When I was a kid, my family lived out in the Western New York country — miles from city life, and at least 1,000 feet from the nearest neighbor. Our tiny ranch house was boxed in by fields — of corn, of weeds, of wheat and of grapes.
Each week, we’d go into the city for church, then to my grandparents’ house nearby. They had a big in-ground pool with chaise lounges, beach towels, a radio and lots of beach balls. Some Sundays, we weren’t allowed to swim — either we forgot our swimsuits or we weren’t staying long — and I was swamped with this feeling that I can’t describe.
I just remember being there, cinched up in my Sunday best, saddle shoes, white tights and 80’s boy-cut-hair, deeply saddened about the matter.
The feeling wasn’t so much about the swimming as it was about not being able to be like my cousins, aunts and uncles — diving into the cool water, playing beach volleyball and tanning on the side of the pool. They were having fun, and my sister and I were stuck inside, able only to watch longingly from the sidelines.
Have you ever gone to bed as a kid before the sun went down? Especially on those long summer days, bedtime would come around before sunset, and it grieved me. I’d lay in bed feeling outstandingly alone, discouraged, rejected, regretful and desperate all at the same time. I would learn in later years that I was feeling the first throes of the depression that would own me as I aged.
More Lovely Days
There were times when I was also very buoyant, confident and empowered. As a youngster, those times involved containers of salsa, nacho cheese and a bag full of tortilla chips while my sister, dad and I watched a double-header on the VCR at his house. We’d heap scoops of ice cream into bowls, drowning it in chocolate syrup and settling in for our second movie of the night. And we would go to bed full of life.
Sometimes, our dad would make microwave popcorn — Act II, or some variety — and we’d substitute that for the chips and dip. It was always so salty and buttery — and I thoroughly enjoyed each crunchy bite. It’s funny, because now I catch myself buying the plain popcorn, wiping off excess butter on a napkin or tossing it out if it’s too loaded. “There’s too much butter on this popcorn,” I said to a colleague recently.
Why can’t I just enjoy the popcorn for what it’s supposed to be — that sloppy, buttery, unhealthy food that requires napkins only to smear the butter around your fingers instead of actually cleaning them?
Must I always see each day as a catalog of events to be parlayed into something greater? Can’t a day spent dressed in my Sunday clothes just be one spent sitting in the cool air chatting with my grandmother?
My wedding day was perfect because it was — not because of who showed up or how the church was decorated. It wasn’t special because it was a rite of passage, or a statement of my independence from my family of origin. The nuptials didn’t transform me into a superstar or automatically garner accolade as though I had finally arrived.
The depression that choked the first week of my marriage was borne out of my attempts to make my commitment to Brent more about me than about him. I married him to give myself away and spend the rest of my days caring about this wonderful man. God knows we’re worth it.