Today is my parents’ anniversary. They’ve been married for 52 years, and they still really enjoy each other’s company. This is a video that I meant to share on my blog shortly after they celebrated their 50th anniversary. Unfortunately, I never had a chance to make it live. Better late than never, right? Please join me today in wishing my parents continued joy, love and acceptance. Whatever they’re doing, it’s working.
The woman behind the counter looked at the diamond studded watch that squashed her wrist, making it look like a fat sausage. She drummed her fat fingers against the counter top. She was in a hurry, and I was holding her up.
Though my fiancé and I had been engaged for eighteen months and I had more than ample time to think about it, talk about it, and make that decision, it wasn’t until we actually went to get our marriage license twenty-four hours before the wedding that I realized I could no longer defer reality. I had to make a choice.
I was torn.
Part of me wanted to keep my last name.
“Schuls” is the Americanized version of my grandfather’s Polish name. But it is hard to pronounce and no one ever spells it correctly on a first try. Still, it is my family name, linking me to my parents and my brother.
Anxiety prickled as I thought about my nickname?
It would be strange not to be RAS anymore.
I briefly entertained the idea that a new convention should be created where the man and the woman take a new name, perhaps join their names, and blend them in the name of holy matrimony. I proposed “SHAKE-OB-SON” and “JEWELS” to my fiancé, telling him we could go down into history like Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Henry Stanton who forever changed the institution of marriage by omitting the word ‘obey’ from their marital vows.
“We can be innovators, too!” I told him, grabbing his arm.
My fiancé laughed and called the idea ridiculous.
I pouted and wondered why I had to give up my identity.
Why I was the one who had to sacrifice, hassle with changing social security forms, medical records, credit cards, magazine subscriptions and insurance forms.
But the other part of me.
The other part of me liked the idea of being lost in love.
After all, I loved the guy.
I bit my lip and considered; it would be easier to spell.
The woman’s click-clacking fingers tapped faster, faster. A line had formed behind us.
I stared at her watch and felt time move too fast and too slow all at once.
Two other couples waited patiently to fill out their forms: other women had decided these things already.
“I’d like to hyphenate,” I declared.
And taking a breath, I said aloud it for the first time: “Renée Ann Schuls-Jacobson.”
Then I signed the papers, knowing that no one would ever say that whole mouthful.
It was official.
It doesn’t fit on a my driver’s license.
Or any of my credit cards.
And my students call me Mrs. Jacobson.
But, like I said, I loved the guy.
Happy anniversary, Hubby.
Would you encourage your daughter to keep her own name or take the name of her spouse? If you had to do it again, would you do something different with the names thing? Or just make fun of our picture. Whatever floats your boat.
In the middle of December, I pilfered some of my son’s leftover Halloween candy; I had been craving sweets, and his box of purple NERDS looked strangely enticing. I dumped the entire box in my mouth and proceeded to chomp down on the little pellets, which turned out to be grape-flavored rocks in disguise.
Seriously, those things were friggin’ ridiculous.
I had hoped for sweetness – and initially, they were sweet — but I was utterly unprepared for the unyielding, rock-hardness of those tiny artificially flavored stones.
I felt my teeth crunch against something unnaturally hard, but my sweet tooth was unrelenting.
At some point, it occurred to me that my particular pack of NERDS had come from somebody’s leftover Halloween candy from one maybe two years ago, and I just so happened to be the unlucky recipient of that box.
Nevertheless, I kept chewing until every last bit of tart purple goodness had been devoured.
Later, my husband came home after an unseasonably warm day. The world was clearly confused. There was no snow. The sky was blue and tiny flowers were trying to bloom in my garden.
My husband asked me if I had heard that The Pretty People had separated.
I hadn’t heard.
I opened my mouth but there were no words.
“What’s wrong with your teeth?” he asked.
I stood in front of the mirror and stared at my teeth, or rather, the now missing parts: the pieces that had been there but that had disappeared at some point along the way without my even noticing it.
I started to weep.
Partly for my broken teeth, but mostly because of The Pretty People.
Early the next day, I made an appointment. I couldn’t wait to see my dentist so he could get his gloved hands all up in there and make things right again; it didn’t seem like it would be too hard.
But it was.
My appointment lasted over an hour during which time I lay back in the chair and listened to the dental assistant go on about another employee whose dog had recently run away, how devastated she was to have had him unexpectedly wander out of her life.
When the dentist finished shaping and bonding, I had two new teeth: nearly as good as the originals – but not exactly the same. I kept looking at them.
“Will they last forever?” I asked my dentist when he finished.
“They’ll be good for a while,” he said, “but once something has broken… well, all fixes are temporary.”
I thought of The Pretty People.
I’ve always assumed every marriage has cracks and weak spots, but that these minor imperfections are things we can excuse in our spouses. Short of infidelity or abuse, I’ve believed most grievances are petty things that we can forgive in each other because we all possess our own heinous fault lines.
I mean, on any given Thursday I want to strangle my husband after I have punched him in the throat and given him a Super-Atomic wedgie.
But Lord knows, my husband is a patient man.
It is January now, and I can’t stop thinking about the impermanence of things.
I can’t stop thinking of friends who are wrestling with health related issues; another friend whose son had to be airlifted from Bolivia to Miami to receive treatment for something doctors have not yet diagnosed. I am thinking about the dental office worker whose puppy ran away. And I am thinking about the Pretty People – their children, their home, their lives.
An eternal optimist, I’m hoping the best for all of them. I’m praying that a Divine Spirit will cure my friend’s tumors, that my friend’s son will miraculously turn around so that his father can stop worrying about diarrhea and measuring urine output. I’m hoping that The Pretty People will rediscover what they once saw in each other after a little time away from their daily routine. I’m hoping that dental assistant’s puppy will find his way home.
Also, I’m hoping that my new teeth will hold.
I know nothing is solid, but I suppose in matters of the heart I prefer the illusion to reality.
Up until that December day, my biggest worry had been getting my sugar fix.
Who knew I had it so sweet?
What has rocked your world lately?
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