“Oh man…” sighed Matt who was sitting at the dining room table, his face illuminated in the glow from his open laptop. He stroked the whiskers on his chin and stared off into the space somewhere beyond his bright screen. This meant he was puzzling over something.
“What is it Babe?” asked Rachael. She was lying in her customary spot in the corner of the big blue couch in the living room not far away to his right. They had a lovely house with several rooms, but the pair always preferred to be close together. Rachael lowered her iPad, resting it on her knees which were propped up under a white fur blanket and turned to face him.
“The adoption site, they want us to write our story. Writing about yourself is one of the hardest things to do.” Matt replied.
“Especially for people as awesome as we are!” Rachael responded to her husband in a jesting tone that counterbalanced the tension she detected in his.
Matt looked over his shoulder at Rachael’s smiling face. Hers was the kind of a smile that lightened everyone around her. She held it steady as she gazed at him. She was waiting for him to smile back. He did, like always.
“That smile…” Matt thought, as his mind drifted back to the December night almost sixteen years ago when they were introduced at a happy hour by his cousin with whom Rachael had worked. “That smile is as bright as it was the night we first met.”
That event had remained a vivid memory for Matt. He didn’t just recall it, he relived it. The way his knees shook when the familiar faces moved aside to reveal the strikingly beautiful blonde haired girl with whom it was hoped a spark might be kindled over drinks. The way he talked to her through the dinner that followed, to the exclusion of everyone else at the table! “You said you’re one of six girls?” he had asked. “Wow! I have two brothers, one of whom is my identical twin.” He continued, “You’re from the South Shore? The ocean really is mesmerizing, but I’m a North Shore boy. I love the hills and coves up here.” He went on in this way as he set about his two objectives of getting to know her and showing his increasing interest.
In a frame above the bed the two now share is a scrap of paper on which was written the place, day and time of this momentous meeting: Blue Honu Restaurant, Thursday, 5:30-6 ish.
“Babe.” The sound of Rachael’s voice brought Matt back to the present. He had been looking right at her but only now did he notice that she had risen and was making her way into the kitchen. “I’m going to make us some tea and then we can work on it together.” she said.
“Sounds good, decaf right?” Matt asked. They tried to be healthy and had long ago given up caffeine. It was one of a number of lifestyle changes they had made and proudly maintained, though they still kept a box of the ‘high octane’ stuff as they called it, for guests.
“Of course.” Rachael replied. As she passed by the refrigerator her reflection flashed across the glossy surfaces of a large number of small, square acrylic picture frames that covered the doors. Inside each were photographs of hearts that the two had found as they went about the course of their everyday lives. A hole in a leaf, chipped paint on a railing, a knot in a wooden boardwalk, a particularly shaped cloud…136 is the current count though there are already more to be added to the ever-growing collection. It had begun when they started dating. Then as now, they took each heart as a sign that they were on the right path in life.
“I’ll get the Moomins.” Said Matt who had gotten up from the table and joined Rachael who was already filling a round orange kettle at the sink. Opening a cabinet door, he revealed shelves stacked with many different colored ceramic plates and bowls of various sizes, cups, saucers and mugs. The two had been collecting bright and cheerful Fiestaware for more than a decade but he reached past this assortment for two odd mugs that stood out from the rest. They were decorated with strange cartoon characters called Moomins which are popular in Sweden. “This reminds me,” said Matt. “I wrote Agnetha today and told her that we are starting to plan this year’s midsummer party. It‘ll be our third one.” Rachael added as she set the kettle on the stove to boil, “Which means it’s been three years since we first became pen pals with her!”
Over the years Rachael and Matt had become interested in finding ways to celebrate the various cultures that make up their heritages. The pair have journeyed to Italian street festivals, attended Oktoberfest celebrations and most recently have begun hosting Swedish Midsummer parties. “We may not know much about the more distant generations of our families, but we can take part in their traditions, and connect with them in that way,” they had reasoned. Agnetha entered their lives via a Swedish pen-pal program that Matt had registered with in the hope that he could meet someone who could help him explore the country of his Father’s origins. At first she had advised them on how to prepare an authentic Midsommar celebration, but the relationship grew. They now write regularly, and exchange birthday and Christmas gifts.
A chime rang out. Matt glanced at his phone on the counter opposite the stove at which Rachael stood, keeping watch over the now animated kettle that sputtered and hissed. Its screen was dark. “Not mine,” he said. “It must be Andrea.” Declared Rachael, “We were texting earlier. This is almost ready. Can you see what she said?” she asked. Matt set the Moomin mugs on the counter next to her and walked back to the living room. Rachael watched him as he made his way to where her phone lay on the glass-topped mid-century style coffee table that sat before the couch where she had been.
She felt fortunate that they had the same taste in art, furniture and home decor. Being artistic people who work in creative fields they cared a great deal about the things they surrounded themselves with. Early on, the couple had found they shared a love of the bold and clever designs of the midcentury Eames-era. Throughout their home was a collection of artworks and objects that had grown with them over the years and which was constantly being rearranged and edited. This included etchings created by Matt’s grandmother, lithographs, woodblock prints, photography, glass art, sculpture, found and repurposed objects, as well as pieces of their own creation.
Rachael looked up at a very large example of one such piece that was hung high on an expanse of wall that presided over the room in which Matt now stood. It featured the silhouettes of a young woman and man. They sat close together, facing one another on a wooden bench. The tilt of a head, the contour of a cheek showed that they were smiling. Above them was a tracery of vines, branches and leaves. This was one of a series of original works, self portraits that they had created to hang in the large, rustic gallery in which their wedding reception was held. A glance at it never failed to evoke vivid memories of that special day.
“There were times when I thought I might never get married.” she recalled. “But here I am.” The man whose mug sat next to hers was unlike any other man she had dated. “You were definitely not my type,” she had told Matt on numerous occasions. The pair were always able to laugh over this, because their relationship was a successful one. Rachael knew that it would not have been allowed to flourish if she hadn’t been willing to try something different, travel a new path. Her train of thought drew closer to the present and she turned her gaze from the living room back to the chore at hand. She placed a fragrant teabag into each of the mugs before her. “There were times when we thought we might never have a child. But then we decided to pursue adoption and here we are.” This time they were both trying something different, stepping onto a new path together.
“Yup, it was Andrea.” Matt’s voice came from the other room. He had picked up Rachael’s phone and was reading from it as he carried it back into the kitchen. “She said Maddy wants to have another craft day with you. She really enjoyed making those bracelets.” He rejoined his wife and handed her the phone. She finished the message from her best friend since childhood,“Maddy said I’m the coolest Aunt because I have an art studio.” Andrea’s daughter Maddy occupied a special place for Rachael who texted her response, reciting it aloud for Matt’s benefit. “For sure!” Love spending time with my Goddaughter!” The couple enjoyed close friendships with many special people. And it meant a great deal to them that they had been asked to be Godparents to several of their children. It was a responsibility which they took seriously and of which they were very proud. “Ooh!” Rachael exclaimed as she pocketed the phone, “maybe next time we can use the new die cutting machine and make banners for her cheer party!”
A shrill whistle announced the kettle had boiled. In short order the mugs were filled, honey was added along with a splash of milk for Matt, and the couple sat down together at the laptop which had been previously abandoned at the dining room table. They fortified themselves with several sips. Rachael looked over at Matt who already lost in concentration, had resumed stroking his beard.
Rachael posed the question, “Our story. Where do we begin?” After a few moments Matt responded with the sound he often made when having a realization, “Hmmpf!” She knew her husband always shared his thoughts, but anticipation got the better of her. “What?” she asked, prompting him to reveal them a bit sooner than he might have. He lowered his hand from his chin and looked at her.
“More like, where do we end!” He asked. It just occurred to me that our story—the story of the two of us—is ending.” He continued, “everything that is to come, will be the story of three people: you, me and a very special girl.”
Rachael nodded her head and added, “The one who will reach out to us after reading what we decide to share today.” She leaned toward the computer and began to type. “Then I know the perfect way to start!” She declared. “With this title.” Her fingers moved confidently across the keyboard as Matt looked on. “Perfect!” He said.
On the screen were written the words: “The End…And A New Beginning.”