I was a bride of one night when Tim and I packed up our bags, bought a sourdough sandwich at O’Hare Airport and boarded an American Airlines jet for our eight-hour nonstop flight to Honolulu. The day before had been filled with nonstop activity: his going to the car rental place, my fussing with my hair over and over again, his driving with the photographer to Morton Arboretum, my being denied access because the gate attendant saw my wedding dress but no $300 photography permit to go along with it. Before the wedding, there were people all over my parents’ house: members of the bridal party staying there, hanging out in the dining room, eating with us in the kitchen. During the wedding, there was a crisis when the lone violinist didn’t show and the relief when my friend Becky stepped in. When we stepped out of the church, greeting people for the first time as man and wife, there was a frantic 15 minutes pulling together family for pictures and my giving orders for who to come where and when. Tim and I escaped to a park for a few minutes, staring at each other in the rosy haze of new terms like husband and wife, only to realize no one had grabbed the yellow gladiolas from the ceremony, so there we were driving back to the church, placing them in the back seat like our babies, driving them to the tent in my parents’ backyard. We were surrounded by people and handshakes and warm wishes, tables of cookies and cake and presents, but by the time we drove away in our changed clothes and packed car, flanked by friends holding sparklers on either side, we were almost electric with the energy of it all. We talked the entire way to the hotel and most of the night after we got there.
The next day was different. Instead of nonstop activity, it was nonstop lack of it. We were strapped into a plane for the extent of a full workday, with nowhere to go but the lavatory at the back of the plane. Within an hour, we’d eaten all the leftover wedding cookies we’d saved for the trip. Within two hours, the sandwich was gone, too. There was still lots of talking—and reading, and sleeping—but in a place where blessedly no one knew us, we were free to be quiet and calm and to rest. It was a long trip but it was a good one, and both of us were day-before-Christmas excited about the place we were traveling to see.
Then, we arrived. We were in Hawaii. We walked off our plane into an alien time zone where it was still day, as well as 40 degrees hotter, where we had a certain window of time to trek across the airport—and that is the right word for it, trek, because moving from the mainland arrivals to the inter-island jet planes was a long journey through terminals and trams and pulling suitcases down sidewalks in the sun—in order to catch our flight to Kauai. Halfway through, I lunged into a bathroom where I ripped off my Chicago-friendly jeans and gym shoes and sweater (and jacket!!) in favor of a sundress and flip flops. We made it to our plane, we boarded again, we flew over oceans as blue-green as topaz, and we walked off our plane to a sleepy airport where our next stop was finding a rental car. When the nice man, or maybe it was a woman, I can’t remember now, offered us an upgrade on our car to a convertible jeep, the sheer exhaustion of social overstimulation, lack of sleep, long plane rides and hunger took over, I panicked and I heard myself saying things like “Tim! I can’t drive a convertible jeep! It’s too big! And it costs more!” An hour or so later, when we got out of that jeep to run into a Wal-Mart for water, I broke down sobbing.
It was hours later when we arrived at our condo, after a grocery run and after feeling our way through dark roads in a rainstorm. Our friends and family back in Chicago were already long passed tucked in for the night. After we pulled all our stuff inside, as tired as we were hungry, hunger still somehow won out. There in the condo kitchen, with avocados we’d just bought at the island grocery store and kitchen utensils that my friends kept in their rental space, we made a big bowl of guacamole, the way Tim had been making it since I’d met him: with tomatoes, onions, jalapeños and plenty of lime juice and salt. Alongside chips, it was the first meal we made together in marriage and, because it was beauty alongside other realities of stress and responsibility and fear, sort of symbolic of all the ones to come. I read an article today from The Atlantic, which cites kindness as the thing that makes marriages last and as something we should think of as a muscle, something that needs practice and exercise to grow, and I thought about my life with Tim and I thought about our honeymoon guacamole and I thought how, really, when you get right down to it, relationships are built on these small, easily forgettable moments: the way your husband is willing to drive you through a rainstorm (and how he will keep doing that for you in years to come); the way you share a car together; the way you listen to each other’s stories and care about each other’s hurts; the way you make guacamole for each other, one of you toasting chips and one of you mixing ingredients in a bowl.