Meanwhile, there lived a girl who hoped some day to marry and have a family, although she secretly doubted that anyone would ever have her. Being devout, she prayed regularly and made a list in her diary, beginning with, "He must love Jesus," and ending with, "It would be nice if he were tall, and musical, and athletic."
One day they met in a Bible study. She was taken with his clean-cut decency and the way he said, "How do you do?" (She answered, "Fine," and then experienced the stab one feels when the wrong word bursts from one's mouth before one has time to think.) He was taken with her big brown eyes and utter lack of veneer.
Over time, he learned that she was trustworthy, and she learned that he was an uncanny match for every item on her list. They began to ask God about each other.
He ran into a snag or two with his college coursework, and she told him, "You can do it." He did.
Before they finished college, they found themselves married and living in a file drawer of an apartment, a homemade quilt on their bed (dusty blue, for it was 1987), and lots of free sweet corn in their kitchen because she worked for the ag school of the University of Minnesota, St. Paul. She grew tan, hoeing corn rows, and he did not, working on computers at various companies and finishing his electrical engineering degree.
Diplomas in hand, they moved to Syracuse, New York to start a new life. A rainbow graced their way, and she felt hope, the smile of God, the promise of a future as they drove on through rainy Chicago towards the eastern side of the USA.
They learned things about one another.
He learned that she did not like him to give her gifts after fights. "That is just a memorial to the fight," she told him. "Please just say you're sorry." So he learned to say he was sorry.
She learned that he could not eat both steak and ice cream in the same evening. Sad but true. So she worked on cooking approximately kosher meals.
He learned that she was deathly afraid of cats.
She learned that he played the bass guitar.
He learned that her favorite things included walks in the woods and neck massages.
She learned that he liked coming home to happy children and lots of toys in the living room, rather than a clean house and a stressed out wife.
He learned that piles of unnamed chaos stressed out his wife.
She learned that he liked tea and TV in the evenings (often Masterpiece, back before Downton Abbey ruined it).
He learned to change diapers and wash dishes while she learned to use computers and cell phones (after a fashion).
She did not learn how to maintain cars, but she was able to call AAA if the battery died. He did not learn how to cook dinner, but he could fry eggs, and he was the best at making coffee.
Together, they learned how to do various home improvement projects. He became an ace prefinished hardwood floor installer. They wallpapered a number of rooms without fighting once (about the wallpaper).
She did the bulk of the child-rearing, but he had an important role, too. When the children were little, he did the after-dinner baths while she cleaned the kitchen in peace. When the children grew older, he took them to soccer, and basketball. He picked up Lulubelle after ballet, on his way home from work. He always, always took them to their music auditions and adjudications because she was incapable of remaining composed.
He made the money, but she saved it.
All in all, they worked very well together.
They even discovered family vacations in beach houses on the coast of North Carolina, where they spent as many evenings as possible walking up the shore in the edge of the water, into the sunset.
One ordinary, busy day, she visited him at his office in New York. On her way out to the van afterwards, she saw a little paring knife lying forlornly in a pile of snow in the parking lot (there was a great deal of of snow in the parking lots in New York). She saved the knife, rescued it and took it home. It was small and lightweight and felt cheap in one's hand, but it turned out to be a great knife. It had a very sharp point on its end, and a finely serrated edge that never seemed to get dull.
This past Christmas she lost the knife while the children were all at home. At first she just assumed that someone had put it away in the wrong place, but after a couple of months, she remembered preparing a very large family apple crisp. She wondered if it had been discarded with the cores and peelings.
He knew she was distressed about the lost knife, so every time they were out at a discount store, he would find a knife that looked similar to it, and offer to buy it for her. "No thank you," she would say, "I have other paring knives. I don't need another paring knife. I just liked that particular, specific knife."
Then one day, a search for knives on the internet turned up this knife brand. The paring knife was available! The bad news, it was only available in a set of 19 knives. The good news, the entire set only cost $19.99. He ordered it for her for Valentine's Day.
The box was rather an appropriate Valentine design.
The knives were profuse.
And the Valentine score was second only to the year he gave her roses without spending $50.