What's romance? I grew up thinking it was roses, candle-lit dinners, kisses under starry trees, perfume, teddy bears, and heart-shaped boxes of chocolate. It can be these, but I asked Josh to write with me about what romance is for us.
*Romance seems so fleeting, so I have been relieved to find that it lives inside our daily ease with each other: brushing our teeth together, doing chores together, conversations while driving, getting dressed together. It lives in little things Josh does like changing the sheets and making the bed, setting up my "nest" (a specific arrangement of pillows) for the night, or waiting on the porch or in the living with the door open (screen door closed to avoid cat escapes, of course) for me to get home. It's also in his going to fill up my gas tank or getting me yet another water bottle from the fridge.
~Shared anti-social behavior – Becky and I are really friendly, nice people – we really are, we just prefer to avoid being around people when we're not at work. Becky has one friend and I have actively avoided having a friend (with 100% success) since around age 14. We spend our weekends wildly reading, watching movies, napping (my narcolepsy makes that more imperative) or just, you know, kissing and stuff. Note: I think he means one friend I see with any consistency.
*Candles are always romantic to me. They don't have to be long white tapers. We usually buy candles together after much sniffing, and this makes them more special.
*Snow. Simple, silent, and uncontrollable. We shared a kiss while standing in a parking lot in Boone. The world was so quiet. We've also nearly frozen to death on a bus while stuck in an snow storm. We've watched a farm we lived on turn white. We've cuddled on day when, like our students, we had snow days.
~Awe at art – a shared sense of awe is important. For Becky and me, this awe is most obvious in our interest in the arts. While our musical taste may share a small core and then diverge widely, we do take great pleasure in theater, film, and literary art. I can appreciate her spiritual connection to Andrew Lloyd Webber and her love for words. It is not necessary that we share all the same specific interests insofar as art is concerned but it is important that we can understand the feeling of awe that art can engender.
*We met because we had a theater class and a poetry class together. The beginning of our love story was...rocky, to say the least, but we typically just tell people about these classes. How romantic is that for a beginning? Our shared love of writing and reading is quite romantic. I remember Josh reading Yeats to me as I took bubble baths. We've also read quite a bit to each other--sometimes just a poem or quotation and sometimes a whole book. He's read a few old favorite children's books to me, and I've recently been reading books to him and Oliver. We can also respect and understand each other's writing in a way that is difficult for people who don't write. We know how astounding any publication is, we offer a silent spiritual support when one of us says, "I'm writing something," and we treasure each other's writing even though our styles and subjects are very different.
~Tiny compliments – we watched An American Haunting (2005) recently and, though the film itself was godawful abyssmal, there was a point at which Becky said of the actor James D'Arcy, “His sideburns are kinda hot.” Let the reader note that I have consistently had sideburns, ranging from massive mutton-chops to slimmer long burns, since I was 14-years-old – Becky's comment lit me up like a little furry firecracker. True story. Sideburns are awesome.
*I find our shared physical love of books romantic. We both love having books everywhere. We both thrill over antique books. In fact, as adolescents, we both collected antique school books (his collection is much more impressive than mine). Reading together is special, even if we're reading vastly different books (and we do have very different though intersecting tastes). If I don't see him with a book for a while, I'll ask what he's reading. We remind each other of and encourage each other in this activity that is so important to both of us. It's part of our mental and spiritual health, and we share it.
~Dead people creepin' – Becky may have mentioned, or may not have, that I have a bit of a genealogy fixation. Really, it's been a problem since I was ten-years-old but it's only grown worse. Still, I've done a great deal of research on Becky's ancestors – finding out facts about her French heritage, showing her the first picture of her grandfather she'd ever seen, and showing her handwritten certificates regarding her Quebec ancestors in the 18th century. It may not sound horribly romantic but what are we if not the sum total of our ancestors?
*I'd like to have a couple photo shoot in an old or pretty library. We could wear fancy clothes and sit on the floor amid book piles, wear casual clothes and kiss at the computers, deliver monologues to each other, flirt at the circulation desk, spot each other in the romance novels, gaze at each other through gaps in the shelves, walk out together holding hands with book stacks under our opposite arms.... I guess we'd have to get permission for something like that. Maybe we can figure that out for our ten-year anniversary...or even our five-year if I feel sufficiently post partum.
*I never would have thought cooking could be romantic, but it can. I love making weekend morning muffins (at the BLP, they were chocolate-chocolate chip walnut; at the OLC, they're banana chocolate chip walnut). I love cooking while Josh does dishes. I love his cracking eggs for me. I love his flipping a sputtering burger or fish for me. Eating meals together is terribly romantic, and most of the time, I'd rather do so at home.
~Eating – eating is absolutely romantic. Many of our most vivid and happiest memories together involve food. With food of course comes places, events, etc. but the food is always the centerpiece. We remember meals at Cinderella's Castle in Disney World, on our honeymoon in Savannah, eating boiled peanuts as an appetizer in Charleston, Applebee's becoming our “fancy eating” destination while we were destitute undergrads – the list keeps going.
*Our bed and breakfast tradition (I think we can call it that now after three getaways) are relaxing and secluded and have fabulous food built in. They are precious romantic memories, and I look forward to our next.
*I color in his tattoos, write on him, and occasionally draw silly little pictures on letters. I've often put stickers or pasted magazine images, tickets, brochures, or other ephemera into our notebooks. Josh has drawn me a couple of times. When he does, his glances have the most gorgeous expression, one I don't see otherwise. I know he's seeing me in a new way. It's terribly romantic.
*I used to check out books of love letters. Josh and I have five or six composition books of letters to each other--some of them silly and conversational and some of them amorous. Cards are romantic too. I've pasted the backs of envelopes into the notebooks before, creating a pop-up book effect. I have the fairy card Josh gave me on our first Christmas. In May, he bought and brought home a card with two ducks on it. I keep it on my nightstand. It says "With a love like ours...I'd follow you anywhere." He wrote, "Bear, Hi darling of mine. I just wanted you to know how much I adore you. Tomorrow we'll be seeing our child for the first time--our brilliant little wonder. I love you so completely and you transfix me quite. Yours, Joe." How romantic is that? He even quoted my favorite Mr. Rochester line from Jane Eyre.
*One of my friends got freaked out once because I was constantly referring to Joe or Joey. Josh and I have a million nicknames for each other, and many of them have complicated etymologies. Bear and Teeb are parental nicknames for me, and Josh picked those up as well as coming up with many of his own. Our silly names for each other are evidence of our intimacy, and they also make hearing own real names from each other's mouths startling and romantic.
~Naming our son – OK, so, for this activity to make sense it's necessary to have a pregnancy going on and whatnot, so it may be a bit more limited in scope. Still, naming our son was a truly collaborative activity. It helps that we share similar taste in words so we didn't have to wrangle over any major differences. We've both been dedicated to the name Eliot from before conception and, though not named after Oliver Stone, we chose the name Oliver while I was watching The Doors – it just struck us, “Oliver is a perfect name!”
Could we go for chocolate-covered strawberries, sparkling cider in flutes, red satin sheets, and violins? Oh yes, thank you. But we have our little enchantments anyway.