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135Journals Blog: Love, the First 39 Years

10 Jul
Graffiti: I was born to love you

I saw this when I was taking a walk in the woods. Guess I’m not the only one who feels this way. (photo by Alexandra Hanson-Harding)

We are in Starbucks, near Lincoln Center, on Monday, killing time before a movie (a Korean film called The President’s Last Bang, about the assassination of former President Park in 1980, FYI—darkly entertaining). My husband, Brian, walks toward me, carrying two cups and a bag of treats. I watch his face, full of serious concentration as he sets the cups down and takes the lid off my steaming tea. He looks at the color appraisingly, pulls out the teabags, and places them in the lid, stirs in one and a half sugars, takes the lid and empty sugar packets and tosses the teabags and packets away. He comes back, puts the lid back on tightly, checks it with an earnest frown, feels the cardboard sleeve to see that it is tight, puts the napkin precisely at my left, pulls out a gluten-free Rice Krispie treat in the center, and right in front of me and places the cup of hot tea at my right. All of this time, his face is pure business, as if he is doing the most important job in the world. It is something he has done a million times before. He always makes sure that my tea is just perfect.  But the pleasure of watching him without him even knowing I am watching him, catching this quiet kindness, gives my heart a fresh jolt of love.

Today is the 39th anniversary of the greatest mystery of my life. On July 9, 1976, when I was 18, I met a boy named Brian Harding. I was at a summer program at Syracuse University between my junior and senior years of high school. He was visiting his friend Jon Liffgens for the weekend. I was, as Brian remembers, lying on the floor of the elevator reading the dictionary. Jon, who was my friend, too, had already told Brian that I was somewhat eccentric. And when we met, at least, as I recall it now, it seems that something electric passed between us. And so, after he left Syracuse that weekend, we started writing letters. Hundreds, maybe thousands, of pages of long, passionate letters.

It wasn’t an easy relationship. We fell in love too young. We came from two different religions—he is Jewish and I am Protestant. And his parents disapproved mightily. Our relationship was long distance for the first five years. Some of those years we lived three thousand miles apart. One year, we were six thousand miles apart. We broke up at one point because we couldn’t reconcile our religious differences. We both knew we had to grow up and have other relationships and try to forget each other, but we couldn’t. There was something I felt with Brian Harding that I never felt with any other of the lovely young men who cared for me. It was a feeling of rightness, inevitability, trust, togetherness, peace. Between us, there was something gentle, quiet, true. It took eight years before we were married, but marriage, and raising children, and facing life together, has only added to the depth of the bond we felt so quickly toward each other. Although I have spent almost 70 percent of my life loving him, a lifetime seems too short to get to know Mr. Brian Hanson-Harding and all his very quirky ways.

Yup, that's us (couldn't find a picture with tea in it, sadly).

Yup, that’s us (couldn’t find a picture with tea in it, sadly).

I remember one time when I was angling for compliments from my handsome young Brian and he said, staunchly, “I don’t love you because you’re more beautiful or more smart or more anything than everybody in the world,” he said. “I love you because you’re YOU.” I still think about what a smart thing that was to say. Because I think that is a very fair thing to say about love. First of all, it it means that good people who are rejected in love are NOT rejected because they are “lesser” than anyone else, it is just a matter of how they fit with another person. And second, it means that each soul is not about percentages of qualities, but is unique in him or herself.

Anyway. There is a lot to say about someone you’ve loved for 39 years. And I can’t say it in a day. But what I can say is that just as in a vicious circle, small acts can drive cruelty ever downward, in a virtuous circle, the tiniest kind acts can bring small shocks of joy that make life better and richer all the time. To see Brian bring me tea with such kindness on this day reminds me of a million other times he has brought me tea. It reminds me that he is the kind of man who brings his wife tea with love and seriousness. And that I am that wife. And that I know what a good man he is. And that he knows that I see that. And that if I have my tea, I will have the strength to let the world know that the world is full of mysteries, and of those mysteries, the greatest is love.

Happy 39th anniversary, Brian Hanson-Harding. May the honeymoon never end.

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Jacob is just trying to enjoy the rain.

16 Jun
Jacob in the rain. Photo by famous Mamarazzi photographer Alexandra Hanson-Harding

Jacob in the rain. Photo by famous Mamarazzi photographer Alexandra Hanson-Harding

I get home from the little round of errands–the drugstore, the craft store (my friend Shelley and I are going to have a kick butt adventure tonight people: we are going to learn to Cro-SHAY. Oh yeah. We are craft mad women who are going to take over the world one crochet stitch at a time

) to buy a size H HOOK and this and that, and what do I see in the back 40? Why it is the shirtless Jacob, standing nonchalantly in the pouring rain.

“Oh! Oh!” I say, in the manner I have been saying such things ever since he’s been doing one kind of odd or naughty thing since forever (and since he is very gifted in quirkiness, this is quite often), “Let me get the camera!”

“MOMMMMM,” he says sternly. “Can’t a guy enjoy the rain without putting up with the MAMMARAZZI?”

The only answer was “Click.”

Writing Prompt: And what would you photographtoday?

I Love New Jersey: Cold State, Warm Hearts, Part 2

18 Feb
Orlando and Joe, my heroes, putting gas in my car on a freezing cold day.

Orlando and Joe, my heroes, putting gas in my car on a freezing cold day.

Having a Prius is a blessing and a curse. On the one hand, it gets amazing mileage—45 miles a gallon or so. So you don’t have to think about filling up the gas tank all the time. On the other hand, a person CAN forget to put gas in the car at all. I mean, last time I looked at the gas gauge, the tank full. Now, mysteriously, a week or two later, I realized that the “empty” light was flashing. This is while I was driving on the Garden State Parkway. I wasn’t too alarmed at first, but then I realized that when I pushed down the gas pedal, the response was getting weaker and weaker. Fortunately, my exit was coming up. And when I got onto Route 3, I was able to coast down a long hill, which recharges the battery a little bit. I kept my foot off the gas pedal as I got off at the first exit, rolled along very slowly, turned right to the plaza that contains my health club and tried to turn right into the parking lot, where at least I could dig out my cell phone from somewhere and call Triple A. But just as I started turning right, while my car was at an angle, it stopped dead. It was DONE. A couple of people waited and fumed behind me, even though I put my emergency blinkers on me. Then they slowly made their way around me, giving me nasty “What’s your problem” looks. But the third car stopped and a young man and woman jumped out. “I’m sorry! I’m out of gas!” I said, for the third time.

“We know,” the young man said. “We’re going to help you.” The young woman—Jaclyn—started directing traffic, and the young man, Joe, started pushing me back—I was so rattled that Joe was actually steering the wheel WHILE pushing. And then, a security truck came up. Two nice-looking men jumped out. They helped direct the flow of traffic and push the car, too, into an empty spot in the other direction. I was looking for my damned cell phone to find Triple A’s number when Joe and Jaclyn said “We’re going to go get her some gas.” –there was a gas station almost but not quite within my ability to get there. The young couple didn’t ask me for cash (I only had credit cards anyway, but they didn’t even ASK!). Anyway, the two security guards said, “We’ll take her in the truck.” At this point, Jaclyn and Joe shook my hands while I thanked them from the bottom of my heart. Honestly, they were amazing. I wish I could do something more for them. But they wouldn’t even tell me their last names!

Orlando, the security officer, and his colleague, also named Joe, were just as nice. They took me to the gas station, helped me buy a gas can and get a few gallons of gas. They came back and put it into the car for me. Which is super nice, because a. it was freezing, and b. I wouldn’t know how to do it anyway. Then they followed me to another, better gas station where I filled my hungry Prius to the brim. Only when my tank was full did they drive off with a friendly wave. I don’t know how to express my appreciation except to say loudly right here and now to Orlando and Joe’s bosses at the Promenade Shops mall in Clifton, New Jersey, “Hey, bosses! You have some very decent guys working for you! Give Orlando and Joe a big raise!”

Writing Prompt: Did a stranger ever go out of his or her way for you?

I heard it on NPR. Kind of.

23 Jan
USA! USA! World War II poster of Americans anxiously huddling around a radio shows why we rock. (courtesy of Wikimedia commons).

USA! USA! World War II poster of Americans anxiously huddling around a radio shows why we rock. (courtesy of Wikimedia commons).

Lately I’ve been engaged in a tragically fruitless project of decluttering my insane art room. This has given me the opportunity to listen to National Public Radio All. Day. Long. Listening to NPR is like listening to one’s friends, including the part where they repeat themselves, which, let’s face it, everyone does. Including the part where they repeat themselves, which, let’s face it, everyone does. Oh wait, what did I just do?

I am happy to say that it has increased my knowledge of public events very quickly. In fact, I feel quite brilliant.  And just in case you haven’t had the opportunity of being similarly enriched, I will give you today’s news report as well as I remember it. Ready?

  1. Yemen’s government quit and has now been taken over by thousands or maybe tens of thousands of (Hrathis? Hathis?) who invaded the capital, Sanaa. The (Hrathis? Hathis?) hate America, but they either are part of al Qaeda or they hate al Qaeda, and they hate America, which is why we are pretty sure that we should make them allies. Now the U.S. embassy is working with a skeleton staff, so don’t you worry that nobody is going to answer the phone. We just don’t know if anybody is going to be able to man the drones. The (Hrathis?) are Zaidis? and are either Shias or Shiites, unlike the Iranians who are not Arabs but Persians and are mostly Shiite. Did I clear that up for you?
  1. Saudi Arabia’s king what’s-his-name, the one who once tenderly held George Bush’s hand as they celebrated their bromance in some flowery park, is dead, and his place has been taken by his spring chicken 79-year-old heir Prince Something-or-other. This is going to slow things down because this prince is in bad health—not AS bad as the former king, who had a “typically modest” Muslim funeral today (plaintive cry of “Allu Akbar” in background). New king promises to keep policies of old king, who was known as a reformer, a veryyyyy slowwww reformer. Saudi Arabia will not have a problem with this change because it’s got tons of cash in the bank. However, it may have a problem because now all these Saudis went to college and there aren’t enough good jobs for them. Unrest alert!
  1. Producer or director of some vampire play says that play is based on mythic themes like bullying. He says they only use blood three times in play because with blood, “Less is more. “ Play was first shown in Dundee. People who lived outside Dundee paid for poor people in Dundee to go to play. Rich people got stubs, poor people got experience of lifetime watching Vampire /mythical bully themed play. Also, it’s tragic that some people grow old and others (such as vampires) don’t.

4. Brain scientists dished about two brain study initiatives, one in U.S., one in Europe. The one in U.S. is stupid, the one in Europe is even more stupid. Not enough consultation with psychologists. Better to study mouse brains. FMRI machines are gimmicky, ineffective. “It’s like a magnifying glass when you need a microscope.”

5. After NY state politician Sheldon Silver is arrested for corruption charges, some guy asks about the “Three Men in a Room” system for negotiating. “Why three men? Why not a woman? What size of room is it anyway, that only fits three men?” 135journals editorial: Sheldon Silver is SO guilty.

6. Blah blah New England Patriots dumpty dum underinflated football doodly doo I have no idea why I should care about this.

Okay, considered yourselves schooled.

Writing prompt: What did you learn from the news today?

135journals Art Corner: Journal Sketch of woman on Iphone at Apple Store

20 Jan
Woman talking on Iphone at Apple Store, now in the journal of Alexandra Hanson-Harding

Woman talking on Iphone at Apple Store, now in the journal of Alexandra Hanson-Harding

What in the world could possibly be better than spying on people who are doing whatever it is they do in public? A lot of what they do, fortunately, is talk on their phones. Unfortunately, 99 out of conversations on cell phones are tedious, and I should know, because I eavesdrop all. the. time. Luckily, they are also very distracted by their conversations, and I can capture their looks while ignoring the tediousity (word TM by me) of their one-sided chitchat. I liked the looks of this young lady. She was so pretty. Drawing her kept me content while I waited for a Genius to visit me (Oh how often I wait for genius to visit me.) I was so glad I had my journal to keep me company, since my computer wasn’t doing me any good at that moment.

Writing Prompt: Next time you hear a cell phone conversation in public, try writing it down. Then tell me if I’m right about how b-o-r-i-n-g people are on their cells.