sailor, deaf to my pleas to call an electrician. He obsessively tended to the lawn, brushing off my suggestion that it would be better to let the grass grow a little longer before cutting it. The pièce de résistance was when he waterproofed the basement, which had been prone to flooding. He may very well have shortened his life span with the highly toxic chemicals he had to use in the process, but when he finished he crowed in triumph: “How’s THAT for a scholarly couch potato?!”
As the year dragged on, I could sense that his spirits were flagging. Each hard-fought battle with a blown fuse or a shower head that needed replacing took its toll, and in the end the cost benefit analysis proved too unambiguous to ignore. He came to me one day with shoulders slumped and said in a defeated voice, “Your dad’s right. I am a scholarly couch potato.”
Somehow, dear reader, that admission made me love him all the more.
Happy anniversary to the man who keeps things happily ticking away at home, not with a wrench or a hammer, but with true and steadfast love.
Here’s what happens when you have a sister who is super stylish and works in the hippest hotel in DC:
1) She scopes out the coolest places in LA to stay and visit during your weekend there. (See yesterday’s post)!
2) You show up at her house with your suitcase packed with an outfit you think is suitable for the wedding you’ll be going to with her. She makes you show her what you brought. She takes one look and shakes her head. She pulls out a much better dress, shoes, jewelry, and a bag from her own closet for you to wear.
3) She tries to help you out by taking a photo of you from a flattering angle…(from waaaaaaaay above)!
4) Your pot roast shaped feet overflow right out of your sister’s sleek shoes. In the end, unable to bear the crippling, excruciating pain, you take them off and end up walking around the country club with your fat, unshod, blistered, bright red feet. Because you’re just as effortlessly classy as your sister is stylish.
The wedding was in the stunning Mountain Gate Country Club in LA. The only thing more beautiful than the setting was the gorgeous couple:
One of the best things about a wedding is that you get to have a family reunion for the happiest of reasons.
More photos tomorrow…
My husband and I got married at the Meridian House, in Washington, D.C. This Neoclassical house was designed in 1920 by John Russell Pope, the architect also known for designing the Jefferson Memorial, the West Wing of the National Gallery, and the National Archives. It was built as a personal residence for Ambassador Irwin Boyle Laughlin and remained in his family until 1961 when it was sold to the American Council on Education and then to the Meridian House Foundation, which became Meridian International Center in 1992. It is now used to house the Center’s office as well as for event rentals.
I love the fact that my British husband and I got married at the home base of an “organization dedicated to promoting international understanding.” I love the Latin inscription over the front entrance to the house: “Quo habitat felicitas nil intret mali” (Where happiness dwells, evil will not enter).
But what I loved most about the property was the rear garden with its pebbled courtyard and allée of pleached linden trees that form a sort of natural outdoor cathedral.
In keeping with the tree theme, our wedding cake featured a tree on top of it (and underneath the tree – my dog, whom I’ve written about here).
We used little potted bonsai trees as combination seat markers and favors.
The day before the wedding I picked up dozens of little Serissa trees from Merrifield Garden Center in Falls Church, Virginia. This is my favorite gardening center, and really – my favorite store period. I sat on the floor of my parents’ back porch for hours repotting the little bonsai starters into tiny little terra cotta pots tied with ribbon. My sister poked her head in, took one look at me and my dirt-smeared face and dirt-encrusted fingernails, and stated the perfectly obvious: “You’re insane.”
Since our wedding, I’ve had a sentimental fondness for Serissa trees and have tried and failed to grow them ever since. Wikipedia says they are “fussy”: “It responds adversely…if over-watered, under-watered, if it’s too cold, too hot, or even just moved to a different location.” Oh, how I can relate to this plant! I have come to terms with the fact that I’m incapable of keeping my Serissa trees alive, so whenever I get the chance, I replenish my stock at Merrifield Garden Center, the only place I’ve ever found them as starter bonsai plants. I know they’ll die, as all my others have, but I think of them as cheaper and slightly longer-lasting than cut flowers, which I never buy. (The words “false economy” are ringing in my ears as I type).
These Serissas were about $10 each. You can usually find even smaller ones for about $3. I pot them up in bonsai pots (also from Merrifield Garden Center) and cover the soil with moss. The garden center also sells tiny little sculptures that you can add to your plants. I usually just add a little seashell or something of that sort.
I placed an ammonite fossil at the base of this one:
Believe me, I’m not blind to the sad irony that this symbol of our love is constantly dying due to my mismanagement. But I console myself with the thought that persistence (even in the face of repeated failures) counts for something. In fact, the ability to acknowledge and accept our failings, as well as a healthy dose of (often black) humor, has helped us to hold it together for almost sixteen years now. Just this morning my husband started referring to himself as “my better half.” He caught himself and said, “Actually, I’m more like your ‘tolerable eighth,’ maybe even sometimes your ‘intolerable sixteenth’.” Finally, he hastened to very generously reassure me that I was his “magnificent 7/8ths”!