I am so grateful for my husband, Ken, and our eleven happy years of marriage. We will be celebrating our Anniversary this weekend, so I want to share some thoughts about why I love this man so much.
When we first met, my friends referred to him as The Dream Boat. Setting sail with Ken felt like the most unexpected dazzling adventure, and the most natural thing in the world at the same time. Our first date quickly proceeded to the second date. (“When can I see you again?” “How about later today?”) We had two dates in one day, and have been together ever since. That was in 1998. All these years later, he is dreamier than ever, but our relationship has acquired a depth and solidity that is more palpable than the most vivid of dreams.
At first, I was taken by his biceps, blue eyes and general tall-dark-and-handsomeness. I soon learned there was a lot more to discover beneath the surface. On our first date, we went to see my painting exhibit at the University where I was teaching. We paused in front of one of my favorite pieces, a landscape with a tilted perspective, as if looking over fields and forests from the treetops. He said it reminded him of the book he was reading, Italo Calvino’s Baron in the Trees. I was astonished, since that was the book that I had just read and had inspired the painting. Whoa. We met later that evening. He was polite and romantic, opened doors for me and pulled out my chair. He asked about my art and my family. I found out he was into food, wine, jazz, modern art, and good books (as well as football, running, and the outdoors.) We talked late into the night. He had a black Labrador Retriever named Maya whom he adored. I was smitten.
Ken is known for his selfless acts of chivalry. Just a few weeks after we met, I had stayed up all night grading portfolios for my drawing class, and was way too tired to drive myself the two hours to Washington D.C. to see the once-in-a-lifetime Van Gogh exhibit at the National Gallery, for which I had only one precious and impossible-to-replace ticket. He drove me there while I slept in the car, dropped me off at the show, joined me later to tour the rest of the museum, and then surprised me with a special dinner reservation afterwards. Ken has a way of anticipating exactly how to delight me most, big or small. Throughout our marriage, this knack has taken many different forms: letting me sleep-in after being up late with a crying baby, taking care of the household chores so I can have some extra time in the studio, or planning a fabulous weekend get-a-way with theater tickets and fantastic meals.
Ken has a wry, irreverent sense of humor, and a penchant for unbelievably thoughtful, romantic, and sneaky surprises. (A favorite prank is to pretend something that you really want is not happening, then spring the super deluxe version on you later. It works on me every time.) He is an incredibly fun person to be with. We can spend hours in a museum, lingering over a tasting menu at a great restaurant, or exploring a new city. He also has his domestic side. We can spend hours planting a garden, cooking up a special dinner, or simply hanging out at home with the family. After our son goes to bed, sometimes we stay up very late just talking and laughing. Whatever worries may be burdening my mind are always lifted when I share them with Ken, because when we are together, the world is beautiful, and everything is going to be ok.
We take turns. When he started his restaurant business five years ago, I believed in him. I put my artistic dreams on the back burner and stuck with a stable career that provided a good income and health insurance– an important safety net as he and his partners worked hard to build the business. I watched him grow from a restaurant owner to an inspiring team leader, always seeing the best in people and bringing that out to shine. Five years later, the business is thriving. The crazy long hours are behind him and he has more time at home. My creative ambitions resurfaced in the last couple of years, and he supports me pursuing them. While I’m still keeping my day job for now, I’m passionately developing my body of work in fine art, surface design and illustration. To help me have more time for my art, he has taken over all the grocery shopping and the majority of the cooking. He shops at Whole Foods and makes healthy and delicious meals for our family. He tidies up the house. He brings me flowers.
Ken is a great Dad. I have loved watching him grow as a father and connect with our son, Max. I see so much of him in our boy– the sense of humor, the sharp wit, the athleticism, and the confident personality. They throw the football around in the front yard, and go on long bike rides. They talk about girls. They play video games, build spaceships out of Legos, and read books together. Ken talks to him about responsibility, self-reliance, and respect for others. He taught Max how to plant a garden and to how to bake a cake. I feel sure that one day Max will also be a great husband and Dad.
We hold each other accountable for our goals and dreams. He encourages me with my art and I encourage him with his guitar playing. We share ideas about growing the family business, and he invites my creative input. We can talk about anything and overcome any disagreement, although we don’t disagree very often. Ken is an extraordinarily self-aware person, continually striving to become the best person he can be. He is someone who can always be relied upon to Do the Right Thing. He inspires me. We have watched each other evolve and change, holding each other’s hand while stepping aside to make room for each other’s growth.
Ken is always there for me, in every way that I need him to be. I show him my artwork. I tell him about my day. I confess my fears. I share my joy. He lets me be when I am absorbed in the studio. He understands me. When I am with him, it feels both safe and exciting at the same time. When I am with him, I am home.