|Violets aren't blue, but roses can be red|
Some wives buy anniversary gifts
You get a blog post instead
I found the place to live. Then I found the job. Then I unpacked and set up house and waited. And waited. And waited. My mail was all arriving to the correct address now, but where the heck was my shidduch? The community in Albany quickly became like family to me, adopting me for Shabbos meals, grocery runs, day trips and unsolicited dating advice. Unsolicited dating advice like "Hi, nice to meet you, why are you here? There are no single men here!" and "You're not getting any younger. If you want to have kids, you might want to get on the ball!" and "You should look for a younger man. I married a younger man. Here's a roll of toilet paper, the bathroom is out." By the way, to the kind rebbetzin who shared the latter advice and the roll of toilet paper, I really appreciated that toilet paper. The bathroom was indeed out.
I had dated before the "other" way and was new to the world of Orthodox dating. Some friends of mine set me up on a date with a mutual friend. It was not totally awful in any way. He was a great guy and even spoke fluently in Mandarin, which came in very handy when I got us lost in Chinatown and needed a bathroom. Needless to say, at the end of the evening, we were both awkwardly checking our calendars on our Blackberries for a date on the 13th of Never when we might be able to get together again...and then we both politely agreed that we would probably both busy that day as well. Not to worry, I didn't leave without some more unsolicited dating advice from the guy--he told me to join this website run by shadchanim, that although it was true that Hashem finds us our soulmate, we need to do some of the work to open that door. A rather bold and presumptuous break-up statement, but not the worst I'd ever received (that was a text in college from a guy who quoted a movie title and said in all lowercase letters with no punctuation "im just not that into you").
Some weeks later, I went to a friends' home for Shabbos. The husband, a rabbi, greeted me at the door with a sparkle in his eye saying "I was just singing l'cha dodi and got to the verse, 'bo'i'kallah,' and in you walked! Michali, I check my mailbox every day for a wedding announcement by you!""With all due respect, Rabbi, you might want to reduce that to once a week or maybe even once a month..."
I was not overly eager to follow any unsolicited advice from a failed shidduch but I was very eager to complain about it to my friends. Who all agreed with him. How annoying. So, on January 1st of 2013, I took on a challenge. I was going to prove to them that 800+ couples successfully matched on this website was just a fancy and possibly made up statistic. I was going to give this one month and $9.99 and then I was going to tell them "I told you so." Because that last part is worth more than $9.99; it's priceless. The "suggestions" came trickling in. Not flooding. Trickling. It's not that I thought for a second I was good at picking 'em--if I was, I would not be 28 years old and still single. (Let's all take a moment to remember the guy with an impeccable memory for popular movie titles but poor grammar skills.) The suggestions were...creative, innovative, unique... The 41 year old living with his mother. The religious from birth fellow who wanted to be a pulpit rabbi, seeking a girl from a similar family background (did they even read my profile?). The dude who lives in Russia but speaks some English and was willing to relocate for the right woman. It was almost midway through the month and I was getting more and more excited to shout those gleeful words "I told you so." I was even rehearsing it in the shower, where the acoustics are simply flawless.
And then came another suggestion. It wasn't so out there...he even kind of sounded like a nice guy. He had a similar family background and a uniquely similar hashkafah. He lived in Virginia--a state I can spell but cannot identify on an unlabeled map but he was willing to travel for dates so long as it was no further than Albany, NY. (Albany, NY?! Good thing I didn't move to Buffalo!) So when the message came that he would be contacting me in the next few days, I did what any respectable 28 year old woman would do: I panicked. I hate only one thing more than I hate talking on the phone and that is talking to guys. But on January 16th, I took the plunge, or at least I took the call. I was nervous beyond all belief, but we chatted for a while and he really was a nice guy. He had a kind sounding voice and seemed calm and collected. That weekend he was taking his mother to a kosher food festival. How cute is that? So when he asked me if I'd be interested in meeting him in Brooklyn the following month, I opened my cotton-dry mouth to say no and by mistake "yes" came out.
I quickly called a friend of mine who was serving both as one of my references and as a mentor to me and asked her what I was going to do now? Like could she maybe call this guy back for me and explain to him that I was not actually going to meet him in Brooklyn. "You're going to go to Brooklyn." she said. Crap. I hate when that happens, don't you?
The morning of the pending trip, I woke up from a very deep sleep and heard a strange voice say "you're going to meet your husband today." That was odd since I had a terrible ear ache at the time and couldn't actually hear anything from my right ear. But I am living proof that really weird things can happen in your sleep. So I boarded a bus to Manhattan where I quickly learned that I had been ill advised by my father on how to successfully hail a cab. Forty five minutes later, I was in a cab and headed to Brooklyn with a very angry cab driver who just realized that I was headed to Brooklyn with no return fair. It was soon going to be Shabbos and Tuvia and I were supposed to meet after Shabbos for our first date, but he was excited to meet me and offered to take me out for a drink beforehand. I obliged and we met face to face for the first time. He had the sort of face that seemed oddly familiar, like I had known him my whole life or maybe even longer. We walked around for a bit before walking into a candy store where I got a bottle of water. (A bottle of water?!) I apologized for being completely deaf in one ear. His phone rang and it was his office calling. No, actually, it really was his office calling. There was an emergency at work that he needed to tend to and somehow, he remained calm and present with me and still took care of business all before Shabbos in the span of just 40 minutes.
That Shabbos, as I geared up for our big date, my big ear ache turned into a burst eardrum with a raging infection. I showed up to our date at a fancy kosher steak joint looking like just the type of girl that every man dreams of: one who is wearing a winter hat inside with a steady stream of bloody pus dripping down her neck. I think that second to childbirth, that was the worst pain I have ever felt in my life and that was the best date ever. So great, in fact, that when I returned home with cotton balls in my ear to find that there had been an attempted break-in to my apartment while I was away, I was still smiling. I knew, without a doubt, that I was going to marry Tuvia. He says he knew from the first phone call. Over the next three months, I took three rounds of antibiotics for that raging ear infection, went on two more dates with Tuvia, regained my hearing and got engaged. We were married four months later.
Our wedding was the first Lubavitcher wedding I'd ever attended. And it was perfect. Who am I kidding? It wasn't perfect! Relatives fought.Some even uninvited me from the first of our sheva brachos. My husband's grandmother was on her deathbed. He had been locked out of the house he was staying nearly the entire night beforehand. When we got to our chuppah, he found another chosson and kallah standing underneath it. So I waited in the car with my mother and future mother in law for 45 minutes hearing them discuss the finer points of being divorced. And said Tehillim. And then we got married very quickly because there were still 3 or 4 more couples waiting for the chuppah that day (have I mentioned how much I love Crown Heights?!) and we danced the night away to the melodious tunes of my dear friends singing "I told you so!" Thus began our perfect marriage.
Yes, our marriage is perfect, but to be quite honest, I am imperfect in my marriage. I am human. My husband might be a unicorn but that's a story for another day... We're not supposed to air our dirty laundry, but we have two beautiful sons, ka"h, three and under, and there's a lot of dirty laundry here. Some air might do it good. Our marriage is perfect because I was wrong and that is the best thing that ever happened to someone who loves to be right. I thought a spouse would just show up on my doorstep; I was wrong. I thought that website was a bunch of crock, and I was wrong (at least about Couple #851). I thought I should stay home that weekend in February, and I was wrong. I thought I loved my husband on the day we were married, and I was wrong. I loved the idea of loving him and of starting a life together. I loved myself enough to allow for the opportunity. But after 3 months of dating and 4 months of engagement and only meeting in person 4 times, I barely knew the guy! Love happened after that and it happens again and again and again.
It happened when he finally proposed to me the way I had always envisioned...
Love happened when 3 months into our marriage we got pregnant and I developed horrible insomnia during the first trimester. One night, I lying on the couch all night watching reruns of Cheers on Netflix while Tuvia lay drifting in and out of sleep on the floor. It was my worst night ever. He says it was his best. He was so happy just to spend the time with me even when I was miserable and neither of us were sleeping.
Love happened when at 32 weeks pregnant, our only family car was totaled by a well intended family member with me in it and not only did Tuvia not lose his sh*t (um, I did), he made peace and made sushi and made plans to get our second car.
Love happened when during my very long labor, he unexpectedly became my doula and my doula's doula. He's the best doula I've ever met! I wanted to go home. Or to Busch Gardens. I wanted a cookie. He said "yes," just as soon as I got that baby out, I could have everything I wanted. Little did I know that holding our first son, I truly would have everything I wanted and more!
I still got my cookie and we still got to go to Busch Gardens:
I carry the tunes in the family and I carry the babies through pregnancy and delivery; Tuvia carries everything else. Nobody wins those giant stuffed animals at Busch Gardens. Nobody, except me.
Love happened in sharing the journey of becoming best friends, husband and wife, and then in becoming parents. I worried so much in my first pregnancy [about everything] and what would happen to my relationship with my husband. I even mourned the loss of being "just us," until I saw how much I gained in becoming parents. If I had loved my husband before, I was head over heels with the man who was now "Tatty."
Love happened when Tuvia supported and encouraged my desire to go back to work and then encouraged and supported my desire to stay home. I am full of half-baked and hair-brained ideas and no matter how successful or unsuccessful they are, he looks at me with the same pride and awe my parents used to when I played "twinkle twinkle little star" at a piano recital. He taught me to drive and no matter what (even when I ran a yield on green left turn signal almost crashing the car on the way into the DMV to get my license), he bit his tongue and smiled. He still bites his tongue and smiles when I give ample amounts of unsolicited advice on his driving from the passenger seat.
Love happened when I cried and cried through months of trying to get pregnant again and through laughter over cancelling the fertility consult I'd finally scheduled because I'd just had a positive pregnancy test. Love happened again when I complained bitterly over the next 40 weeks because, "boy, when you knocked me up you really knocked me up!" And he's still the best doula I've ever met. He was there to talk me off the ledge of wanting to go home and there to hold our second son when I was too busy holding the doctor's hand, apologizing in a drug-induced haze for thinking I might have fallen asleep. He was kind enough when I asked him what had happened and why I had been so heavily medicated during the emergency C-section that followed 3 hours of trying to get our son's giant head out the other way just to say "Well, you were in a lot of pain. You were crying and screaming...and sometimes worse.." (What the hell was worse than crying and screaming??) (Thank you for never answering that question.)
And three became four and love happened again. It's one of those one size expands to fit all type things. There's always enough room on his lap and there's more than enough room in his heart.
Our house is not always clean and dinner is not always ready "on time." I forget to call him "Tuvia" and sometimes we are just "Mommy" and "Tatty" all day long. I forgot our anniversary the first year after we were married and went back to work instead. I have a terrible temper and he's seen it. He says he has a terrible temper; I've never seen it. I worry. A lot. He knows me well enough that even if it's 3AM, he says "tell me your worries," because he knows once I say it, it's gone and we can both go back to sleep. I get frustrated and nag over the small stuff; I forget to acknowledge the big stuff. I am a morning person only after I've had a cup of coffee. He always has oatmeal and hot water ready and waiting for me. Even after spending the whole night with our baby and getting up to work 3 hours earlier than I do. He is one of the most hardworking, self-determined and patient people I've ever known. He also usually forgets where we parked the car and admittedly, that used to drive me crazy until a friend advised me to see that aimless parking lot walking as our "date time." I do not say our marriage is perfect because I believe it lacks flaws. I believe it is perfect because two flawed people share and grow in it. Because he can see me, imperfections and all, and still find me as beautiful and charming as he did on that first date. (Come to think of it, that leaky ear infection might have been a good low precedent to set...)
Another friend of mine once told me that you'll know you've met The One when all the shdus it took to find him seems like nothing at all. It took us both a lot of shdus to get to today. I went on 2 first dates over the course of 2 months. He went on 402 first dates over the course of 2 years. I am thankful to Hashem for allowing us to be in the right place at the right time to finally find each other and I'm even thankful for all the unsolicited advice I was given that helped me reach that day, pride, cockiness and all.
To my darling husband, I could have bought you an awesome anniversary gift, but we are in the life stage where we sit on the couch picking out our anniversary gifts on Amazon while watching Netflix. We are taking our kids on our anniversary vacation and I can't think of a more perfect way to spend 3 days together! You sweep the floors and you sweep me off my feet. I will likely one day be able to identify the state of Virginia on an unlabeled map, and by then we'll probably be living somewhere else! I can't promise I'll never mix up the cumin and cinnamon in a breakfast cake again or burn the applesauce and call it "caramelized." I can't promise I won't worry or nag or lose my sh*t. I can promise I'll always keep trying just as hard as you do and as hard as our sons do because that is who we are. You always manage to get us out of a pickle even though you hate pickles (and that's ok, you have redeeming qualities--not everyone can have impeccable taste). You even know how to tell great stories about a fictional pickle named Sowie. And how to find a stuffed version of this fictional character as a present for me just because. I often see mountains and you remind me that they are only molehills. Either way, I am honored, privileged and so very happy to share this great ascent with you. May we keep on climbing for many many many years to come!