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THE ROMANCE ISSUE

Still Crazy

Love doesn’t die after baby—it evolves

By Kathryn Geurin

Six months after our wedding, we were expecting a baby. Getting this news was a bit like walking into a surprise party in our honor—after the initial shock, we quickly settled into celebration. Except, of course, that our anxieties were slightly weightier than your average adoring-crowd fluster, and the party doesn’t end.

We wanted a family, no doubt about that. But we were planning to plan. To wait until we had a bigger place. More money. More college. More stability, maturity, time. More of all the thousand things that may never come. The things we thought would make us ready.

But now I know that nothing, nothing could have prepared us for that moment. A moment washed in fear and awe and joy and love and the smashing comprehension that everything is changed.

The revelation I was to be a mother made me feel strangely like a child, naďve and unqualified. But my husband gripped my eyes with his, a foggy upturn to his lips, and said, simply, “I’m not scared.”

Those words were a steadying foothold in my roiling dizziness and my mind whorled into focus beside him as we began our ride into parenthood.

After months of morning sickness and “sausage feet,” after the heart-splitting bliss of that first cry, after marathon sleepless nights and spit-up stains, tumbles, bruises, first laughs, first steps, first words, our little family has now blown out one candle.

And yes, everything has changed.

No one hesitates to inform new parents that their love life is headed down the drain. The profound lack of romance in our demographic has long been fodder for stand-up comedy (usually involving jokes at a mate’s expense), movies (usually involving a chaotic passel of tots and a plumbing problem) and Sunday funnies (usually involving laundry and frizzled hair). This collective societal laugh is not entirely unwarranted. Nor, perhaps, is the apparently lucrative “keeping romance alive” self-help book industry.

We were never much the romantic candlelight dinner types, but, yes, an elegant meal and a leisurely glass of wine have become more a pipe dream than a luxury. “Luxury” would be better defined as a day in which all three of us manage to be simultaneously clean.

Yes, when we curl into a cuddle on the couch there is now a bright little body tucked between us. Yes, we stretch to kiss goodnight over her soft sleep. And, yes, too often I catch us moving around each other in our daily business, doing our best to command the chaos with, yes, an armful of laundry and frizzled hair.

But I consider our partnership in this ordinary, extraordinary adventure a genuine success. I may be able to count our recent dates on one hand, but I can count our fights on the other, most of those born of stress or exhaustion. We go about our days, waking, working, eating, exploring, sleeping. Romance has been cast temporarily aside, but love, I suppose, is a kind of energy. And energy, as Einstein’s law declares, is never lost. It only changes form.

Everyone told us that our romance would suffer. That parenting was work.

What no one told us was that, whether by growth or necessity, selfishness would wither to a vestigial wisp, and that love would become the engine that drives our lives and informs our actions. What no one told us is that the work itself is love.

Forget the scattered rose petals, the chocolate-dipped strawberries, the soft-focus, dreamy gestures. After many a long workday, I’ve stumbled over our threshold onto a freshly vaccumed carpet, or into the kitchen to find dishes drying in the drainer and my husband, barely home himself, slicing potatoes with our daughter in his arms.

That’s love.

Warm towels after a shower, a half gallon of ice cream and a jar of fudge, a few minutes of quiet, a shameless living room dance party, a lullaby, a kiss caught over bubbling dishwater or simmering soup, the same story read for the 14th time, a 3 AM diaper change, finger paints on the kitchen floor, imagination, patience, persistance—those everyday acts are our love notes now, and it is the most sincere and beautiful romance I’ve ever known.

We can do better, I’m sure; we’re still learning to balance this precarious tower of needs, wants, responsibilities, freedom and fun. I’m trying to say thank you more. To tell him more often that because of him, my muddling days are lit, again and again, by love and gratidude.

To tell him that more than once I’ve had to catch my breath in the cereal aisle as, a few steps ahead of me, he tickled a delighted peal of laughter into the Cheerios. That I’ve choked back a swell of dizzying wonder, sitting on the edge of the bed where they nap together, snug and rumpled, breathing in quiet unision, her eyes my eyes, her mouth his. And that I may never have loved him more than the day I came home to find them perched at the coffee table, each working on a masterpiece in crayon.

To tell him that love is waxing, not waning. Because, toddling out into the world, itself thrown open anew, is a fresh, exquisite, curious, joy-filled, blossoming life, proving with every step what I believed all along: that together we’ve become something better than our selves.

 

She Said Yes!

For those of you wondering what happened after I popped the question in last week’s Wedding Guide, here’s what transpired

By David King

For a good few hours on the day I would carry out the most romantic action of my 29 years on this planet, I didn’t feel particularly romantic. For a while, as I waited with my mother for the new issue of Metroland—with my proposal to my girlfriend, Jamie, printed inside—to be delivered to Proctors in Schenectady, I felt driven, motivated, like a man on a mission. But as the minutes ticked by and the Metrolands did not arrive, I began to feel helpless—undone by my own convoluted plan.

The florist had been contacted, credit card number given, a price set. The plan was as follows: As soon as I brought them a copy of the Wedding Guide, the florist would deliver the paper and the bouquet to Jamie at her office. But the issue wasn’t arriving. My mother and I scoured Jay Street, but not a Metroland could be found. “She’s got one,” my mom shouted at a woman walking by. The woman was a bit startled. I glanced at the paper in her arm, “It’s last week’s issue, Mom,” I replied.

Back at Proctors, my phone rang. The florist wondered where the issue was. “I will have it soon,” I said. A chai and brownie did nothing to calm my nerves. The phone rang again. It was Jamie’s mother, Theresa, the ultimate planner of parties and surprises and my partner in this whole routine. “Do you have them yet?” she asked. “No. They aren’t here,” I said nervously. Luckily, her friend at the Manhattan Exchange had received a delivery. We waited a few minutes, wondering if a delivery at Proctors was imminent. It wasn’t.

As we dashed to my mother’s truck it hit me how silly it was that I was waiting around for a delivery of Metrolands. Since 2004 I have been surrounded by them, my desk covered in them—but this one meant more than any one ever before.

My mother darted out of the truck and up the stairs of the Manhattan Exchange and emerged with a plastic bag full. We made our way to the florist. Everything was coming together—or so I thought. But when I handed the woman behind the counter the Wedding Guide, she was unsure she could deliver the issue before 3 PM. “Well, then, can I have the flowers?” I asked. The arrangement wasn’t ready. “I will have to make completely different plans,” I said, desperately, “This has to work!” The clerk told me her boss wondered if the business could get a write-up in Metroland. My jaw hit the floor. “No!” I said. “You don’t write for Metroland?” the clerk asked. I was enraged to the point of being numb.

The clerk promised her boss would call me in 45 minutes and let me know if she could make the delivery. I got back into the truck and told my mother what had happened. Then I called Theresa, looking for level-headed advice—my mother, I worried, was just as emotional as I. While I concluded my conversation with Theresa my mother got out of the car and went into the florist. Theresa advised that I cancel the flower delivery, go to Price Chopper, pick out flowers there and deliver them with the proposal to the front desk at Jamie’s workplace. But I had to wait for my mother. She returned, victorious. “ I made it clear to them that this has to happen well before 3 PM,” she said, adding that the girl behind the counter had read the article and been brought to tears.

From there we went to Jamie’s workplace. I waited in the lobby and my mother departed. Sitting in the lobby was a skyscraper-high stack of new Metrolands. Not only did I feel dumb for searching for the things, but now I worried that Jamie could have very well already seen the article. And, if she had, why hadn’t I heard from her? The minutes passed and I didn’t see a delivery person. The phone rang—finally—the florist, announcing that the flowers had indeed been delivered, and with time to spare. “Are you sure?” I asked. They were certain.

It seemed like an eternity. I wanted to go up there myself and check. But I waited. And then the phone rang. I answered without looking at the caller ID. “Hello?” I said meekly. I heard crying on the other end of the phone. “Where are you?” Jamie asked. “I’m in the lobby,” I said sheepishly. “You are? I will be right there.” I packed up my Metrolands and my computer and hurried to the elevator. She walked towards me, her eyes flooding with tears. I dropped to one knee and asked, “Will you marry me?”

“Yes, of course!” she replied, still holding back the tears. I took her hand. “The other hand,” she said. And I took the right one. The ring slid on perfectly. My grandmother’s ring. The ring my grandfather had given to my grandmother decades ago. The grandparents I had written about in my proposal. We hadn’t even had the ring fitted. It was perfect.

But not everything had gone according to plan. I wanted the flowers delivered first, with the proposal, so Jamie would have time to read how much my grandparents meant to me and how important the ring was that I was giving her. But she hadn’t read the story yet. The girls at the desk downstairs had called her down to get the flowers, claiming that a package had arrived that they were too busy to deliver. Jamie thought she was picking up a box of pagers. When she arrived and saw the flowers, she says, she initially thought I was either sending flowers on a whim because I hadn’t seen her in a few days (thanks to the snowstorms that wracked the region), or as a joke, as part of something I had written for the wedding guide. She read the first few sentences and realized it wasn’t a joke. So, as she has done with so many of my articles, she skipped to the end and the tears started.

It wasn’t until hours later, that she wiped the tears from her eyes and read the whole thing. The tears started again, and I wiped them away as she read.

 

What’cha Want?

Valentine’s Day plans, wishes and wants from a handful of Capital Region notables

Us? Well, we’d like a shoebox full of candy hearts that say “Coax Me” and cards from Michael Jordan telling us to “Slam dunk a super day!” Because Valentine’s Day doesn’t quite have the same giddy charm that it did in third grade. (One Metroland editor actually vomitted in anticipation of the elementary school celebration.) It’s our suspicion, though, that this Hallmark holiday can be good fun for adults too, so we asked some of our favorite artists, musicians, radio personalities, venue owners, restaurateurs, charlatans and eccentrics to answer one simple question: What do you want for Valentine’s Day?

Laura Glazer

Host of WEXT’s Hello Pretty City

A magic radio that gets perfect reception.

Chris Wienk

Producer at WEXT

I want a heart shaped box of chocolates. Basically, I’m Forrest Gump.

Dave Michaels

Producer at WEXT

A night out together without the kids in tow.

KT G.

WEXT DJ

Radiohead to announce a 2011 tour (including a somewhat local venue), and also chocolate-covered strawberries and champagne.

Jasen Von Guinness

Albany Dodgeballer

We’re headed to an Albany Irish Rowing Club winter tradition called broomball on Saturday. It’s a great way for the club to catch up over the off season and get some aggression out. We play at a member’s house out in Nassau. From there, we’re headed to a bed and breakfast in North Adams, Mass. Hopefully have a great dinner and just enjoy being away from responsibility for a bit. Sunday is all about MASS MoCA. I’m a big fan and try to get there routinely. My girlfriend, Janie, is from Kansas and has never been, so I’m really looking forward to playing tour guide.

Sarah LaDuke

Producer of WAMC’s The Roundtable

As a perpetual singleton, I don’t really celebrate Valentine’s Day or expect gifts. However, my birthday is two days before Valentine’s Day and for that, passes to the Spectrum make a perfect gift.

Joe Donahue

Host of WAMC’s The Roundtable

My wish for Valentine’s Day is a coupon for a long winter walk with my Valentine (my wife, Kelly.) We can walk through the snow, talk and even bring the dog—so we have even more reasons to smile.

Matt Baumgartner

Owner of Bomber’s Burrito Bar and Wolff’s Biergarten

Well, considering that I am not in relationship at the moment, this Valentine’s Day I am looking forward to some alone time with a high-speed Internet connection, a well-rolled joint and a six-pack of Utica Club.

Ted Etoll

Step Up Presents

I live to eat, so the best Valentine I could get is a great dinner out with my girlfriend.

Harmando

WRPI freeform DJ

I want flowers in gun barrels, seafood lasagna in Alfredo sauce and oil tankers of prune juice to flush out our world leaders.

Matthew Loiacono

Musician

Um . . . for Valentine’s Day I wish for everyone who needs a Valentine to have a Valentine. (Sorry, I kind of hate this “holiday.”)

Matt Ferguson

Beware! The Other Head of Science

Valentine’s Day is a day for couples to set time aside to celebrate all the silly, confusing and wonderful things that they love about one another. For me, that could be anything from going out and having a nice dinner to turning on some strobe lights and having a two-person pajama dance party in the living room. A little laser tag never hurts, either. Even single people can enjoy laser tag on Valentine’s Day.

Kamran Parwana

Beware! The Other Head of Science

Mysterious chocolate deliveries would be lovely. Mysterious because I don’t have to talk to anyone, and chocolate because I get to eat chocolate.

Linda Mussmann

Artist, Co-Director of Time & Space Limited

I would like a revolution for this Valentine’s Day.

Yes, a revolution that includes Emerson, Shakespeare, Melville and Gertrude Stein, Harold Pinter, Bertolt Brecht, Virginia Woolf, Cornel West, Angela Davis, Malcolm X (to name a few) as a source for inspiration and ideas in our schools and our boardrooms.

A revolution that includes women and men as equals.

A revolution that considers the little people first and the big people last.

A revolution that holds nature in awe.

A revolution that moves America away from a warrior nation to a nation that makes change by other means—perhaps change through hearts and minds not pistols and prisons.

A revolution that considers the health and the welfare of our citizens first.

And, yes, equal rights for all and there are no exceptions to this idea.

A revolution that asks citizens to think of a future without wrecking the planet.

And last a revolution in education—it is our children that count most.

Yes, hope for this “new yet unapproachable America.”

The bottom line—more wisdom and less “donuts,” AKA doughnuts.

Philip Morris

CEO, Proctors

A long time ago, my wife and kids and I converted Valentine’s Day from a two-person event to a full-family affair . . . we would eat together, share goofy cards and great hugs, and include any dear friend who might not have plans for the night. From “eros” to “agapé” in the categories of love, the transition still sticks. What do I want? More agapé.


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