Monday, December 8, 2008

The newspaper I work for published an article in this month's edition that included answers given by little kids to the question, "What does love mean?"

Love is when you go out to eat and give somebody most of your french fries without making them give you any of theirs.
-Chrissy, Age 6

This made me think about something that happened early in my marriage. Dwayne and I laugh about this like it was yesterday.

I always order first. We happened to be at Wendy's this time. I told the lady I wanted a "number 1 with cheese and a diet soda" and then I had the fries and drink up-sized. Then I turned to Dwayne who was listening to what I said, looking up at the menu and waiting to order for himself. I don't remember what sandwich he wanted that day, but he didn't order fries to go with it. I noticed this, but I didn't think anything more about it. I just assumed he didn't want any fries.

I got napkins and straws and was going back to get ketchup, but I saw that Dwayne was already bringing it to the table. He'd gotten three little cups full. Three... and he didn't even order fries... I thought to myself that in the short time we'd known each other, he must have noticed that when I ordered that many fries at dinner, I usually ended up needing just a bit more ketchup to finish them (I usually fill two containers to begin with). I always had to get up before I was done to fill another container. He was heading that off for me. How thoughtful. I think I probably smiled at him adoringly then and he probably smiled back the same.

We must have sat down at our table with the food, probably prayed and then started eating. We were having some conversation. I love talking to him, even still. He took one fry. I noticed this, but was happy to share with him. I know how it can be to sit in front of french fries and not have any. We kept talking. A second later, he took three fries. (I know now that this is how Dwayne often eats fries, three at a time. We'd only just gotten married and we have never been accused of having a long engagement, so I was still learning things about him and he was still learning me.) I was confused about those three fries, but I still didn't say anything. I must have answered his conversation with more of my own. By the time another minute had passed, he must have had another bite or two or three with a few fries each time.

That must have been when I said something. I don't remember what I said, but I think my motive was to clarify what was going on with the fries. But, what I said and what he said next must have been enough to start one of our first big fights.

He proceeded to tell me he had considered getting his own fries when he ordered, but was sure that I would be willing to share because I had ordered so many. I was affronted by this, I am sure. I told him that he was very mistaken, that I'd ordered so many fries because I like fries... a lot.

This argument went on for a while. I don't remember exact words, only impressions. He was trying to reason with me and show me the error of my ways. I think he brought up the trouble mankind has with vices like greediness and gluttony and he probably used the fact that at that point in our young lives, I had most likely asked him if I "looked fat" before we had left home that day or at least, the day before. And, I had probably also mumbled something very recently about not wanting to gain weight. He was just reminding me. Such were my primary concerns back then and he cared about what I cared about. I must have argued back and tried to convinced him of his errors of presumption and rudeness and mentioned how comments like that could ruin marital intimacy, probably through my tears. I am sure anyone sitting near us worried about our future.

We've been married nearly eight years now and it must go without saying that we know each other much better. How does that coveted understanding work out practically? Dwayne would never assume that he could share my fries, no matter how big the order may be. And, I will often ask, when I don't feel like having many fries, whether or not he wants me to order a larger size and share them with him, so we can save a little money. That is usually when our eyes flash with something like a secret understanding and intimacy and joy and we'll both smirk. If Norah is looking at us, she must see this, but has very little idea about what has gone before.

Marriage can be very beautiful, but it always takes effort and grace and usually only benefits from time.

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