17 years ago at this very moment I sat in a swivel chair surrounded by make-up artists, hair stylists, my hysterical mother and about half a dozen second cousins. It was just a few hours until our Big Fat Egyptian Wedding. True to prophecy our wedding went EXACTLY as an Egyptian wedding should.
The ceremony began 90 minutes late and the vast majority of the two plus hour ritual was in Coptic. At least five times in that two hours, Chris lowered his head to me and whispered “are we married yet?” At our priest’s prodding, I vowed to “be like an olive tree” and bear my husband many fruits. There were “zaghreet” a plenty (zaghreet= a loud shrill yodel like sound made by Egyptian women expressing happiness) and seas of tears of joy (mostly from my mom who had quickly forgotten her declaration before our first date: “If you leave this house with that American boy, do not come back!”)
Our white friends looked perpetually startled. My extended Egyptian family –all 500 of them—nearly collapsed as Chris and I dared share a smooch on the church steps.
Fast forward to this very moment. Chris has just spent the last 30 minutes on his hands and knees scrubbing the tile in the laundry room. Two weeks ago Lucy had an accident and Chris insisted this morning that he could still smell dog pee. I let him go to town with rubber gloves and Clorox. I even happily run up the steps to fetch him a spare toothbrush (so help me God that is the truth.) I do these things without snarkiness because I understand his “smelly smell phobia.” It is one of those things about him that I just accept.
Nearly every time we return home from a trip his nose scrunches within seconds of entering the kitchen, I sigh inwardly. But then I too am changing trash bags, rewashing musty dish towels and emptying the fridge.
If we have already driven away in a rental car and I see that familiar nose scrunch, I quickly call Avis back and insist on a new vehicle–the smell is unacceptable (I leave out the part about my husband being a lunatic.)
Much to his relief, we recently learned that at Alamo they leave the keys on the dash and the doors unlocked. You just stroll down the lane and pick the car you want. Despite the fact that it is midnight, the kids and I patiently trudge behind as Chris systematically sniffs the insides of 9 Dodge Caravans before accepting one. It is not perfect but with the windows open and a little air freshener, it will be fine.
Acceptance, however, does not stop me from laughing out loud at his smelling fiascos; much like Chris accepts and yet is brutal in his ridiculing of my inability to tell left from right. If I am navigating and say “make a left here” there is a mandatory 10 second pause for him to allow me to be certain I really meant left. At the office when a confused radiology tech calls because “Dr. Meyer wrote Left Knee but the patient says it’s his right” Chris instantly jumps on the phone and corrects for me in a tone that makes it seem like a rare mistake instead of the daily occurrence it is.
When it comes to my escalator phobia, he is more afraid for our children than he is accepting of my “crazy.”
My fear of down escalators (just down) is largely irrational. I can never seem to pick the right moment to step on. Between the rapidly moving steps, the handrail going at a completely different speed, the people standing behind me, and the sheer height, I have panicked to the point of nearly stranding a child at the top. So now 17 years later, when an escalator appears, no matter what he is carrying, Chris wordlessly takes hold of the children so that I may concentrate on saving myself.
It all comes down to this.
For 17 years, we have laughed at, made adjustments for, and ultimately simply accepted each other’s “crazy.”
My advice to newlyweds?
You’ve carefully chosen your car–slightly stinky as it may be. Now, just roll down the windows and drive on. Eventually the stink will be overtaken by the beauty of your journey.