Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Flying with your husband 101: The Holiday edition.

The other night Brett and I were sleepily traversing the Pittsburgh airport together, me half leaning on his arm and talking about the possibility of burgers in my near future. As we rounded the corner I lifted a finger towards a statue by the escalators.

"Look!" I cooed dreamily. "A pirate-Thanksgiving-man statue. That's so nice."

Brett stopped walking and looked down at me, eyebrows raised. "Are you asleep?"


"What is a pirate-Thanksgiving statue?" 

"That." I said, pointing again impatiently. "Honestly, Brett. It's nice though, isn't it? Festive."

He looked in the direction of my finger, and turned to me again. We were still not moving.

"You mean..." he started, before abruptly jerking into a fast walk until we were in front of the statue. "This historic mannequin of our first president of the United States?"

"A Thanksgiving pirate, to my recollection, was never  a president, Brett."


"Oh." I returned in a small voice as we boarded the escalator and I sank heavily into him. I looked up at his face furtively before I whispered into his sleeve: "I didn't know George Washington was a Thanksgiving-pirate."

He smacked his palm to his forehead.

The holidays are upon us and with that comes a whole lot of traveling. We had just come back from a weekend in Seattle, and it never fails to amaze me how we are such good traveling partners for people that generally bicker 99% of the day. The morning of our trip Brett cornered me in the bathroom angrily.

"Do you eat soap?" He snapped at me as I staggered out of the shower and rudely pushed past him.

"That tangy-Irish crap we buy? I would never." I retorted angrily.

"I'm just asking because we go through about 2 bars a week, which is insane. And, if we run out? Replace it please? Maybe not leave a sliver in the shower for me to clean my entire body with?!"

"You're impossible. And I'm hungry."

"I made breakfast. It's on the table."

Like a child, I pouted miserably. "I don't want that."

"You. Don't. Know. What. It. Is."

"It's berries and toast." I replied smugly, handing him a bar of soap. His face gave away that it was indeed berries and toast and I smiled triumphantly.

"I'm in the mood for just coffee today."

We're not like that normally. Only the day of traveling. I mean, yes, we bicker constantly, but it is usually not about things like forgoing a made breakfast to be spiteful or insinuating the other eats toiletry products. We bicker about normal things, but we keep up a steady stream of it during our day to day lives. He remarks on my wet towels on the bed. I pick at him over his piles and piles of mail and magazines he leaves throughout the house like he can't find his way back to the bedroom and needs to leave himself clues. He hates that I leave water glasses beside the bed and I hate the fact that he insists to pan fry EVERYTHING WE EAT ALL THE TIME IN OUR SMALL, AIRLESS APARTMENT. But, we always return to love. We always end up laughing at ourselves and airing out the apartment or bringing the water glasses back to the sink in a silent movement of romanticism. We do love each other.

We just...disagree.

All that goes out the window during the morning of a trip, and we're usually pretty cruel up until we board the plane. But then, something majestic takes place. Brett loads my bag into the overhead compartment for me and settles me in to my seat before he takes his. He usually procures a snack for me and I make sure his magazines and books are organized in front of him. If he is particularly stressed, I know just the scotch to order him. And he will massage my hands as we take off, knowing take-off stresses me out, but I would never admit to it.

In the air, we're cordial, social, sweet, and loving. We calmly discuss politics and religion. We share food and drinks and shoulders for sleeping. We discuss dreams and fears. Desires and flaws. Flight attendants always remark on how cute we are and ask how long we've been married.

"Oh, two years." I'll say sweetly, while squeezing his arm. Little do they know 3 hours before I was ready to shove a bar of Irish Spring down his throat.

It reminds me of how we all are with our family during the holidays. When we have to be on our best behavior, we can be. It can almost come naturally with a glass of wine and a People magazine. But, it also reminds me how we can be the worst to the people we love the most. Maybe Brett and I put on a lovely show in the air because we know we're being watched. But, what about those private moments in the bathroom right before where we are cruel? And insensitive? And impatient? I don't want to be that person. I want to be the Melissa in seat 23 C that is kind and thoughtful and giving.

For Thanksgiving this year, I'm going to pretend I'm flying with my husband with an audience of well dressed, perky flight attendants. I'm going to be patient. And loving. And sweet.

And maybe give him a hand massage during dinner when my mom starts telling the story about how I was "PRACTICALLY A STILL-BORN AND OH MY GOD THE SAC SHE CAME IN WAS GREEN."

He deserves it.

Happy Thanksgiving, my friends. May we all travel...lovingly.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Magical Christmas Santa Amish Dragons Sci-fi

"What is that?" Brett asked me, repulsed, when I put his nose into a jar I was holding.

"An AUTHENTIC Amish candle." I whispered reverently, ducking to check the tag glossed on the side. "In the scent of Santa-Winter."

We were in the middle of a small town in Pennsylvania that was having a Christmas celebration. The streets were lined with local Amish people laden down with quilts, jams, candles, and home-made trinkets. I was beside myself with glee, running from stall to stall, and Brett was reluctantly trudging behind me muttering stuff about how "we haven't even had Thanksgiving yet" under his breath. White noise, essentially. I was in a jaunty red coat even though it was 65 degrees. Nat King Cole was blaring from some hidden Amish speakers, and I was buying some Amish candles, damnit. I was in authentic Amish heaven.

"Want an authentic Amish doughnut?" I asked Brett, who shook his head over an Amish woman holding up a Steelers quilt she had undoubtedly stitched by candlelight. "And after we get one we can go say hi to Santa."

"Santa?" He asked, incredulously.

I pointed to the street where Santa and Mrs. Santa were mingling with the crowd, shaking hands and posing for pictures. "Oooh. He's a good one. Real beard! Take my picture?"

"This is ridiculous." Brett said, turning on his heel. "I'll be right back."

I shrugged and continued my shopping, filling my greedy hands with Amish candles and stuffed snowmen. I was trying to decide between a candle labeled "Country Cabin" and another labeled "Cranberry-Apple-Spice-Christmas" when Brett appeared at my elbow.

"They aren't real Amish people." He said flatly, when I turned to offer him a sniff. "You're being swindled. They just dress like that to get people to buy stuff. It's all fake. I just asked them."

You know that expression "my face fell?"

My face literally fell.

It was perkily pinched up in a constant smile only seconds before. My nose was tingling with about 76 different candle concoctions, I was humming under my breath and really excited to 1. Support the Amish community, and 2. Support the North Pole community by spending some time with Santa and the Mrs. later. I understood Brett's desire for true authenticity...and facts...but my face fell. And my heart fell.

And I put the candles and the authentic Amish snowmen back.

Did I really think a bunch of Amish people decided to come hang out on the street and peddle doughnuts and Steeler's quilts out of their kind, God fearing hearts? Not really. Did I notice a few Amish women taking smoke breaks? Yes. But, like a child wants to believe in the magic of Christmas, I wanted to believe too. I wanted to believe in the wholesome magic of the Amish. In the town that was so little we had to cross a covered bridge to get to it. In the doughnuts that were served up soft and warm in wax paper by women with smiling, round faces under their stiff white bonnets.

I wanted to believe in something magical.

On the way home, Brett looked over at me and squeezed my hand as I stared out the window. "How many candles did you buy?" He asked.

"I didn't buy any." I returned flatly. And I saw him bite his lip and stare straight ahead as the fading last rays of sun flickered and danced before the flame gave way to dusk.


Two days later I found myself in a candle aisle at Target. I had a hand basket filled with boring, adult things, but I couldn't ignore the pull of cinnamon and spruce and pumpkin wax wafting over the Home section.

I slowly placed my basket on the floor and lost myself in the colorful jars, before choosing three and walking to the cash register. On my walk there, I passed the book section, and my eye caught the newest installment of a sci-fi series I know Brett loves.

I fingered the cover of the book for awhile. In truth, the series is designed for teen-agers, but the covers are catchy, the writing is swift and smart, and the stories so magical they take my husband away to far-off lands where he never lets himself go. We had walked by this same book in a store a week ago, and he paused before it.

"Get it!" I urged.

He hesitated, and then seemed to find some kind of resolve. "No." He said firmly. "I don't have time. School is crazy right now. There is no time for that kind of frivolity."

"If you don't buy it, I will." I snapped, grabbing the book and placing it next to a mound of make-up.

"Please. Don't." His voice caught and he put the book back slowly. "There isn't time for stuff like that."

It broke my heart, but we walked away. And I remember driving home and looking over at him and hoping he still made time, once and awhile, for the magical things. Because a life so full of rules and regulations is a life sorely imbalanced. 

Needless to say, I bought the book. And after I cleaned up from dinner and walked into our bedroom, I found Brett curled up on the bed, reading it voraciously, his school books abandoned on the floor.

"Good book?" I asked him with a raised eyebrow. And, he put it down and looked at me.

"Some of the Amish people were real Amish people, by the way. I should have told you that."

We looked at each other and smiled.

"Make sure you read at least half that book tonight." I told him.

Make time for the magic, my friends. 

Whatever it may be.