You gain a lot of things when you get married.
A new sense of purpose. Growing responsibility. A greater appreciation for your spouse. A few extra pounds and, most importantly, a new family.
Before I was married, the idea of in-laws always daunted me. How could one reconcile oneself to people with which there is no history? What if your backgrounds are too different, and you become the person in the family that everyone rolls their eyes at or ignores? The crazy aunt. The weird sister-in-law, perpetually out of place, creeping into corners and scaring all the children at family parties. My fears, of course, were completely unwarranted. Every single one of my siblings have married incredible men and women-- people that, though I have no direct relation, I feel I could be bound to by blood-ties.
When I met Jason's parents for the first time I was deeply impressed by their kindness. I saw their newborn grandson in the hospital at the same time I met Jason's sister in-law, Michelle. I was touched by this willingness to include me, a complete stranger, in something that was so exciting and precious. I watched Rod tease Jason and was, in turn, teased myself. I lost a MarioKart race to a four year-old. I wiped snot from the noses of nieces and nephews. I held Tarrin's beautiful baby. This was something that I quickly learned about the Bartons--once you're in, you're all in. I loved this most about Jason. This is what shaped him into the person I had grown to adore. I saw his face reflected sometimes in the faces of his siblings-- a passing shadow across the eyes, a facial expression, a laugh. I saw how at home he was with his family and knew that this was important. If I wanted to be a part of his life I had to know more.
I went to Oregon with the whole family for a week the summer before Jason and I became engaged. How different the Bartons were from my own family! And how good it was to be different. My family revolves around food and loud, interrupted conversations. The Bartons revolve around activity-- there is always an agenda, a new sight to see, an interesting experience. While it was different, it was good, but there was something missing. I was separating myself from these people, from Jason. I'm not a part of the family, I would think sadly to myself and painfully pride myself on letting Jason have moments alone without me to savor with his relatives. This untrue and silly thought was remedied while I stood by myself on the beach watching the waves roll and foam over the sand. The Oregon coast was profoundly beautiful. The Barton family had so much history in this cold, misty place that I had never seen before. I felt alone. Was I going to marry Jason or was I not? Was I in the family or was I out? I felt like every moment I was not myself made my uncertain future even more foggy. Rod came to stand next to me. We didn't say much, we just watched the waves, silently contemplating our own thoughts. I felt such comfort and peace--such sincerity in the silence that it could have been my own father standing next to me. My emotions had been rocked like the waves in a terrible storm-- and then, suddenly, the sun came out. I knew what my future held. This was my family.
I was in.
You gain so many good things when you get married.
I'm just grateful that I got the Bartons.
My scream probably scared Winston more than being flipped upside down.
It was the spiders that did it.
They were terrifyingly huge, with abdomens the size of a penny and long, thick, hairy legs protruding from their sides. After Jason slammed on the brakes, Winston and his carrier did a silly little flip in mid-air and landed wrong side-up in the backseat. The spiders scuttled heavily over the bottom of the cat-carrier while Winston struggled to right himself and I screamed and screamed "Jason! Jason! Pull over!! Pull over!!"
After the spiders had been disposed of and Winston righted in his carrier, we continued on our way. Winston was shaking. I pulled him out of his carrier and felt his little heart pounding through his small chest. His whole body was overcome by violent tremors. I couldn't bear to put him back in his carrier.
This is how we rode to Salt Lake.
A few weeks ago I encountered the most amazing person.
This person was extremely small. He had sandy brown hair, chubby pink cheeks and brightly gleaming round glasses. He was cute enough to break your heart.
He stood before me, shaking.
"Give her the book," his mother told him sternly.
He placed a thick board book with brightly colored pictures on the counter. Tootles the Train, it was called.
"Tell her you're sorry," said the mother.
"I'm sorry," he said, his voice a whisper.
Looking at his small worried face, my mind flashed back to another child who wore glasses. A shy child who wished and dreamed for many things, but never could muster up the courage to ask. A child who was surpassingly crafty-- not because she liked stealing, but because she loved pretty and shiny things--like a crow. But more than anything she loved books, and it was books that she often....borrowed. Without asking.
"He's just fine," I told the mother, smiling at Tootles. I would have loved to give him the book, but of course I couldn't. I watched him walk away and experienced a fleeting impression that he was a person full of enormous potential, thief or no.
After all, I think I turned out just fine.
Sometimes Winston is dirty.
My bed is white.
In order to prevent these two things from mixing, we have given Winston his own blanket, which he can lick himself on, shed, knead, and do other, undesirable cat-like things.
This particular duvet cover is from eigth grade. I ordered it from a Delia's magazine. It was a bribe from my mother: I would get the duvet cover and pillow cases if I allowed her to teach me about the birds and the bees.
I had to have it.
And now Winston has to have it.
I was in a cold sweat, my hands shaking, my head heavy.
I slumped over the side of the bed, my mind fighting against the aching memory of a disturbing dream. Phantoms drifted in and out of my consciousness, the malaise hanging over me like a dark cloud. "Stop thinking about it!" I commanded myself, willing my heart to cease its frantic palpitations, my mind to halt the fear. Something in the old house creaked, and I froze under my blanket. This was it. The terrors of my imagination were becoming real! Just as I decided to wake up Jason, I turned over and there, stretched out to his full length with his small face hidden under an arm, was Winston-- a furry, fluffy, warm, magically alive Winston. I pulled him toward me by his back feet. His whiskers twitched. He opened one eye. I wrapped an arm around him and, very slowly, he laid his head down, his face pointed towards mine, the pointed caps of his fangs slightly protruding. As he exhaled I could feel the warm, steady puff of his stale breath on my cheek and I held him close to me, like a teddy bear, until I fell asleep again-- my dreams permeated with softer things.