Friday, April 27, 2007

Twentieth Anniversary of a Marriage

My wife and I celebrated our twentieth wedding anniversary a few days ago. We took the day off from work just to spend time together, to reflect. We took a walk along the lake shore, had lunch, talked and remembered.

It was not love at first sight. Early on in medical school, I sat in the back of the class. I was, at the time, the odd man out in class. Most of my classmates knew each other from their undergraduate years at AUB while I had done my undergraduate studies in the States. She always arrived to the first class of the day five to ten minutes late looking harried and sat in the back rows. Typical Beiruti girl, I thought, late because she was still fixing her hair; looking pretty was more important than class. And pretty she was, and always well-dressed. I did not know it at the time, but she was attracted to me, the quiet stranger sitting opposite her in the back of the class. She actively tried to get my attention when we were both involved in rehearsals for the year end class play. I was, as men are wont to be, totally oblivious to her attention. The play would never take place. I still remember the last rehearsal as we huddled around the radio listening to the news of Israel's invasion; it was the summer of 1982. Our class dispersed that fateful summer and we did not reconnect until the fall. It was only then, as we hung out with mutual friends, that I finally noticed her.

There were a number of things about her that attracted me. She had unpretentious good looks but it was more her seductive femininity that first drew me in. To watch her delicate hands gesticulating gracefully in the midst of a lively conversation turned my heart into a puddle of mush. She was also a great cook and I was smitten, with her tarte aux fraises. Yes, I am afraid that the old adage about getting a man through his stomach was true for me. In my defense though, I should say that those tartes were baked with love. But there are many other intangible reasons that two people connect. When you are falling in love, you don't stand back and try to analyze it, you just follow your heart. The reasons become obvious later, sometimes years later.

Beneath her delicate exterior was an independent, strong-willed, and yet vulnerable young woman. She was open minded and sincere to the point of bluntness. She was competitive and pursued what she liked passionately. She hated injustice. I remember one day as we drove in her car turning onto a one way street only to find another car coming at us fast in the wrong direction. The driver of the other car honked and flashed his light as if to say, "get the hell out of my way!". She would have none of it. She pulled her car into the middle of the road, stopped, leaned out of the window and cussed him out -not very feminine, but very effective. Keep in mind that, at the time, such altercations in Lebanon often ended in a blaze of gunfire. Stunned, the other driver pulled to the side and let her pass. I knew then and there that there was something different about her.

On paper, we were too different to have a lasting relationship. I tended to be quiet, reserved, reflective. She was lively, outgoing and told you exactly what's on her mind. I was passionate about history and politics. She hated politics and was passionate about cooking. But as our relationship solidified we became inseparable. Perhaps it was that our personalities were complementary. Our relationship was uncomplicated, organic; we never seemed to tire of each other's company. That is not to say that there was no friction, or doubt, along the way.

When five years later we got married, I didn't have to get down on my knees and ask. We each knew that we could not live without the other. Twenty years later and a continent away, much has changed in our lives and in the world around us. We now have a family with two lovely kids and challenging, difficult, careers. Some things, though, never change. My heart still melts when I see those beautiful hands get animated in a lively discussion. And every morning, she rushes out the door late to work. The reason, as I had guessed from the first day I laid eyes on her, is that her hair had to look perfect.

You can take the girl out of Beirut but you can never take Beirut out of the girl.

(Illustration: Chinese double happiness symbol of love)


Fares said...

My drear friend Abu Kareem, many thanks for sharing your love story with us...I am so glad that you found each other even throughout war. Alf Mabrook for the Anniversary and inshalla el 3emr kulo.

abufares said...

a love story beautifully told.
3a2bal 100 sinet.

Golaniya said...

I like her, say hi to her for me :-)
As for the very last sentence, well, it's the story of us all.
happy anniversary..

Abu Kareem said...

Fares & Abu Fares, thanks for the kind words.

Golaniya, I am not surprised that you like her, she says it like it is just like you do.

Philip I said...

Abu kareem

Happy anniversary. It is like vintage wine!

Someone also said:

"A good marriage is that in which each appoints the other guardian of his solitude."

Wishing you and your family the best in years to come.

The Syrian Brit said...

Abu Karemm,
A delightful post, as ever..
May your life together continue to be an ongoing and everlasting love story..
Sincere wishes..

Yazan said...

a very beautiful story abu kareem,

may ur life together be like that always.

a very happy anniversary...