We had chemistry together.

When someone asks how I met my husband, this is what I say. He grew up just a few blocks away from where I grew up, but we didn't really meet until high school. When we had chemistry together.

I will always remember the first time I noticed Eli and began to take an interest in him. Before, I knew who he was in a vague way, one of those Heicher boys, but I didn't know which was which, who was the older and who the younger. One day in chemistry class we were taking a break from our usual lecture/lab routine to help make the decorations for the Sweetheart Dance. (At least, in my memory it was the Sweetheart Dance, but then, that doesn't seem to line up with the right dates. Oh well, we'll call it the Sweetheart Dance.) Eli was lying sprawled across one of the lab tables, talking to my friend Cecelia. He was twirling a tiny ring around his pinky finger and debating out loud whether to give it back to his current girlfriend and call it quits with her.

He was wearing an old pair of too-big farm overalls, and some band t-shirt underneath. He had long hair, dyed blonde. I remember thinking he seemed so cute, in a cute sort of way. (I was sixteen.) He seemed sort of innocently cheerful, which I thought was strange, given the grungy, vague back of the school bus type of persona that I had always attributed to him.

In any case, I just remember thinking, "Huh. He's cute. Kind of hope he does decide to return the ring..."

I really don't know how long it was after that day that I ended up on a double date with Eli, Cecelia and Ethan. It was pure circumstance. Eli had been trying to get Cecelia to go out with his brother. She finally consented, with the stipulation that it be a double, with Eli and someone else. He agreed to those terms, but argued that she had to find the someone else for him to go with. (All of these terms and negotiations, of course, being ironed out through whispered conversations and scribbled notes passed during chem class. As all important teenaged matters are.) She asked if I wanted to go and I said yes, recalling the vague stirring of interest from weeks before.

And so we went. Dinner and a movie. Fazolis and Twelve Monkeys. It was January 12, 1996, and I hadn't worn a coat. I wore huge baggy pants that drooped low enough on my hips to show off the waistband of my black Calvin Klein underwear, a black top with a blue thrifted Caterpillar workshirt thrown over it. I remember the details because I was trying so hard to come off as unintentionally sexy. God, I was SO sixteen! :)

I was cold in the theater, so Eli gave me his coat to cover up with. It was an old green coat; I can't remember it well enough to describe it, but I remember loving it. Back then, as now, I loved the old, the vintage, the thrift store finds. And he wore a pocket watch. A pocket watch! How cool was this guy? My crush on him was pretty much immediate.

When we came out of the theater into the cold, I handed Eli his coat back, and like a gentleman, he tried to refuse and get me to keep it. I said that, no, it was my problem; I was the one who didn't wear a coat and he shouldn't be the one to suffer for it. And so he took the coat back and wore it himself. I have always been impressed by that for some reason. I guess because he listened to me. I wasn't used to being listened to.

That night will go down in history not only as the night I fell in love with my husband, but also the night that I got grounded for the rest of my life. I'm actually still grounded from that night. Cecelia and I went back to the guys' house and stayed there until 2:00 a.m. playing Jenga. Oops.
When I arrived home in the wee hours of the morning my mom was waiting for me. She was not impressed.

But I was. I was love struck. But I was playing it cool.

The next night Eli called to apologize for getting me in trouble. We talked on the phone for over an hour. He was so interested in me, such an active listener. He seemed to want to know everything at once. Not just my favorite color (green), or my favorite band (Smashing Pumpkins), but more importantly, what was my favorite jelly? (apple) He was off-the-wall, funny, charming, wonderful. He was unlike any 17-yr.-old boy I knew. *sigh*

We went through our ups and downs after that weekend. Immediately there were obstacles. There were silences, arguments, and long soulful talks. But there was also love. Love like I had never known.

I will never forget how thrilling that time was. How I woke up every day in anticipation of seeing him. How he would come home late from his part-time job and throw rocks up at my bedroom window to wake me so that I would come outside and sit on my porchsteps and talk to him. How the electrical sparks would practically fly between us in the dark, wherever our bodies touched. The brush of a hand, the bumping of knees.

That is how we began.

This is not an end.

We will always have chemistry.


And then you were two.

Dear Eliot,

Two years ago today I was just getting to hold you in my arms, finally, after waiting four hours after the c-section to get to see you. Still I never want to let you go.

This morning for breakfast you asked for french fries. And that, sir, is exactly what you got. French fries with ketchup for breakfast, because it is your birthday and I love you.

We watched Thomas the Tank Engine and snuggled on the couch. You helped me with the laundry. Daddy finally got out of bed at 10:00 and we got ready to go to town.

Lunch at What's Cookin' where we had chicken noodles, green beans, mashed potatoes, and wheat rolls. You had fallen asleep in the car on the way into town and continued to sleep on my lap in the restaurant until the food came and I woke you up to eat. You mostly wanted the rolls. Daddy ate first while you sat on my lap and then we traded, and you colored pictures of choo-choo trains with Dad while I ate.

In the parking lot, I backed the car into a concrete slab and that was the beginning of the arguments. Well, not really. Really the beginning was when I tried to get Daddy out of bed repeatedly from about 8:00 to 10:00. And then on the way into town he asked if I was ever going to get my oil changed and I said "SHIT!" He said, "What, is your appointment today?"
"No. Yesterday."
"Are you ever going to pull your head out of your ass?"

And then we ate lunch too slow to suit him, and dawdled. And THEN I backed into the concrete thing and he was not impressed.

Walmart stop. Home. A nap for you while Mom and Dad argued in the kitchen. I baked your birthday cake (Funfetti). I sat in the floor and cried. Mom and Dad both sat in the kitchen floor and cried.

You woke up. Dad went to school. You and I went back into town to the library.

You love the library. You played with the Thomas the Tank Engine train set and the puppets, the blocks and the puzzles. We read a book about trucks.

We went home. I iced the cake and you put the sprinkles on top, giggling. You played Mickey Mouse on the computer while I wrapped your birthday presents.

When Daddy got home from school we lit the candles on your cake. You blew them out and I sang "Happy Birthday." You opened your presents, the whole time expecting them all to be cars because they were wrapped in Disney Cars wrapping paper. None of them were cars. You were angry for a few seconds, but then started to color in your new Handy Manny coloring book.

Dad started to put together your kitchen set, which came in approximately 300 million pieces. You fell asleep during your breathing treatment at 7:45, watching Daddy put together the kitchen set. I put you down in my bed and Daddy and I worked on the kitchen set for the next five years. When we finished you were seven years old and still sleeping on my bed in your overalls and polo shirt. I changed you into your pajamas and put you in your crib. When you wake up it will be to a brand new kitchen set in a clean, organized room.

All of this is to say that it was a good day and a bad day. It was your 2nd birthday. You are an incredibly bright little kid, sensitive, and perceptive. You know that Mommy and Daddy are having a hard time. We cannot hide this from you.

No matter what happens between your Dad and I, I want you to know that you are the light of our lives. We both love you.

You need to know that life is sometimes fraught with difficulty. It is not easy. There may be times when you just want to quit.

But don't. Because sometimes there are colored sprinkles. Sometimes there are french fries for breakfast and falling asleep in the arms of the one who loves you most of all.

It is worth the heartache, Eliot.
It is always worth it.

Happy Birthday.



Adventures in old appliances.

The number for Maytag customer service is 1-800-344-1274. You will need this number if you are home by yourself on a Friday night cleaning your kitchen, and your stove suddenly begins beeping at you for no apparent reason and flashing "F7" in the digital clock display.

At least, that is, you may think you need this number. Actually, the first person you will call will be your mother. Because if something goes wrong, call Mom. Am I right? It doesn't matter if you're a wise old 29; when something goes wrong, you call Mom. And then Mom will make all manner of helpful suggestions including, "Just flip the breaker. That way you don't have to pull the stove out and unplug it."

As the logic of this solution sinks in, you feel stupid for not thinking of it yourself, so you say, "Well, yeah, but I don't want to shut the power off to the fridge too!" [Ha--bet you didn't think of THAT, Mom!]

"No, honey, the fridge is on a different circuit, because your stove is a [insert numbers that don't make any sense to me here] and the fridge will be on a [more numbers]."

And then, because you suspect these are common sense type things that you SHOULD know, you pull the bluff, the one that all academics learn early on, the "I have no idea what you're talking about, but I don't want you to think I'm stupid, so I'll pretend like I do know exactly what you're talking about. In fact, I probably know more about what you're talking about than YOU do." That one.

So you will reply with something like, "Oh yeah, you're right. I hadn't thought about that."

"Or, just look up the number for customer service and call them."

"Rii---gght. Hadn't thought about that either..."

"Wow, I can sure hear it beeping. That's annoying, isn't it?"

"Yep. It's annoying."

So hang up with your mom, because she brought you into this world, but she can't make the incessant, infernal beeping stop.

So then you get to googling, which is what you should have done in the first place. You google "Maytag F7" and get a bunch of techno-babble jargon that doesn't look promising.

Then call Maytag customer service. At the aforementioned number.

And talk to Juan.

Whom you quickly suspect is doing the same exact frantic googling you were doing only moments before.

"Do you have the model and serial number of the appliance?"

"No. It was here when I moved in. I know nothing about it. I didn't buy it."

"Okay, does it have a drawer below the oven?"

"Uh. Yeah."

"Open the drawer and on the right-hand side there should be a sticker with the model and serial number."

[Right. I should have thought of that one, too, huh?]

"Okay...[sound of Juan typing]... looks like that is a model from 1996..."

"Um. Yeah, so?"

"Wow, I can hear that beeping. That's really annoying, huh?"

"Yes. Yes it is."

"Uh...okay...please hold, ma'am, while I find an answer for you."

[No! Please don't leave me alone with the beeping! And God I hate being called ma'am.]

Long minutes later, Juan comes back on the line, still scratching his head, saying, "Hmm...I know there's gotta be an answer here somewhere. It's a Maytag, right?"

"Yeah, Juan. It's a Maytag."

*long pause*

"Well, it looks like you're gonna have to just disconnect the appliance from the power source and call for repair service."

[Gee. Thanks Juan. Thanks a lot. That was helpful.]

"Is there anything else I can help you with this evening?"

[Is there anything else you can help me with? You mean, OTHER THAN GETTING THIS BEEPING TO GO AWAY BEFORE I GO COMPLETELY FUCKING INSANE?]

"No, Juan. That's it. Thank you."

"Okay, thank you for calling Maytag customer service. Have a good Easter weekend, ma'am."

Through gritted teeth, "Thanks. Juan."
*hang up phone*
*call husband*
*repeat conversation with Mom*

And here's the thing: probably going downstairs and flipping the breaker would solve this problem (at least temporarily), but who wants to go down to the basement and flip the breaker? Honestly, the basement is dark and semi-scary, and breakers are even scarier. Electricity. Electrocution. Need I say more?

So finally, a resourceful woman like myself will call her neighbor and beg him to come over and pull the stove out from the wall and unplug it and MAKE THE GODDAMN BEEPING STOP.

Problem solved.
*sigh of relief*

Now you order pizza. In silence.

MMmm. I feel better; don't you?


The contents of my pockets.

Left: 56 cents, my cell phone (with the battery duct taped in because the back fell off and I lost it), my car and house keys, a crumpled ticket stub to The Reader from March 18.

Right: 50 cents, a yellow pacifier, a Hot Wheels car, a Walmart receipt totaling 29.33, a sticky note with a doctor's appointment reminder scribbled on it.

These are the things I carry around with me.