There are two bookcases in our living room. The one on the right is filled with Tom’s books – engineering textbooks, beautiful old editions of assorted handbooks, an enviable second edition of Webster’s dictionary, and a few collectible novels. The one on the left is filled with my books, which I’ve organized in a way that only makes sense to me:
- Top shelf (Everything else)
- Modern classics
- My classics
- Random, but beloved
- Second shelf (Closest to my heart)
- Religious texts
- Religious to me (The Norton Anthology of Poetry and all seven Harry Potter books)
- Lord of the Rings (Although I can’t seem to read it, my Dad loves it and gave me a beautiful paperback that I’ve treasured ever since)
- Third shelf (College remnants)
- Philosophy texts
- History textbooks and additional reading
- English texts
- Bottom shelf (Large books and reference)
- Photo albums and yearbooks
- My English Major Portfolio
- The reading compilation handed out to my the group with whom I traveled to Turkey – and my sketchbook from the trip
- My journals
- Reference books (I’ll never stop feeling nerdy when I think about how excited I was to have the OED on my list of required texts!)
Although we often are told not to read a book by its cover, I think there is merit in ready a person by their bookshelf. With that said, I need to tell you something. There’s one book on my shelf that would tell you more about me than any other.
It’s a ratty journal with my name written in the opening page, along with the year, “2006.” It’s coral and it has a tulip and the words “Beautiful Life” on the cover. It has the remnants of a time I traced the cover illustration with a silver Sharpie. The spine has peeled off and I’ve never taped it. It’s an unassuming little book. It holds the innermost thoughts of a seventeen year old struggling with the knowledge of the certainty of death and the uncertainty of life. I don’t know how many years I wrote in it, but the pages hold phases of my life and reveal secrets, handwriting evolutions, and how some things about me never change. My words and doodles communicate angst I was too shy to voice aloud, crushes that crushed, a quotation that has motivated me in times of loss, countless poems I don’t remember understanding anymore, my five year plan, the road trip I planned to take with a friend, and more. There are ticket stubs, old photos, and a letter from the US Department of the Interior from the time I applied to volunteer in the National Park System, among other things, stuffed into the cover.
It just so happens that I started writing in this journal around the time I met Tom. I don’t know why, but I totally fudged the date in the front of the journal. I distinctly remember having it in my bag in November 2005, when I rode next to him on a long bus drive.
Last week, a friend-of-a-friend I knew in college posted a lovely blog entitled “I Didn’t Marry My Dream Man” and the weirdly defensive voice in my head said, “Well, I did! What’s wrong with that, buster?!”
Then the rational voice took over: “Saying she married ‘the better man’ doesn’t mean that she’s judging you for having miraculously found out that your dream man is your better man, too!” So, Victoria, I’m sorry that I get irrationally defensive (not that you’d ever have known).
Reading her blog, though, I started to think about whether or not Tom really is my dream man. See, I joke with him that he is for many reasons. Besides being wonderful, he is literally the only person I have ever dreamed about in any sort of romantic way. But there are more reasons and I haven’t been able to stop thinking on this topic. Things kept popping up.
- Saturday morning, Tom and I were trying to figure out what to throw together for breakfast at his parents’ home after I’d suggested we go to his favorite diner for breakfast. He said I seemed disappointed when he pursued finding something in the kitchen. I oh-so-subtly denied it.
“I can see it on your face.”
“You don’t know my face!”
“Lady, I’ve known your face for… four years?”
“You’ve known my face for almost ten years!”
After my in-laws arrived home, we were talking and celebrating my father-in-law’s birthday with some cupcakes I’d thrown together Sunday morning. We happened upon the subject of my friend’s family home and my dear mother-in-law remarked on how beautiful the yard is.
“Oh, I was just looking at those pictures from prom. And there you were! And I just thought, ‘I didn’t even know’ – you just never know, do you?”
“I was probably just in the background.”
“No, no. You’re all lined up in the front yard and you’re in the one getting into the limo, too!”
What I failed to tell her is that Tom accidentally slid off the end of his seat with ever press of the brakes and the only thing he could grab to steady himself was my knee and that it didn’t bother me in the slightest.
Over the last four years, I’ve been asked countless times how Tom and I met. I used to explain in full that we knew each other in high school but didn’t start dating until I’d moved to Kentucky for college and he’d earned his college degree. Now I usually just say that we met in high school. It’s easier. I usually only provide more information if someone says aloud, “Oh, high school sweethearts. How nice!” because that’s an out-and-out lie and it bugs me because when I was sixteen and crushing hard on Tom, I had no way of knowing that my unrequited crush was burgeoning love.
So, in an effort to see if Tom was really the dream man I have openly joked with him for being since we started seriously dating four years ago (or if I’m just a nutter who dreamed about a boy and mean “dream man” in it’s most literal sense), I consulted my trusty old journal. I found an abandoned letter to my future spouse. (Ignore my 17-year-old self experimenting with comma misplacement.) I’ve taken the liberty of adding in orange how Tom fulfills these criteria – or in some cases, just how they relate today.
I want you to realize that you’re not Superman (I am guilty of calling him “Superman” when he does something kind, like last night when he walked down to Papa John’s just to buy me Sierra Mist to settle my tummy) and that some games really are just games (I grew up dreading that the man I fell for would be as into sports as the men in my family. Tom hates sports and even thinks my blind devotion to the Cubs is silly – especially since I claim it’s just genetics. He does get pretty into some online games, though…). I want you to know the right time to be macho and know when to stop and be a little vulnerable (This trust has developed over time and means the world to me.). You need to understand that we’re both human and that means that we both make mistakes, and sometimes when things aren’t mistakes, we get hurt. When we hurt each other, because problems are an inevitable part of life, we’ll heal (“It’s okay.” Tom is an incredible apologist and apology receptionist. He hugs.). Hurting is the only way to strengthen sometimes. You should also know that I’m resilient, but it still takes me a long time to get over some stuff.
I hope you understand that there are reasons for everything. God has purposes for all of us. We all have something to give in this cause and effect relationship called earth. I need you to believe that because I do, but sometimes I need it to be reinforced (Concession: “Sometimes shit just happens” is also a valid response. However, this does not interfere with Tom’s deeply-rooted belief that I can do anything.).
I sincerely pray that you can understand all the things I cannot explain (Listen, when an engineer marries and English/history major, you’d best be believin’ there isn’t much academic overlap there. Moreover, when two people have grown up in completely different ways, they bring different pieces of a puzzle to a relationship. Thankfully, our puzzle pieces seem made for each other!), because I’m one of those “things” (Tom has always understood me. Very early in our friendship, I confessed things to him I dared not say to anyone else – doubts, fears, worries, and curiosities of all sorts. I wonder if I was thinking of him when I wrote this.). I make up excuses and joke about myself a lot and I want you to see me for who I really am especially when I forget (if I ever knew to begin with) (“I believe in you. I have faith in you.”).
I understand that it’s hard to understand my family, but I hope you can learn to love them when they embarrass me most. If you ever need a reference, just ask me. I can answer most questions about them. (He asks. He listens. He’s starting to understand. And he backs me when some get out of hand and when some need some serious time with me/us.)
You need to remember that, although I don’t believe redheads are evil (and neither should you) (Let’s start with this: at this time, I’d only heard this in English class while reading Lord of the Flies. It still makes me mad and its pervasiveness in our society is maddening. I miss the days when people just said that my hair was pretty, not that I didn’t have a soul. However Tom teases me, he doesn’t believe gingers are evil!), I am fiery. I have a quick temper and say a lot of things that I think (if I’m thinking) I mean when I say them, but regret as soon as they’re out of my mouth and into the world. I’m sorry in advance (And after each and every time it happens.).
You should know that I’m afraid to substantially feel. When I start to feel something like that, I “run” (I thank heaven I had someone who helped me work through this issue before Tom and I got together. Learning to open my heart and to be vulnerable created a space for pain, yes, but ever-so-much more joy has come from it! I’m also glad to have had a wonderful counselor to discuss my issues with during the first months of our romance.) Hopefully I’ll give you this before that happens (I never gave this to Tom; I confessed my shortcomings and he accepted me.). And maybe, I hope, that it won’t happen with you, because I don’t want to hurt you at all – ever.
So, I got to marry my dream man in every sense. He’s understanding of what he seeks to understand, accepting of my quirks, and loves me through each stumble and every pitfall. I’m so thankful for the man of my dreams!
Also, I’m feeling like gloating because I got my dream man and my hunch that I was correct checked out.
To be fair, Tom’s better than anyone I could have dreamed up, but that could be because I already knew him when I wrote that little letter in March 2006 and I already knew what I wanted. My advice to anyone reading this who is looking for their “dream guy” or just someone is this: know what you want them to be, not how you want them to look or sound or smell or style their hair. Personality, humor, intelligence, and understanding go a lot further in life and love than any of his/her physical attributes do.
Of course, Tom’s also disgustingly good looking, so maybe I’m just full of crap. I guess we’ll never know.
What about you? I suspect that most of us find aspects of our “dream” in the person we love. Would you describe your spouse/partner/best friend/boyfriend/girlfriend/whatever as your “dream?” Do you think such things are possible? I know I didn’t for quite a while… and then this weirdo told me he liked me. The rest is history!