A year into our marriage, Jamie and I clearly had very different expectations. Things weren’t going well. At a very naïve and relatively sheltered twenty-three, I expected a 1950’s “Leave it to Beaver” episode. I’ve never asked Jamie what, if anything, he expected. In retrospect, it had to be something like “Porky’s” but with a wife. We were growing up, and even in the best of circumstances growing up is hard.
So, when Jamie was offered a job in Lorton, VA, he accepted it immediately. In fact, he didn’t even come back to Georgia from his interview. It was our shot. He knew it, and I knew it. Two weeks after he began his new job, we moved into the most beautiful 700 square foot, one-bedroom apartment either of us had ever seen. Within three days of moving, I had a job with the U.S. Senate.
We had arrived.
It was just the two of us; in the beginning, we didn’t know a soul. Weekends, we would sleep late and window shop in Old Town Alexandria. We had “double-decker” movie days, seeing movies back-to-back and then enjoying a late supper in Shirlington. We strolled around museums and galleries and locally owned shops, feasted on foods we’d never heard of before, attended cocktail hours, fundraisers and black-tie parties with newly made friends. For our first Thanksgiving in the city and celebrating alone, I made lobster bisque from a recipe I’d found in The Joy of Cooking and served it with a pomegranate and star-fruit salad. When Jamie’s mother found out, she cried.
D.C. made my heart beat faster. It was loud and fast with rushing people speaking with accents and languages both lyrical and discordant. Traffic pulsed. Cars honked. Tires squealed. Sirens wailed. Buses barreled. Pigeons landed and flew, landed and flew. I often read on the Metro ride to work, but mostly I watched the people hustling and bustling. Most every day the man wearing the kufi cap played his shiny saxophone in Columbus Circle in front of Union Station and orchestrated my morning walk to the Dirksen Senate Office Building.
Lions of political celebrity roamed the Capitol then. Walking to the office one morning, I recognized Representative Henry Hyde, who still reminds me of Sam the Bald Eagle. We were walking in tandem, his shock of grey hair blowing in a crisp spring breeze. Once, inside the Capitol on an errand, the elevator doors opened and standing right in front of me was Senator Ted Kennedy. I can only pray my mouth didn’t fall open, although I am quite certain it did. Another day, in the staff cafeteria, I stood in the salad bar line behind Senator John Kerry. He needed carrots.
My eyes were opened to possibility and opportunity, sentiments most certainly reinforced by stark white marble monuments jumping off the pages of our middle school history books and into the reality of a deep blue twilight sky. I was hopeful and proud and optimistic.
With an enormous mass of sweaty, smelly humanity, we attended 4th of July fireworks on The Mall. We’d been down to the Tidal Basin and marveled at the cherry blossoms. By Christmas, Jamie and I had toured all the monuments at least ten times, but we had not yet seen snow.
The days were shorter. The cold was hard and the Atlantic wind merciless. Our lips were chapped and our noses red. The walk to and from the Metro became a gauntlet. One evening after work, a group of friends from work decided we should go over to the National Gallery Ice Skating Rink. I’d never been ice skating. Jamie took the Metro up from Virginia and met us.
It was early but dark and quiet. Under the gaze of the imposing and columned National Gallery of Art, tiny white Christmas lights sparkled from bare tree branches. The clouds were thick and low. Around the perimeter of the ice rink, lightbulbs dangled in their ropey swags. Jamie and I, bundled in new heavy coats, scarves, mittens and hats fumbled with the laces on our skates.
Far more coordinated than I, Jamie skated out onto the rink. His dark hair just peeked from under his knit cap. I stood, full of trepidation, tiptoeing at the edge. It looked easy, but I was unsure. Jamie swooshed up to me and extended his hands. I held them tight as we creeped along together, skates slicing and clinking. I relaxed into his hands and looked up at him, laughing, just as Vince Guaraldi’s “Christmas Time is Here” began to play over the loudspeakers. Within seconds, big, fat, soft snow flakes began to fall. All was right with the world.
We were skating together inside a snow globe.
I fell desperately and completely in love with him again that night while the snow fell and stuck to our shoulders and we held each other and inched around the rink. We may as well have been the only two people in the world.
It has been eighteen years since our snow globe moment. Tonight, hard-biting cold is slithering into the house under the mudroom door and the dog barks at a phantom squirrel and my boys are calling for supper and help with homework and a story before bedtime, too, Mama. Standing at the kitchen sink with both hands deep in soapy water, I can clearly see those two young people skating hand-in-hand through quiet snow, and I smile that smile that only women understand and start making supper.