40 years and counting

The lines of love are curious.

There is an unseen yet sought-after threshold…a point where the smoky haze of confusion and doubt opens into a verdant and beautiful place, where there is a constancy and a connection of respect.  There is comfort and peace, and a deep agreement about matters that matter, and a playfulness and sillyness about those that simply don’t.

Beyond this line, however, there is still terrain to negotiate and character to build.  It is a garden of potential, one that is secure with ample nourishment from love and common goals, but in which the bounty, array and health of the blooms depends upon further labor.  We drape the vines so that they receive the most sunlight and nourishment, but must tend them so that unruly blossoms do not choke further maturity and growth.  It is a tricky business, carving delicate paths to enhance two lives which are reaching towards one another, careful to maintain the integrity of both but also cultivate togetherness and harmony.

My parents began their own journey through written words, sent between two continents, thoughts and dreams and understanding tumbling between and flowing through the curved script.  They had met at an inopportune time, in a hot Indian city, breathing in the same red dust and omnipresent incense, unaware of each other’s existence until nudged into view by their discerning parents.   A city where time is measured by the appearance of colored laundry on the lines and the milkman’s bellow outside the door, the bright green vegetables hawked on the streets below the apartment complex by the brassy-voiced vegetable-wala.  My mother, famously, was wearing an old sari, her anxiety and dread for the next day’s medical school exam results rippling through her her face.  My father chuckled sheepishly under the weight of his now infamous quip…handing her a red fruit: “An apple a day keeps the doctor away!”

Then the letters, the lengthy phrases, the craft of my father’s penmanship, the unmistakable illegibility of a future doctor etched into my mother’s.  I still wonder if he could read her words, or if somehow the meaning was transmitted despite them.

Then the move to America, the requisite walk-up apartment in Queens, the stories of  “Famous Pizza” with extra chilis on top, a yearning for the spicy food of home, but quickly finding success with work and communities to settle into.

I stood in front of my parents a few weeks ago, raising a glass of champagne for their 40th anniversary, watching them sitting together in the middle of the beige loveseat in the house that has now been home for 30 years.  My father’s green eyes joyously surveyed the crowd of family before them, my mom smiling as she rearranged her scarf and made sure that my father did not knock over her champagne as he sat down.  My father, as he is apt, pulled a thrice-folded piece of paper from his pocket, and recited some “rules for a happy marriage” to the crowd.  As he read them out in his best professorial voice: the virtues of marrying early, doing away with a family-filled wedding and eloping, etc….I realized quickly that they had abided by none of these written “rules,”  yet, their marriage is one of stability, growth, career independence yet personal partnership.

My father will always be the one to don his cap and shoes, get in the car first and buy the garden flowers, but it is my mother who will insist on staying there long enough to choose a variety of colors and fragrances.  Then they will come home, have a cup of tea and take the time to plant them together.

They have drawn their own lines of love.  I hope I can do the same.

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