Stuck in the Middle with You

I find myself in a 2000 square foot box for the last 24 days. With the same person. Oh sure, we can go outside, do different activities apart, try to kill the time. But in the end, I’m stuck in a box with one person. The same person. Every day, every hour, every minute. The same person.

Fortunately, I got stuck with this person 36 years ago, so we have some practice.

Now, there’s some debate about how to describe the dates and times of our relationship. The problem is Easter is a floating holiday, a date set by this arcane rule 1700 years ago:

“The ecclesiastical rules are: Easter falls on the first Sunday following the first ecclesiastical full moon that occurs on or after the day of the vernal equinox; this particular ecclesiastical full moon is the 14th day of a tabular lunation (new moon); and the vernal equinox is fixed as March 21.”

But back to 1984. Easter was April 22nd, because of the moon, you know. And that means that I first laid eyes on Diana on April 15th, the Sunday before Easter, known in those same ecclesiastical circles as Palm Sunday. I have written about this event before, so I won’t bore you with the details. Okay, maybe I will…

I was standing in the downstairs hallway of Braddock Baptist Church, in what was the education, or classroom, level. I was wearing a coat and tie, being a Baptist and all, getting ready to head to my College and Career class. I wasn’t in college, but I did have a job, so I qualified. When suddenly, a glow of light filled the hall and angels were singing an eternal and holy chorus… and there she was. Okay, let’s be reasonable, it may have been the fluorescent lights and the choir practicing upstairs, but still… there she was.

Now this part is not an exaggeration or fanciful literary device, but as my eyes were captured by the green eyes of this lovely woman, my heart skipped a beat. I had not in all my 26 years seen such a compelling beauty, a woman of obvious poise and grace, all I could ever want or expect from the female of the species. And then she opened her voice and, with a faint but lilting and delightful Southern accent she asked, “Do you know where his classroom is?”

His being her little boy that I found out was named Jeremy, a five-year-old handsome lad, well-behaved, too. So, I took her and him to the appropriate classroom. And then, seeing no husband or ring, I took her to mine. I assumed she had been to college or at least had a job.

It wasn’t easy to concentrate on the deep spiritual matters of Sunday School (okay, we were using the quarterly, and if you are Baptist you know what I mean) while sitting next to this rapturous beauty. She seemed so sweet, demur, kind, pleasant, delightful and, did I mention? She was beautiful. But I made it through the hour of class and went with Diana (even her name sang, especially when she said it (Di – ann – uh) to pick up Jeremy and showed them both upstairs to the sanctuary. Of course, being the gentleman that I am, I offered her a place on my traditional pew. Next to me. Whereupon Violet, my friend’s mother, leaned forward and pointed to her ring finger and mouthed, in dramatic pantomime, that “she has no ring.” I may have noticed, Violet. But I restrained myself from high-fiving her. I don’t think that was even a thing in 1984.

So, we lived happily ever after.

Seriously.

Oh, we had our moments, raising 1, 2, 3, and then 4 kids. Moving from state to state. Changing careers, growing up, growing older. Being rich and being poor, having good health and bad, sticking through it all, true to the vows we exchanged not five months after that first meeting. It was a whirlwind life of joy and fun and laughter, and also of grief and pain and challenges. But you can’t have the Ying without the Yang, so it all rolled together in a grand experiment in life for 36  years.

Which brings me back to the box that I find myself stuck in.

When I was five years old, a Kindergarten teacher wrote on my report card that I needed to learn to play with others. She didn’t mean that I was hard to get along with or mean. She meant I was content with myself. I have always been fine being alone. This current situation, of self-quarantining, of obeying the stay-at-home order, of hiding from the virus, has not been all that difficult for me. My K5 teacher’s input notwithstanding, I like me, so I can play alone all day long.  

Diana is fine with herself, too. So, put us both in a box and, after nearly four decades together, it’s been a breeze. We have a routine of breakfast and social media interspersed with separate activities: her, puzzling, binge watching series, puttering in the office, doing laundry, and me, listening to music, puttering around the garage, interacting on social media. We come together for lunch, always, and Happy Hour, always, and dinner, always. And we head our separate ways for the evening before coming back together for reading in bed. Boring? Nope, luxurious and satisfying after all we’ve been through.

I am glad we had that chance meeting 36 years ago (okay, ecclesiastically speaking if not calendrically accurate). Because there is no place I’d rather be than right here, right now, inside this little box. Stuck here with Diana.

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