Earlier this year I wrote this essay for Redbook…My husband and I celebrated our 15th anniversary this week, which got me thinking about the spirit of serendipity and risk-taking that got it all started.
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THE SUMMER I TURNED 30 I took a gamble on a road trip, picking up and moving to a new city with I guy I barely knew in a car I could barely drive. This was more than a little out of character for me. I don’t make aggressive investments. I don’t even wear two patterns at a time, or buy a novel unless it’s been recommended by someone I trust.
It started with a blind date orchestrated by mutual friends. I was a magazine editor living in New York; he was a Bostonian working at the State House. He drove down one Friday night to take me to dinner
and one long-distance date led to another, until after three months of high phone bills and even higher mileage, we agreed someone needed to move. I flipped a coin — mostly for the humor value of saying we had, because we both knew who was packing up and who wasn’t. My career as a writer — magazines were everywhere, contributors were everywhere — was far more portable than his 10 years in Boston politics.
On moving day he drove to Manhattan in his brand-spanking-new soft top Jeep Sahara, to caravan with me in the U-Haul we had crammed full with all my earthly possessions. The better driver by half (I hadn’t even owned a car in years), he took the wheel of the truck, and I followed in the Jeep.
The four-hour drive north was like one of those montage scenes in a romantic comedy: dramatic passages over bridges with the windows down, googly eyes in the rear view mirror, stopping to gas up our vehicles in tandem. When I rolled through the tolls, the guy in the booth would say, “The guy in the truck up there just paid for yours.” Then, at the final toll, there was a line. Idling behind him, fiddling with who knows what, I got careless with the brake pedal. I rolled his shiny ten-day old Jeep into the back of the U-Haul he was driving with my stuff, smashing up its grill.
No more googly eyes in the rear view mirror. He didn’t yell, but since we hadn’t had a big first fight yet, I couldn’t tell what, exactly, was behind his restrained anger. Fury? Regret? For the rest of the day we moved around one another carefully, and I tried not to wonder what I’d just done. I’d given up my writing job, my rent-controlled apartment, and my city to be with someone who was essentially an outline to me, a story that had not yet been fleshed out. He was likely thinking the same sort of things. We walked on eggshells around one another all afternoon. Curbside at the end of the day, he surveyed the damage to the Jeep one more time. “Things are just things. People are people.”
His restraint that day contained all the things I couldn’t yet know about him, but it also marked the moment I knew that no matter what we’d given up, there was more to be had together. Fifteen years later, things are still just things compared to the people we love — including the five small ones that now fill our minivan.