I have been thinking of my beloved husband of 40 years today. How Ray does small things that demonstrate his love and affection. For example, in our Airstream, there are two shelves that he quietly decorated. They have a beige toy Volkswagen, a framed postcard of a coastline, a tiny typewriter, a clear box with a photo of various types of dingbats (50s and 60s apartment buildings), a green hand-built vase, a miniature set of tiny drip coffee pots and three tiny Maxwell House coffee cans that sit next to them, a little cactus, a vintage camera with a flash plus another framed vintage postcard of an orange grove.
What you’d have to know is that Ray put these shelves together quite intentionally. The beige VW is an exact replica of my first car; the dingbats are a particular kind of architecture Ray loves; the coastline postcard is of Ensenada, Mexico, where our son-in-law is from and a place we both love; the typewriter represents my writing; the hand-built vase is one I made in a ceramics class Ray, Liz and I attended about five years ago; the miniature coffee pots and cans of coffee represent Ray’s ever-growing love of coffee; the cactus it like the ones we have here in our cactus garden; the flash camera shows Ray’s love for photography and is also like ones we used for the 650 Chili’s restaurants we personally provided decor for from 1982 – 1997; and the vintage postcard reminds the viewer of what an orange grove like ours looked like 40 or 50 years ago. In other words, these two shelves represent large sections of our lives and loves over the past 40 years together. Is that not the sweetness thing ever?
In the early years of our marriage, I shudder to think how many times I missed Ray’s efforts to show his love for me. I had it in my mind that there were very specific “romantic” gestures that were central to how a man should treat a woman and they were based more on the King Arthur tales of knights in shining armor rushing to rescue the damsel in distress. (I hadn’t read Madame Bovary yet, obviously.) The only problem was that I was not a damsel in need of rescuing and Ray was not a knight whose only job was to fight off the nearby dragon. I was a female who wanted a partner rather than a rescuer and he was a male who wanted to spend his life with a capable human being, not someone who required constant help. In other words, we were two flawed human beings who needed to help one another as we faced life’s challenges. Two ordinary people who wanted to share a life together, through thick and thin, and accumulate memories and a few trickets on a shelf to represent them. That’s not to say, there haven’t been moments when we both haven’t needed a bit of rescuing, but we’ve done that for each other rather than it being a one-way street.
I now know those two shelves are so much better than grand gestures that don’t require lots of follow-through. I also know to notice the little things Ray does for me (and others) on a near constant basis. That cup of coffee in bed in the morning, the trip to the car wash since he knows I hate a dirty car, leaving the XM receiver here in Ojai when he heads to LA just so I can listen to Sirius radio in the evenings. Yes, this is what caring looks like.
And those shelves in our Airstream? They make me happy every time I walk past them. I know they were decorated with a bit of humor, thoughtfulness and, yes, pure love. Now that’s my idea of a real knight in shining armor.