During one of the busiest points of grad school at Yale for Chris, he came home one night to find a hearty, home cooked meal: Chinese take out. We ate at our tiny kitchen table together while he told me about how stressful grad school was, about how he wasn’t sure he could make it through, and about how sometimes he just wanted to give up. I sat with him, listening, holding his hand, and trying to find the right words to help him through, but in the end, it was a fortune cookie that said what I didn’t know yet. Chris opened his cookie to find the words, “You are almost there,” printed in red ink. That night, he took that fortune cookie and put it on our bathroom mirror as a daily reminder to him that he was one day closer to his goal.
When Chris graduated from Yale almost a year later, he took a job in New York and I kept my job in Connecticut and we bought a house halfway in between. It was our first home and we were, as my Grandma says, tickled pink.
It wasn’t too long after that move that I started itching for a baby. And it wasn’t too long after that itch that I became pregnant with Bean Man. I think I have sufficiently proven throughout this blog that I am a terrible pregnant woman. I complain. I moan. I pick fights. I swell. I cry. I complain some more. Often during those long nine months, Chris would point to that fortune, now taped to the bathroom mirror in our new house, and say to me, “You’re almost there, Pookey!” And we would laugh and hug and kiss and think about how close my due date was coming.
Before we knew it, Bean Man was in our lives and we had never been happier. Couldn’t imagine being any happier, really. Everything was wonderful.
Except I started missing my family like crazy. Every minor milestone Bean experienced in his first nine months of life made me wince a bit on the inside because there was no family around to share in that excitement with us. And so, after a few months of talking it over, thinking it through, and turning it over in prayer, we made the decision to move back to Florida to be closer to both mine and Chris’s families. As we packed our house in Connecticut, I cried and Chris quickly wiped a tear from his own eye as he took down his tattered fortune slip from our bathroom mirror and placed it inside his wallet.
“We’re going home,” he said to me. “We’re almost there.”
When we pulled into the tiny rental house that we had rented sight unseen from Connecticut, my heart broke. It was the first time I thought that we had made a huge mistake. I remember as our friends and family helped us unload our moving truck, I ducked behind a small shed in the backyard and cried my eyes out for about two minutes. What had we done? What had we given up? What were we thinking? But, I pulled myself together and reminded myself that this was a six month rental and that, very soon, we would be in a house all our own. When Chris taped that fortune to our bathroom mirror that night, I smiled and felt my spirits lift a bit. This was just a pit stop. We were almost there.
After several months of an unsuccessful job search, I found myself unemployed, uninsured, and, as luck would have it, pregnant again. I thought life couldn’t possibly get any worse. And then that horrid little rental house was broken into and I learned that things can ALWAYS get worse. As we packed up our house the morning after the home invasion, Chris and I picked up pictures out of broken frames thrown around our house, wedding China scattered throughout the dining room, and baby toys covered in the clam chowder the burglars had poured all over everything. We hastily threw everything into moving boxes and hauled all that we owned almost two hours away to my parents house where we would recoup and look for a better place to live. Just as we pulled out of the driveway of that terrible place, Chris stopped the car and ran back inside. He came out carrying his fortune, torn from the third bathroom mirror it had known in three years.
“Things will get better,” Chris told me. “We’re almost there.”
At my parent’s house, all of our things were kept in boxes and stored in the house wherever there was room, which meant every room was full of boxes and things and junk. It was a mess and I felt like we were camping. I was pregnant and nauseous, but we were safe and healthy and Bean didn’t seem to know anything was amiss, and that was what mattered to me. But at night, after we were in bed, Chris and I would lay close to each other and whisper all our worries and all our disappointments into the night until we were too tired to think anymore. And then we would hold hands and drift off to unrestful sleep, where I would dream over and over again that someone had broken into our house and taken my son. The only light during that time for us was that I finally found a job. I became a middle school teacher and with my salary, we were able to move into a beautiful rental home in a better part of town.
As we unpacked our things and pinched ourselves at all the space we now had, Chris once again taped his fortune to the bathroom mirror. This house was wonderful and the answer to so many of our prayers, but it wasn’t home yet. We were certainly closer though.
We were almost there.
In March, Gracie was born and our family was complete. She brought sleepless nights, colic, and so much darn sunshine with her that I couldn’t understand why I wasn’t able to be happy. Why I couldn’t let go of the fear of someone taking my children from me. Why I couldn’t get out of bed in the afternoons. Why I couldn’t do stupid tasks like paying our bills without bursting into tears. Depression was a slow, smooth, all-consuming abductor to me and before I knew what was happening, it tainted everything around me. In those lowest moments, Chris would hold me and whisper into my ear that this was almost over. I was almost done. And if I could just push through for a little bit longer, we would get there. And we would get there together.
Today, as I cleaned out our bathroom in that beautiful rental house, I was just about to turn out the light and leave when something caught my eye. There in the corner of the bathroom mirror was Chris’s fortune.
At different points in our marriage, there has been a variety of places. We’ve graduated from graduate school, bought a home, had a baby, moved back across the country, face unemployment, cleaned up a home invasion, found new career paths, had another baby, moved again, and bought another house. We’ve arrived places only to find that the finish line has been pushed back further and we were once again on journey together.
I guess that’s part of marriage. Part of life, really. Always looking ahead, always planning for the future, always working to get there.
But as we pulled out of the driveway of that beautiful rental home who protected us from any more hardship, giving us time to lick our wounds from the past year and get back on our feet once again, I pulled that fortune out of my wallet where I had placed it for safe keeping. I showed it to Chris and we laughed for a nostalgic moment about all the places and milestones that fortune had wisely foreseen in our lives.
“Well, we made it,” Chris said. “We’re there.”
I squeezed his hand and smiled. Yes, we were.