Tuesday, August 17, 2010
The Romantic In Me Gets Carried Away
There are days that I know I need to write something but I just don't know what. Today is one of those days, so I'm forcing myself to sit at the computer and let my creative juices flow. Okay, so I might just get a trickle, but at least we will all be surprised at the end, right?
I never thought I would ever say this, but I have traveled a lot in the last three years. People have asked me how we do it, going back and forth across the ocean and enduring 25 - 30 hours on a plane or in airports. I think I have traveled from Utah to Doha and from Doha to Utah about 13 times (counting each way as two times). Weddings and funerals have increased the number of trips so there are quite a few. It hasn't been easy, for sure. It has even brought me to the edge of insanity at times, being cramped in the tightest spaces (yes, you know who you are British Airways) possible and wondering if I could endure another moment of claustrophobia. Somehow we always seem to reach our destination in one piece though and even have a few stories to tell. You may have heard the saga of my four day trip home to Utah with Abbey in June, so I will spare you that torment.
I have traveled a couple of times by myself, and that is certainly not my favorite way to go, but I do get a lot of nice reading time in and I get to study the entertaining people around me. I have always been a people watcher, so this is nothing new, but traveling has opened up a whole new arena of unique characters to ponder. Sometimes I even get to talk to some of these interesting folks and that gives me extra material from which I can build my perceptions, but I always seem to learn something. This last spring I found myself in a boarding line in the Frankfurt airport bound for the U.S. The name of the travel game is waiting in lines, so I was passing the time watching people. I began noticing the couple directly in front of me when the man came back from buying a sweet roll and offered some to his wife. Now she could have been his girlfriend but after you read about the delicate display that ensued between them, you will probably agree with me that they had been married awhile. Thus began the most unique nonverbal communication I have ever seen between a man and a woman. It became an almost imperceptible choreographed stationary waltz that blew me away.
Without even turning to his wife, the man pushed his sweet roll-filled hand to his left, offering her the sweet roll. I thought she would just grab the whole roll and be done, but no, she carefully took the bag and roll from him and held the bag toward her husband. He reached in and pulled out a chunk of the roll while she still held the bottom of the roll and bag firmly in her hand. I thought for sure that the husband would stuff the yummy German pastry into his mouth, but no. She reached over and grabbed the piece that he had broken off. They both held the chunk between them and pulled it apart. They then ate their pieces simultaneously. Their ritual continued until the roll was completely gone and I watched in amazement at this sacrament between them. No words were spoken. There was no impatience from either of them if one finished chewing before the other finished the bite. I could tell this was not the first time they had savored something together in this way. I then began imagining how they had travelled the German countryside in previous weeks enjoying each mountain peak and sunset, each strudel and sausage, and every magnificent part of their trip together in just this same intimate way. Even though this couple never made eye contact, I imagined my own version of wistful, penetrating gazes that can only be dreamed up and executed on movie screens. Dialogue just isn’t necessary with vampire love, right?
I guess the romantic in me took over and I continued writing this couple's story in my head. They spoke so little that it was difficult to decipher any real facts about them. I could tell they were American by their casual manner of speaking and fashion, but that was about it. They weren't beautifully dressed or ready for a movie scene by any means, but I could see their real charm. Their togetherness was not about eating a roll, nor was it about the fascinating conversation they were having. An uneducated observer might have thought they were bored with each other. I could see that their togetherness was about the experience of sharing something. When I noticed the husband had only one roll in his hand when he got in line, the shrewish, glutton wife in me had thought, oh boy, he's going to get it for not getting one for each of them.
That breaking of bread that I witnessed stayed with me for a long time that day, and I tried to figure out what was so remarkable, so noteworthy about what they had taught me. I'm still not completely sure, but I think part of it has to do with the connections we make with those we love. When Brett and I knelt across the altar on our wedding day, my eyes reached over that altar and begged my soon-to-be husband to return my meaningful gaze. I wanted the fairy tale, the Hollywood dream to come true that would symbolize our eternal love. But his eyes would find mine for only a split second and then be gone. I didn't realize how disappointed that made me until months later. The immature, wounded, temperamental bride I was had a difficult time letting that go, and it took me years to realize that because we had known each other only four months, the bridges of trust and silent security had not had enough time to settle into our relationship even on our wedding day. Now, after almost 28 years of marriage, I can watch a couple in an airport who don't even look at each other and see their strong bond, and there are days when the mundane tasks Brett and I share are transcended by a sacred communication that no one else can interpret, but we still have to keep working at it. I still have to work at not wanting my own sweet roll all to myself and he has to keep working at remembering not to eat all the Kentucky Fried Chicken I picked up for us to share for lunch, but that is a story for another time.