Tag Archives: marriage

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.

135journals: My husband’s first day as a free man

30 Jun
My dear husband will be wearing these glasses every day until forever. Promise!

My dear husband will be wearing these glasses every day until forever. Promise!

Yesterday was the first day of the rest of  Brian’s life. That is to say, it was the first Monday of his life as a member of the retired. What will he do with this endless expanse of possibility? Right now, his intention is to keep it open. He hasn’t spent the last whatever years of his life teaching Asian literature for nothing. The beautiful spareness of Chinese poetry pulls at his heart. So does the Japanese concept of Ma, or negative space. Although, in the Japanese thought Ma has a much more dynamic and interactive meaning than not being. It is part of the fabric of the whole, a part of the dance of possibilities. Oh dear, I am getting very abstract here. What I mean is, my husband is bravely trying to let himself be open and to find out what calls to him. And I am very interested to see what this human being to whom I’ve been married for the past 30 years is going to discover.

His first no-longer-employed Monday was not entirely filled with Ma. I had an appointment with a famousy-famous hip surgeon to see if I needed hip surgery at the famousy-famous Hospital for Special Surgery in Manhattan. I didn’t think I needed hip surgery, but another one of my doctors thought, well, maybe, I don’t know, just check it out, so grumblingly, I did. I reorganized my gigantic binder of tests and visits and brought it in. And this time, I brought Mr. HH with me. Despite my relative certainty that I wouldn’t need surgery (maybe some kind of injection though because of osteoarthritis?) I did feel afraid. I’ve gone to many scary doctor appointments by myself, and most of the time I’ve managed okay, but sometimes I come out of them with this jumble of notes that don’t make any sense because I’ve felt a rushing of panic clogging my ears when the doctor was giving me information. So the dear husband and I agreed that he would come to scary appointment and be a second set of ears for me. Anyway, I had some X-rays, talked to perfectly nice doctor, don’t need surgery, then husband and I had a pleasant walk around the Upper East Side.

“Look at that building,” Brian said, pointing to an old brick building. “A Czech gymnasium. I see a lot of Czech names around here” (near 70th and York).

“I think  a lot of Czechs and Germans settled this neighborhood,” I said. “Every part of Manhattan is so different.”

“It’s so different when you walk it,” he said.

“I know what we should do!” I said. “We should get a big map of Manhattan and get a yellow marker and color in every street we walk after your retirement. And we should walk every street in Manhattan!”

“Where does anybody even get a map nowadays?” he said. “Everybody has GPS.”

“Huh.” I was stumped, too. Maybe off the internet? Barnes and Noble? I don’t know.

He looks at his phone. “There’s a gourmet shop ten blocks away. We can get cheese.” Cheese is part of his holy trinity of consumables, along with coffee and bread. So we wandered uptown past more stores. We people watched. I saw lots of people walking dogs. I saw a woman carrying a dog. I saw lots of doggy day care businesses. There is no shortage of dogs in New York. And I almost never, ever see dog poop. So, good work, New Yorkers. The Upper East Side is full of uniformed private school kids who burst out into the streets at 3:30 or so, along with moms and dads and nannies with strollers. I see a schlumpy looking guy in a Gilligan hat and pink socks lumping across the street. People wearing neon-bright sneakers–that’s a thing now, I guess. Lots of women with pretty legs and short skirts and little sandals. Workers with hard hats ignoring interested onlookers. Street sellers hawking fruit, scarves, books, watches.

At the gourmet shop we buy two small pieces of ridiculously expensive cheese and linger over other delicious but outlandishly expensive items–gluten free lemon bars, figs, bright red $5.99 a pound tomatoes. As we leave we see the pasta hanging on the line. They had gluten free ravioli for $12.99 a pound. We passed. We’ve made homemade pasta before, but it is a pain. Still, I liked watching it hanging there.

We two flaneurs amble back to our car, driving home through rush hour,  but the traffic still isn’t TOO bad. We listen to a podcast. “The drive was only one This American Life long,” Brian says. He makes chicken and salad and pasta for dinner and I fold clothes. I run off to my book group and when I get home, he is sitting on the back deck in the semi-darkness,  looking at the trees and the sky above.  His hands are folded behind his head. He smiles at me, and in that smile I see a happiness formed of the possibility of a joyful anything to come.

Writing prompt: What possibilities do you see?

Good morning, sunshine

27 Mar
The accursed sun. By Bonatti, back in the days of yore. Public domain, via Wikimedia.

The accursed sun. By Bonatti, back in the days of yore. Public domain, via Wikimedia.

The cell phone rings. Only one bastard in the world would make me search through the hellhole that is my pocketbook before at least two large cups of tea kick in. It’s the same bastard who stupidly put the frying pan away in the frying pan drawer so I couldn’t find it, because it’s too early to see anything that’s not already on the counter. I probe through the flotsam and jetsam, crumbs and USOs (unidentified sharp objects) until I pry the iphone out of the purse.

In my dragonbreath voice.”I KNOOWWWWWWWWW.”

“You know what, Sweetheart?” asks the tender male voice.

“I know you’re going to nag me about that THING.”

“What thing.”

“That INSURANCE thing. About that lady hitting the car door.”

“No I wasn’t,” he says, “But I’m so proud of my darling girl for thinking of it. That’s very responsible.”

Where. Is. My. Tea. “Then WHAT?”

“They’re having a lecture tonight at the Met. It’s about . . . I thought you’d want to go.”

GO? To New York City? TODAY? I can’t even imagine finishing breakfast right now. The answer is a thousand times NO. I pour hot water in the cup, watch brown curls rise from the teabag into the water. I stir it, take a sip. Oh god I love tea.

“What’s the lecture about?”


“It’s called ‘Power and Propaganda in art in the ancient Middle East.”

I slam my hand on the table. “DAMN IT, I’m interested in that.”

“Well, it’s up to you, Princess. Whatever you want.”

Deep breath. “I know I’m crabby in the morning. I’m sorry I’m such a B. It’s not you–”

knock over jar of colored pencils.

“DAMN IT!” I yell to the kitchen.

“Talk to you later, angel,” he says. “The bell just rang. Love you!”

It’s morning in America.

Writing Prompt: On which side of the bed did you wake up this a.m.?


:”You know what, Sweetheart?”

Everything I learned today I learned From the September 2012 Ladies Home Journal

29 Sep

DToday I had a two-and-a-half hour, completely pointless wait for an MRI. [They neglected to tell me when I told the genius receptionist I was checking in for my 1:00 appt. that it was actually at 3:00—ooooh, I was STEAMING..).Combined with two hours of Divorce Court being played at top volume, my powers of concentration were low, low, low. I was totally distracted by whether or not 42 year old Curtis should get a divorce because he wanted to be a stripper. “Who’s going to want to see that big old belly of yours?” scoffed his wife. But let me tell you, Curtis was quite the charmer, and the wife wasn’t giving him, um, how do I say this delicately, “any.” And Curtis was plainly not the ascetic type. So by the end of the episode I was pretty much a Curtis woman. I was pretty damn sure I’d have a few bucks for Curtis’s golden Mankini so he could live out his dream, big old belly or not.. . .

Although I didn’t quite have it in me to do anything constructive, I did manage to make a thorough study of the Ladies Home Journal, September 2012, and so I bring its wisdom to you, just in case you don’t have to spend all of eternity at the mercy of MRI establishment receptionists:

  1. 1.    You don’t have to put a tip in the tip jar at Dunkin Donuts.
  2. 2.    “Life is precious and you shouldn’t waste a minute of it with someone who isn’t reliable,” says Julianna Margulies, who plainly spent plenty of minutes with men who weren’t reliable.
  3. 3.    You’ll feel better if you dress up with some nice heels than if you wear your old sweatpants from college. (did they get my mother to write this?)
  4. 4.    Yes, you CAN get the new rotating, color-changing Airwick candle in “Fresh Snows and Sleighbells” scent—but only at Target.
  5. 5.    Breast cancer sucks.
  6. 6.    Foods that are good for your gut: appples, pears and berries, quinoa, nuts, psillium, water. (How is “psyllium” a food. Or water, for that matter)
  7. 7.    “”Taking probiotics may not urt you but there’s n guarantee they make you any healthier,” says Dr. Something Lee. (Really? Damn, says the woman whose diet consists of 75 percent Greek Yogurt)
  8. 8.    76 percent of American women have used their cell phones in the bathroom. Eeewwww.
  9. 9.    Delicious recipe idea: cake truffle rats. Also, eyeball cake.

10. 11. Fear of new foods is called food neophobia , or “Avoidant/Restrictive Food Intake Disorder.” (Hold the snake etouffe)

11. Burgundy is the hot color for fall. (Crap, I thought it was oxblood—are all my accessories going to clash?)

12. Yes, that marriage COULD be saved.

13. 85 percent of people think a healthy smile can enhance connections we make. The other 15 percent never leave their darkened computer dens.

14. It’s good to embarrasss your kids. (Evidence? None. The author just liked describing how she embarrassed her kid.)

15. Pumpkins, shmumkins. Avoid the mess and bother by decorating “Funkins.”

16. If you want to know how quickly your system works, eat a piece of corn and look for how quickly the kernels “exit.”


Prompt: What would you name the article in which #16 appears? And, who’s right: Curtis or Mrs. Curtis? Also, what kind of really mean letter should I write to the MRI place? Or was glowering sufficient?