It is Sunday morning. The house is quiet, the day soft, gray and misty. The fan hums, blowing cool air in from outside. I sit on soft pillows on our bed with the coffee my husband made wafting a delightful aroma beside me. Every Sunday morning, so far, since we got back from our honeymoon, I have woken up to the scent of coffee and the stealthy footsteps of Ben as he tries to leave it beside our bed and sneak away. Instead, I wake up enough to smile at him, and he wishes me good-bye before he leaves for men’s prayer meeting. Sunday mornings, perhaps, are one of the best parts of married life.
My blog has been silent amid the whirlwind of change and activity in my life. I have been working on a post about my honeymoon, but I have not found time to finish and post it. I have every intention of telling my dear blog readers about our lovely wedding day and sharing pictures, but alas! being a married women with a house that needs set up and cleaned, a job on a Labor and Delivery unit, and a husband who will do the housework if I don’t do it first, has kept me hopping in the last few weeks.
Since I’ve been married, I have found life a bit like a roller coaster–sort of like engagement was too, I suppose. The other evening I drove into Wilkes-Barre at dusk, the lights of the city nestled in the valley and welcoming me home after a long day of work. Ben also welcomed me home with a candle-lit supper, flowers, chocolate, and beautifully disguised crockpot food. My heart was “as happy in its place as a fish in its pond” (quote from an ancient Egyptian poem). Also this week, I cried a little one night–gentle, quiet tears, so I wouldn’t wake up Ben–because the place I’ve always called home before seemed far away, and I can never go back in the same way again. Change is hard for me, my concept of home precious and difficult to change. Sometimes I think about the Rohingya word for “family”; its literal translation means “home people.” Ben is becoming my “home person”, and the other “home people” are not here at this new home… But it is good, and the way God designed it, to leave and cleave to that one person who creates a home wherever you are with him.
And now it is Tuesday morning–with the blink of an eye the days have flown by. Ben has left for work, and I am sitting on our porch watching the sunrise before I go inside and wash the breakfast dishes. The late summer crickets sing even here in the city and across the street a child coughs. The nurse in me pricks up her ears–rather croupy, that cough–and I hope idly that the kid is breathing okay and has a mom who cares wisely for sick children.
I think I shall share the story from our honeymoon that I have been working on. Our honeymoon was beautiful and covered with the enchantment of being together, at last, without goodbyes. But becoming one from two does not happen without a little pain sometimes, and we had our moments as I’m sure we will continue to do… It’s a comfort, though, to look back on our honeymoon and laugh about the ways we differed then, and to realize that we have grown even in a month of marriage, that those same differences have caused joy that far outweighed the pain.
And Then Two Were One
A wife of two days, I found myself following my husband through dense bushes over my head, pell-mell down a mountainside somewhere in Vermont. My sneakers sopped mud, and my eyes searched the ground fearfully where the dim light of a headlamp illuminated my path. A coat too large, the gift of a kind stranger we had met on the top of the mountain, flapped around me.
“Married since Friday and that’s what you do to her?” he had called after Ben as we had struck off back down the trail we had come on.
“I don’t think he understood our situation,” Ben had said to me, matter-of-factly, as we walked away.
Perhaps the kind stranger, the giver of the coat off his back, had not fully comprehended the questions of the odd couple who had wandered into his campsite at dusk, searching for a road. The muddy Appalachian trail we had stumbled on did not seem to be taking us where we wanted to go—back to our car that we had parked somewhere at the bottom of the mountain. The stranger, a seasoned hiker, had eyed up my inappropriate attire–a flowered dress made new for my honeymoon, ankle-length skirt tied in a knot to get it out of the way, the absence of a coat in the chilly mountain air. “If you follow this trail, the closest road is at least 7 miles away,” he told us.
“I’ll guess we’ll have to go back the way we came,” my new husband told him. “We just bushwhacked up the mountainside.”
My heart sank. The undergrowth had been thick, and I had cringed a little with every step on the way up, paranoid of stepping on a snake hiding among the tall moss, fallen logs, and luscious flora. Ben had assured me that this mountain was not snake habitat, but I had heard that line before, and I was beginning to lose my faith in it.
It had been sunset then, though, and we had paused to take in the panorama of mountains and forest below us while the golden light filtered softly through the trees. “Not so bad,” I had said, as we continued trudging up the mountainside. But picking our way back down, in the dead of night, was a completely different concept. Short of sleeping on the mountainside though, which my husband philosophically mentioned as the worst-case scenario, my options were nil.
Ben prayed with our kind friend, we thanked him again for his coat, and I followed Ben into the woods, praying disjointedly. I cringed as I blindly stuck my feet among forest undergrowth. “You are very brave,” Ben encouraged heartily. “You haven’t complained once.”
The next minute I found myself swallowed by baby trees crowding thick around me, over my head. In the dark their limbs and leaves swiped my face, while smaller plants twisted around my ankles. All courage fled, despite Ben’s positive reinforcement. I broke into a whimper. “No, Ben, please can we get out of here? Please?”
There was nowhere to go but through, with Ben staring at his phone screen, watching the map that he had used to track our way in. Once, he dropped it, and we hunted fiercely in the dark until with great relief he announced that he had found it at the edge of the creek and it seemed to be unharmed.
“Can I still be your knight and rescue you, even if I got you into the situation you need rescued from?” Ben asked when we were through the worst of the foliage.
“Sure,” I said, but my voice lacked the decisiveness with which I had said my vows a few days prior.
So Ben regaled me with stories of his other fearsome adventures, times when there actually had been some danger, until we suddenly popped out onto a dirt road. And there, gleaming a little in the dark, was my little Kia Soul. “Oh, we’re back!” I said collapsing onto the side of my car as relief flooded me, leaving me limp.
As we drove back to our little rented cottage in Vermont, I allowed a few exhausted tears of relief to fill my eyes. Ben, who could not see six little tears in the dark, said that if it hadn’t been for me it would not have occurred to him that our three hour adventure had been unpleasant or frightening, and really, we had never been in any real danger at all.
Still on our honeymoon, six days later, I found myself again in the dark forest of night, far from civilization. The animal noises rose from the woods around us and inside our tiny tent, I let out a gasp, “Ben! What was that!?”
My long-suffering husband turned his deep-sleep breathing into a sigh and flipped on his head-lamp, crawling across our air mattress to the door of our tiny one-man tent, unzipping it and peering out. “Probably a mouse,” he said.
“It sounded like a moose!” I clutched the corners of my sleeping bag.
“I wish it were a moose,” Ben said. “Have you been laying awake scared?”
“Sort-of,” I admitted. “It was all good until I woke up having a panic attack because I was in a dark hole and couldn’t get out. The tent doesn’t seem quite as suffocating with the light on though.” I looked up, noting that the top of the tent was quite a bit farther away from my face than the 6 inches I had been imagining.
“I don’t know what to do for you,” Ben’s face was sleepy, eyes drooping, voice slurry. “Couldn’t we just…” his voice trailed off, and he eyed his pillow longingly.
“Lay down and go to sleep?” I suggested.
“I guess.” I sighed. Tenting on a deserted peninsula in the wilds of Maine without cell service was not a sleeping matter.
Ben stretched out again inside his sleeping bag. He reached over and put his arm around me. “Does this help?”
I moved closer to the warm, solid person beside me who was my husband and allowed myself to relax. Purposefully, I pushed thoughts of marauding moose aside and concentrated on the miracle of belonging to a mountain man, fearless and brave. “Yes,” I said, and finally drifted off to sleep.
A few nights after escaping damage by the mice on the deserted peninsula by the 14-mile-long lake, we found ourselves camping out again. Ben had been longing after a certain mountain we had seen in the distance and in a moment of love I had told him that he should definitely take the time to climb it. I did not regret that decision, but because of it, we camped the night before his climb in a mountain wilderness campground, in a small lean-to beside a babbling brook. There was still no cell-service, but there were strangers within shouting distance. This, Ben explained to me, did not increase our safety at all. In fact, it actually decreased it, because bears were much more likely to come to the campground looking for food. Despite such careful explanations, I still stubbornly insisted on feeling safe.
There were no shower houses and no water faucets, but it was with contentment that I set up our air mattress and made our bed inside the little lean-to, while my woodsman built a fire to boil stream water for our ramen. With candlelight playing off the slanty log roof, and my emoji pillow decorating the bed, my heart became a happy camper.
It was not quite glamping, but my husband declared the tiny lean-to our best honeymoon cabin yet. I agreed that despite its lack of modern conveniences, our little campsite suited me well. I was not mourning the cute honeymoon destinations of prior nights as I drifted off to the sound of the creek flowing by our campsite, and angry animals of ill intent, real or imagined, disturbed me not at all.
They say marriage changes you.
Somewhere between living in the wilds like the animals Ben loves and the cute, candle-lit cottages with all the conveniences my feminine soul craves, we compromised that night, and both of us found great contentment there.
It was better than Alison in her safe pink bedroom at home, and better than Ben curled alone in a sleeping bag in the middle of the wild woods. Surely our differences bring joy that far outweighs the pain of trudging down mountainsides in the dark or mistaking mice for marauding moose. We complete each other in unique ways, I began to realize then, and I saw that realization continuing to grow in the misty horizons stretching into the distance of our married life only just begun…