My neighbor invited me over for a glass of wine.
Yes, I have a neighbor. She–M.B.–owns the castle next to ours.
We kicked back in cozy chairs on M.B.’s tree-surrounded front porch, sun filtering through the leaves. There, we discovered we shared common bonds.
She married her high school sweetheart.
I did, too.
Their first home was an apartment in downtown Fairmont.
Ours was as well.
Over the course of their honeymoon years, she worked at a local bank.
So did I.
The longer we talked, the more we laughed. Our experiences were not completely the same, but strangely similar.
Early in her marriage, life took M.B. to sunny, flat Florida. Three months after Gary and I said, “I do,” life took us to sunny, flat Alabama.
Neither couple owned much more than the necessary kitchen supplies and a few items of clothing.
“When we moved to Miami, I balanced the toaster between my feet on the floorboard of the car,” said my friend.
In Alabama, we hosted BYOM (Bring Your Own Meat) cookouts with Gary’s veterinary school classmates. No one was in a position to treat “the rest, but that never kept us from socializing.
Between school years, he worked for a veterinarian and I returned to the bank. Our summer earnings supplemented the one-person wages to come.
Living on a tight budget worked—until our savings disappeared around March or April every year.
That first spring was a crash course on priorities for survival. A cool drink of water and a warm place to sleep were more important than high school class rings. Food on the table and hot showers ranked above a wedding dress I’d never wear again.
We have no regrets.
Not once did we consider our situation dire. Dire is The Glass Castle. If you haven’t seen it at a theatre near you, you should. If you miss the movie, read the book. The book is always better anyway.
One could say Gary and I grew up in Alabama. We missed our families, but having only each other to depend on is the mortar that built a strong foundation for our marriage.
With no one to run home to cry to and zero money to pay for long distance calling, holding grudges would have made for a lonely life.
Yes, I would have been the one to simmer for a day or two or ten.
Gary and I overcame any fear of driving the Atlanta beltway. We—untravelled and untested 20-year-olds—learned how to navigate the ins and outs of five-lane, bumper to bumper traffic.
We—just the two of us—made quick adjustments when living spaces didn’t work out. We figured out how to eat cheap, but healthy. Together, we decided if and when and where to go when tornado warnings threatened.
We solved unexpected issues like locking the keys in our only car (me), making math mistakes that overdrew the checking account (me—again), and countering unexpected homesickness (yes, me).
In retrospect, maybe I’m the only one who needed to grow up, but, thanks to me, Gary came away with a capacity for patience like no other.
If you discount homesickness, I didn’t whine then and I’m not whining now. We had a roof that kept us dry, a car to share, and plenty to eat.
Best of all, we laughed—a lot.
I doubt we knew it then, but each problem was a stepping stone that gave us the confidence to solve the next, sometimes bigger, dilemma.
On a porch in the woods, M.B. and I smiled over stories of two young couples. Maybe you can’t live on love, but you can’t live without it.