The Tale of Two Couples (pt.6, for real)

I was excited to go camping. Despite the fact that four other couples and a few random singles were coming along too, I was looking forward to the romance of snuggling in a tiny tent, sharing a sleeping bag, keeping each other warm on an early spring night.

After hiking in our gear and setting up camp, we all sat around the fire, laughing over hot chocolate and s'mores. There are photos of me from that weekend looking 100 lbs heavier, all lumpy and shivering, wrapped in a blanket and multiple layers of clothing. Not one of these pictures includes my loving boyfriend with his arm around me sharing his body heat. No. I spent that weekend with only betrayal for company.

While I was trusting that a weekend in the woods would spark a dying flame, S made it very clear that a night alone in a tent with me was more embarrassing than romantic. God forbid, anyone would hear us whispering sweet nothings.... no, he wanted us whispering, saying, doing, nothing. As he had been from day one of our relationship, he was reluctant to show any kind of affection towards me in public. I took this rejection as I always had - with hurt resignation. I spent the night curled up around myself.

In the morning, I awoke to find him already gone from our cold nest. I assumed he had gone off to find the outhouse and didn't think too much about it. But as the smell of bacon and eggs filled the air he still hadn't returned. Not wanting to come across as distrustful - he was a grown man, he had every right to go off for a walk - I casually asked if anyone had seen him. No one had. Nor did anyone - including her husband - know where K was.

On the pretense of fetching him for breakfast I wandered towards the water, still clinging to the hope that I would find him alone.

On an rock jutting out over the gently rippling lake, I found them sitting side by side. They did not show surprise to see me pushing through the low hanging branches, in fact, annoyance seems a more appropriate description was what I saw on their faces. And I think it was this that kept my hope alive (idiot, that I was). They did not jump apart, or even have the decency to look embarrassed at their discovery. Their innocence kept me believing. They should have won an Oscar.

They showed me the dragonfly they had been watching uncurl from its former shell to dry its wings in the weak morning sun. As the three of us watched, it suddenly flitted up and out over the water. A bird swooped down and ended its journey before it had even begun. K started to cry.

Later that afternoon we all packed our snacks and headed up the mountain for the waterfall of which we'd heard tell. I wandered leisurely through the woods chatting with a girl friend. As some of the braver (insaner) souls jumped and splashed in the frigid mountain pool, I laughed at their shrieks and nakedness and managed to keep up the conversation. But my mind and eyes were elsewhere.

S had once again disappeared.

As I crossed a small bridge on the way back to camp, I caught sight of something just below. Sitting by the water, their straps crisscrossed together, were two pairs of sandals; Tevas, the stream gently lapping over the toes. One, size 5 was red and in good shape, the other much larger blue pair, were trodden down at the heel with the velcro barely hanging on. S was constantly bending down to re-fasten those flapping straps.

I don't remember much of the trip after this point. I know I stayed because I had no vehicle to leave by. Knowing me and my constant, insistent denial, I probably tried to act like nothing was happening. One thing I do recall, however, was that one couple (at whose wedding I sang and was blantantly snubbed a year later - an actual turn to the wall snub) left the camping trip early with the explanation that they could no longer be witness to the childish antics.

Unbelievably, it took another two months before S and I finally ended the charade.

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The Tale of Two Couples (pt.6)

I'm cheating tonight.

I was going to watch Desperate Housewives - my one TV addiction other than Lost (why do they have to take such insanely long breaks? Is filming in Hawaii that taxing?) - but apparently Justin Timberlake is more important than the Wives tonight (although I do love Annie Lennox). So, I thought I'd write something instead. But I just folded and put away four baskets of laundry (and still have three to go), my back is killing me, and I'm needing to be at one with my duvet for a few hours before the frenzy of Monday morning. So, ball's in YOUR court, my few and far between readers...

What would you like to hear about next?

1. When I heard my father say "shit" - for the first time ever - in reference to the male company I kept?


2. How I spent an entire camping trip looking for my tent mate?

Your call...

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Swimming in Blog Love

I want to thank Green Mountain Country Mama for another blog award. I'm feeling so damn special I can hardly stand myself.
When I was nominated for the "I Love Your Blog" award I promised I would nominate some more blogs as I went along. Well, I still haven't read enough blogs to make an informed decision, so, I have only one for today.
Jessica from The McMahon Family Circus writes of her life as a new mom of two boys. She cracks me up! Her humor in writing is as good as it is in real life. You may take your bow now, Jess (and go grab your award down there).

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Not in Kansas... er, Vermont, Anymore

I just have to say I'm not a huge fan of New Jersey. I'm sure it is a lovely state - in spots; it must be called the Garden State for a reason - but from where I'm sitting, it ain't so grand.

The wind is howling around and right through my 8th floor hotel windows and the gray clouds are making the already gray panorama, well, grayer. All I see from this vantage point is asphalt and concrete; roads, parking lots, and boxes of concrete, with only panels of black windows to break up the concreteness. Cars and trains crawl through this tangled mass of blah and I have to wonder, why would anyone choose to live here?

Last night, after my husband's 11 hour day in a conference and my day of writing (and re-writing and re-re-writing), we took our courage by the hand and ventured out. We knew there was a mall nearby, and after a couple days of over-priced and over-cooked hotel food our budget badly needed a food court. The map indicated we needed to turn left, right, then go straight and the mall would be right there.


Turns out you can't turn left in New Jersey, only right. We could see the mall just over there, but could we get to it? Heaven forbid! That big ol' Neiman and Marcus sign was shining bright - a beacon, a north star - but we two kings were lost in the desert. Round and round we go, no left turn, no left turn, NO LEFT FREAKIN' TURN. Eventually, (we ain't too smart at this point, hunger had taken over our senses) we figured out that we had to turn right to go left. Well, duh! And, of course we're cruising along in the left lane (as any intelligent being who wanted to turn left would be) and the Saturday night traffic, which is heavier than the worst Vermont rush hour, is preventing any intention of moving over in time to exit to the right.

By this point we are so far away from the mall, we give up and turn wherever we could and hope any dining establishment would be appear. As luck would have it, we had discovered another mall, a Macy's and Nordstrom mall. But I am so frustrated and hungry by the time we get out of the car (an hour after left the hotel) that the normal little thrill I get from walking into a busy mall is replaced by fear and "I don't think we're in Kansas anymore"-ness. I didn't think I had become such a small town girl but the ugg-wearing, designer bag toting masses, the pre-Thanksgiving Santa, the knock-you-on-your-ass perfume fumes, and the racket of the food court - oh, the noise! - was too much. I, me, who can't pass a clearance rack to save my life, was inhaling my philly cheese steak and racing for the nearest exit, my very un-designer bag flying behind.

Later as B and I were safely back in our dull hotel room, crying with laughter over an HBO comedian, I thanked my lucky stars that tomorrow we go home. Home, where you give directions according to the nearest barn, where you can turn left wherever you like, and the only concrete is the path leading to your own front door.

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The Tale of Two Couples (pt. 5)

In October, I was one of about a trillion bridesmaids in the wedding of a friend. The reception was held just a mile from my parent's house and there was going to be dancing. B was living at my parent's house and I really liked the idea of dancing with him. I asked the bride if he could come over after the food and cake.

When told who this guy was, another friend's response was, "well, it obviously won't work." I was crushed. Was she right?

B is a great dancer; pulling me close, pushing me away, swinging this way and that. My meter was ticking over into Seriously Turned On.

When the Electric Slide was losing its zap, we decided it was time to leave. However, we weren't ready to call it a night. So, along with another couple, we headed to a bar by the frightful name of Finnius T. Flubberbusters. Although it was almost ten years since graduation, I discovered five or six fellow alumnus hiding in the cracks of this dismal place drinking and playing pool. The surprised looks on their faces told me I was the last person in the world they expected to walk through the door. And I was very ready to walk right back through it. But I had a tall, handsome man by my side, I was still slim (unlike many of my aging classmates), and I was ready to have some good, redneck fun.

Unfortunately, so was another patron of the establishment. A lanky red head, with hair swinging down to her cute little behind, sidled up to B while the four of us were chatting and asked him to dance. He accepted. Twice. While I watched him dance with her just like he had with me at the wedding a little while earlier, a unfamiliar feeling surged through me. The usually passive cat in me pounced and (silently) hissed at Little Miss Red. I dug my claws into "my" man and took him away. My dancing took on a new intensity, trying to tell him through my moves that I was ready to be his.

To this day I don't know if his little excursion with that sexy l'il thang was a strategic move on his part. Whenever I ask him he just grins. Whatever it was, it worked... kind of. It was later that night when I sat on his lap and cried as he told me I would love him. Jealousy had lit one fire but guilt was still burning hard and strong, smothering any other feelings that might be attempting to grow.

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Just Encountered

Allow me to briefly interrupt The Tale (Part 4 is one post down if you missed it) to tell you another love story... of sorts.
This past weekend my husband of seven years (no itch comments, please) and I drove over a mountain to gain a better marriage. We have a good marriage but we had been promised a great one. We had heard of this weekend from two different, very reliable sources. So we signed up, roped the parents into having the kids for two nights, and drove the two hours to Stowe, Vermont for our Marriage Encounter.

We had no idea what to expect other than a long-needed weekend alone together. When we walked in the conference room we were instantly put at ease by three couples who greeted us with warm hands and hot coffee (or tea or cocoa).

I can not begin to tell you every detail of the weekend; it was emotionally intense, jam-packed, and utterly and completely exhausting.
But wonderful.

This is how it worked. We sat in a room with about 20 other couples with a fat notebook in our laps. We listened to one of the trained team couples as they gave a presentation of a Key Concept. They would then tell us their personal experience with that particular concept. There are 12 sections based on these concepts:
  • Communicating Our Feelings
  • Encounter with Self
  • Marriage in Today's World
  • Listening
  • Reaching out to Each Other
  • God's Desire for Marriage
  • Risking Trust in Dialogue
  • Impact of Dialogue in our Daily Lives
  • Marriage as Sacrament
  • Keeping Our Relationship a Priority
  • Sharing the Dream
  • Continuing Our Journey
Over the three days the three couples told us of their love, their struggles, their disappointments, their triumphs, and their joys. We all listened intently to these soul-baring stories with limp, soggy tissues held to our eyes and noses. When we had mopped ourselves up off the floor, we separated - one stayed in the conference room while the other went off to his/her hotel room -to answer the question(s) for that section of the notebook. After 10 minutes we would reunite in the room to dialogue our answers and re-light our candles.... so to speak.

Over the course of the weekend, the couples became physically and emotionally closer. Chairs were pushed together and hands were held tighter as we gained a greater understanding of our spouses.

To offset the many hours and mental energy it took to get through this weekend, we were also fed copious amounts of food and kept highly caffeinated. At each meal we were seated with different couples and the conversations were lively (probably due the coffee and the sugar buzz from the enormous brownies). Most couples were from around Vermont but there was a fair representation of the other New England states also. We all looked forward to future reunions and other "Encountered Events."

If anyone reading this is interested but afraid of that red cross in the logo up top, don't worry. Yes, it is a Christian-based workshop, but it is not in-your-face. I am not religious (as opposed to spiritual) and for the most part I felt extremely comfortable and un-preached-to. So hop on over to the website to get more info: http://www.wwme.org/.

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A Tale of Two Couples (pt. 4)

In 1997 the game began.

I ran into an old college friend (let's call him S) in the toy aisle of Walmart. He was in the toy aisle. That should have been my first clue.

We got together for old time's sake; talked about the musical we were in as freshman and how our lives had transpired over the past seven years. Another friend from college, who coincidentally was in a marshal arts class with S, said we should invite him to a party that was scheduled for that weekend.

So the party came and went, he was the center of attention (I'm not sure why. The Guinness in cool new cans that he brought, maybe?), and we had fun. That was about it. By the time we got invited to another party a couple of weeks later we had begun phoning and flirting at the possibility of liking each other. Once again he was the center of attention, this time due to his sketching ability. The hostess was his main admirer but she was dating someone, and had been for three years. She was therefore harmless.

But I had noticed her attentions and S's response and questioned him. He assured me, although he thought her cute, he liked me, and besides she was taken. By the end of the evening we were kissing goodbye on my front stoop.

So ensued a fun, goofy relationship. He made me laugh until I cried. We went to lots of parties, many more than I had ever been invited to before (remember I was only the friend of a friend). I was acutely aware that my joined-at-the-hipness with S was the cause of my new popularity. But I tried to ignore that fact and have the kind of fun I had missed out on in college due to my shyness and annoying insistence on doing well academically. We went on trips together, he came to my choral concerts, had dinner with my family, and we attended friends' weddings. One wedding was that of our before-mentioned hostess (K) and her beau, B. In fact, yours truly sang at the festive occasion. And the gift and card were given jointly from the now-serious couple J and S.

At some point, S and K, at K's encouragement, began a "project." S was a cartoonist, K was a writer. There was also another cartoonist friend involved (a chaperone?) for a while. After work K and S would meet at the waterfront and make plans for their book, or whatever the hell it was. At this juncture I was more hurt that I was not included in their creative endeavors than by anything else. After all, I was a writer and an artist. I did not doubt S's faithfulness - to all appearances, including mine, we had a healthy relationship.

But then 1999 rolled around.

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Doing my Blog Love Duty

As a nominee for the "I Love Your Blog" award it was asked that I in turn nominate some of my favorite blogs. Seven to be exact. Unfortunately, I don't even read seven blogs. I have visited many, commented on a few, and kept visiting about four. Not because the others weren't good - I just don't have the time. My eyeballs are twitching enough as it is just from writing this blog, reading emails, and paying online bills. I don't even visit the Mothering.com forums like I used to. So I will nominate two blogs today and as I go along I will add some more.

And the winners are:

Mocha Momma: I find her open and honest, funny, and intelligent (and coffee makes me very happy).

GreenMountainCountryMama: Other than the fact that I owe her one as the person who introduced me to this blogging world, she cracks me up (and invites us to pool parties in the summer, so I have to stay on her good side).

Congrats! Go forth and put that graphic over there on your blog and nominate your own seven favorite blogs.

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Returning the Blog Love

I will explain that lover-ly graphic up there ------------------^
and do my reciprocal duty when I haven't got a grant to write.

But for now I want to thank Noble Savage for giving me for such a prestigious nod. Visit her blog... she is a writing mother living in my home country. She has a strong sense of humor and some even stronger opinions (for which I admire her for expressing - I haven't disagreed with her yet!).

Thank you, NS!

Oh, and P.S. The Tale will continue... there is so much more to tell.

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A Tale of Two Couples (pt 3)

But I couldn't stay away. B soon traded his lonely attic retreat and cold feet for toasty toes under my cozy duvet. Yes, it was fast...

... and I couldn't handle the guilt.

Every moment we spent together filled me with doubt and each kiss caused me physical pain. I was betraying a friend... wasn't I? My tears were now a mixture of anger and shame. I couldn't enjoy my new love affair. No walking down the street holding hands or giggly googly-eyes in the back of a restaurant. B told me time and again I shouldn't put so much pressure on myself - if we were falling in love then that's what was meant to happen. On a visit to my parents' house, I nervously told my mother I thought I might, um, possibly have some feelings for B (whom she had met a few times). I felt my load lighten (but not dissipate) when, without hesitation, she said "well, it was inevitable." I felt I had her blessing despite the circumstances.

Sometime in October B moved to my parents' house. They were living temporarily out of town and the arrangement of a house-sitter who did some maintenance for rent was satisfactory for all. Well, almost. B increased his commute by 800% and when his evening shift ended at midnight, the ride home was an hour-and-a-half battle with his eyelids. The time spent in a large, empty house with my fat cat curled on his lap was good for his emotional healing, but not so good for the phone bill. We talked almost every day and weekends were spent together. It didn't take long for weekends to begin on Thursday night, then Wednesday, and pretty soon his commute "home" was cut down to maybe once a week.

One night as I sat on B's lap in the glow of the woodstove, he held my hand over his heart (yes, he was for real) and told me he loved me. I cried. And said nothing. He placed my hand over my heart and told me that he wasn't worried - he knew I would fall in love with him too. I had never felt so scared.

Meanwhile, the other two had given up the game...

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A Tale of Two Couples (pt 2)

The exact details of the next day are confused in my mind. But I do know that much later that morning I found myself hugging B's tearful wife on her front porch as he got in the car to drive away from her for the last time. B, me, and two other friends were going to a Fall Festival. To say I felt conflicted would be an understatement. Here I was consoling someone who was the reason I was no longer dating the man I thought I was going to marry and who had caused a grown man to weep in my lap just a few hours earlier. Not to mention the fact that I had wanted to kiss that very man.

At the festival, while trying to concentrate on apple cider and pumpkin-headed scarecrows, I was distracted by the little flutter inside me each time B and I walked together. We didn't talk, we didn't touch, but I felt - rightly or wrongly - that he was already mine.

But he wasn't. He was a married man. A brand, spanking-newly separated man. I was just the shoulder he had leaned on. I'm guessing that he saw nothing at that festival other than the thoughts crashing through his head.

Later that evening my phone rang. It was B asking if he could stay in my attic; the unheated, dirty, furniture and audio-cassette graveyard. No other friends had any space to spare (did he ask anyone else? I've never questioned that), and so of course, after passing it by my room-mates, I said yes.

In what was most likely a servant's room in the early 1900s, we set up a futon, a flash light, a battery-operated clock radio and some of his prize-possession books. As the late September wind blew in the broken window, B curled up shivering and alone in his new bachelor pad.

Over the next week, after B came downstairs each day to thaw out in a hot shower, he and I would talk and talk. We got angry all over again and more tears were wasted on our former loves. A carry-out sandwich at the kitchen table was our first "date," and when he was working the evening shift he would sometimes meet me at my office to go to lunch. One night he picked me up at my bedroom door for our first formal date and later we said goodnight at the base of the attic stairs. We were trying very hard to be normal when we couldn't be further from it.

We were falling for each other. Whether in different time and situation we would have felt the same we will never know, but here we were sharing a heartache and a bathroom, and the wheel of fate shifted.

At some point I began to visit him in his attic icebox - to say good morning, good night, or just hello. Something drew me up those rickety old stairs, and it wasn't the ambiance. Then one evening it happened. Just once. And I was shaking like it was the first time I had ever been kissed. It was one of those kisses that movies are made about. I turned to liquid.

And then I ran.

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