Quarantine Diary Day 167: Breakfast for Dinner Part V

Like the breakfast in bed our seven year old made us this morning, our marriage was doomed from the start. My church taught me that that we would be “unequally yoked,” righteous and unrighteous, light and dark, because I was Mormon and you were not, and I never could shake the image of you and I, two beasts burdened with a plow we’d never be able to drag. The bishop said he’d marry us in a church but not in the temple. The bishop said he’d marry us for time but not eternity. A church leader’s wife asked, pity shining on the surface of her eyes, “What about your poor kids?” The internet said you’d never convert and we’d end up divorced.

We are so unalike it’s a wonder we ever manage to haul anything in the same direction.

I am a lawyer who’d rather be an artist. You are a stay at home dad who should be an artist but won’t admit it. We both work our asses off for our family but manage to fight about who does more.

Your are non-religious, agnostic, a technical Catholic, less lapsed than never really get started. I’m a former Mormon cultural Christian universalist more spiritual than religious but also still weirdly religious.

You like clean lines and modern, minimal aesthetics. I want to live in an old bookstore with piles of rugs and a cat (you know I don’t like cats, but that’s just the kind of old hole I want to cozy up in, maybe throw in a pot of beans for your mom).

You spend all your internet time in subreddits. I spend all of mine on Instagram.

You are a skeptic, a cynic, and a news junkie. I am a believer, a truster, and a social justice warrior.

You’ve wished COVID on more than one Republican politician but bristle when I talk about the prison industrial complex and these are just two ways our political and moral compasses diverge.

We may not see eye to eye, but we sure as hell have a lot talk about.

On the other hand, there’s also this: during her wedding toast, my sister said she couldn’t think of two people more perfectly suited for each other, and she wasn’t wrong.

When we were getting to know each other over AIM we kept trading answers on those stupid personality quizzes and we both answered trapezoid for our favorite shape, west our favorite direction, and you and I both know these are not meaningless preferences. Trapezoid is a way of being in the world. West is a state of mind.

These days you ride centuries and I run marathons for fun. The shared value is not physical fitness but going as far as we can and leaving it all on the road.

We go all out on every holiday, vacation, special occasion. April Fools’, Festivus, and weddings and birthdays for all of our daughter’s stuffed animals are all cause for celebration. The shared value is not pleasure but family.

When people come to visit you get stressed out cleaning the whole house and I lose my mind planning the perfect itinerary. The shared value is not perfection but hospitality.

We are both voting for a Biden/Harris ticket. The shared value is not Democratic politics but love of country.

You trusted me to raise our daughter in a church you didn’t believe in and I trusted us enough to leave the church of my childhood the moment I realized it would drive a wedge into our family. The shared value is faith in each other.

You’d kill to protect me, our marriage, our daughter. I’d walk through fire to save us all. The shared value is love.

Last year, one of our shared friends claimed he figured it out, the glue that binds us fast, two people who are so remarkably different from each other. “You’re both nerds who think you’re smarter than other people, but it’s okay because you are.” I look around at the comic books and records and Lego bins stacking up against our walls and I think he might not be wrong about the first part, and if we’re not smarter than anyone else at least we have better taste. He also observed, “You live in your own world. It’s hard for anyone else to get in there with you.” That’s true, too.

We’d both do anything to sit down at a diner again, wolf some hash browns, pick at some carrot cake, sip bottomless coffee. Breakfast is not a value but it is a shared language. I’d drive a long way with you to eat a real brunch these days. Bryn Mawr Breakfast Club. Publican. M. Henry. Tweet. It could be any diner, though. I’d risk COVID to eat at one of our places that closed. Duke’s. Melrose. That greasy spoon in Tucson with the pictures of John Wayne on the wall. It doesn’t have to be good. Those meals were never about the food. We just liked each other’s company and the idea of a shared life.

Like the breakfast in bed our seven year old made us this morning, our marriage works because we want it to. It runs on creativity and resourcefulness and a willingness to help each other out. I picked up the croissants at Bennison’s yesterday, and D woke up early to stuff them with melted chocolate, honey, and pepitas. I could have bought croissants with chocolate already inside them, but D insisted on plain so she could doctor them up herself and now she knows how to use the microwave. You ordered the fruit with a grocery delivery last night and D sliced the berries herself this morning and drizzled them with more honey, plus powdered sugar. I’ve never had berries so sweet but now she knows how to use the sifter. We both wondered how she’d manage the big pitcher of sun tea and the heavy tray with everybody’s plates but she delivered a perfect breakfast and a pile of gifts to the foot of our bed at 7:30, which means we got to sleep in, the greatest gift of all.

The miracle isn’t that we found each other. Since the beginning, we were drawn to each other like honey to D’s little hands. The miracle is that ten years ago we decided to make a family and every day since then we’ve made it stick.

Happy Anniversary, Love.

This post is the fifth in a series. See Parts I, II, III, and IV.

Breakfast for Dinner – Part IV

[This post is the fourth in a series. See Parts I, II, and III.]

When you moved to Ann Arbor, I’d already been there for a year, and you were still just my boyfriend. I added up the years when I told people you were coming, in an effort to authenticate our relationship, even though my answer to the next question seemed to push us backward a step. “Three years. No, he’s not moving in with me.” Three years, though. That’s everything when you’re twenty-three. If we’d been together any longer, we’d be something akin to high school sweethearts, and everybody knows there’s something a little funny about high school sweethearts who go on to get married, simultaneously wholesome and tragic with a touch of small-town fundamentalism thrown in, and we I weren’t any of those things, although we knew people who were.

If we spent two years in Tucson trying to work the other person into our lives, we spent two more in Ann Arbor laying the groundwork for a life together. We approached something close to domestic bliss in our two separate studio apartments. After class, I trudged three-quarters of a mile up the hill to yours and sat cross-legged on an inflatable air bed surrounded by a pile of textbooks while you cooked. Red chili, and chicken soup, and baked macaroni and cheese. Comfort foods to put us through six months of winter. There’s no room for kitchen tables in studios, so we hurt our backs hunching over on the wood floor in front of the TV, leaning in close to garlicky omelets and quiches made with fresh vegetables from the Kerrytown farmers’ market, or biscuits and gravy with sausage from the over-expensive European grocer we’d taken to visiting together on Saturday mornings, or red potatoes dyed redder with smoked paprika from the Spice House. I gave up coffee our year apart, so we sipped the hot tea that you smuggled from your job at the cafe instead, at all times of day, and especially with breakfast for dinner. Again, a little warmth to get through six months of winter. And there were other days when you let your little Ford pickup coast the same three-quarters of a mile downhill to my downtown apartment, and we’d eat ramen or pasta because I only owned one pot and didn’t keep food in the fridge, or we’d rotate between the same three cheap restaurants within a block of my apartment: do you want sandwiches, pizza, or Chinese? You always wanted pizza, and I never wanted any of it, because your cooking was better.

Ann Arbor is where we learned how to eat and live well. Of course, it doesn’t feel like living well when you’re in it, in the midst of 4:00 a.m. wakeups, and icy sidewalks, and broken down cars, and crappy restaurant jobs, and 20+ pounds of textbooks strapped to your back, and too-loud neighbors at my place and too-quiet neighbors at yours, and rejection letter after rejection letter after rejection letter, and groceries on credit at the end of every semester, and walking back and forth and back and forth between two separate apartments and why aren’t we married yet?

I’m supposed to write about our fourth diner now. I started writing about our diners two years ago, but I stopped whenever I got to Ann Arbor, because we never really had one there. We never went to Fleetwood together, that greasy spoon in an old Airstream trailer that my law school friends swore smelled like townies and sweat, but you insisted made a decent hash. And you never joined me at Angelo’s, all the way over on North Campus, where professors ordered poached eggs. And we liked Afternoon Delight quite a bit, with its oversized muffins and amusing name, but not enough to wait in line for over 30 minutes on any kind of regular basis, not when we could grab two almond croissants, a coffee, and a boiling hot peach tea for less than ten dollars in less than ten minutes at the pastry shop on the corner of Stadium and State and sit at the only table talking quietly about exactly what kind of diner we’d open on our own someday.