I have a ratty shoebox stuffed with old letters, e-mails, ribbons, all treasures from my husband, Kevin. Most people would throw such things away, I guess, but if my house were burning and all the occupants were safe, this is what I would rescue.
We met nearly ten years ago, and the earliest record of that in my box is a series of very cautious e-mails from the first few days after meeting each other. I say cautious because I had recently divorced my abusive husband, and I had absolutely no intention of settling down with anyone ever again. Kevin was patient and persuasive, and in the box there is a ribbon from the flowers he sent after our first date.
Digging further, I find notes anticipating our Christmas trip to meet his family in North Dakota. A lifelong Southerner, I had no idea what to expect, and I was still feeling stung from a rocky relationship with my former in-laws. Kevin’s family accepted me with open arms, and it remains my happiest Christmas.
Kevin is not an especially verbal person, so there are not long love letters and poems in my box. I do find two paper airplanes with “I love you and think you’re pretty much okay” and “I love redheads” written on them. I remember the day they sailed through the air and landed on my lap.
Of course, the box doesn’t always show smooth sailing. On three sticky notes titled “Kevin’s Annoying Habits,” I list such things as “leaves coffee cups outside” and “throws socks on floor.” His answer? Four sticky notes detailing my good qualities, which surely took some deep digging on his part at that particular moment.
I also find our wedding invitations which we made on his computer. We never expected our entire immediate families – forty people in all – to descend on the small church where we married. They all hit it off instantly, and the weekend was a total joy from start to finish.
At the very bottom of the box, I see a list I composed shortly after my divorce and a few months before I met Kevin. It details eighteen qualities I expected in any future men in my life to have, not that there were going to be any more men. Many items on the list were prompted by the failings of my ex-husband, but some were positive traits that my experiences had taught me were worth finding. A few months after we met, I graded Kevin on this scale. He made, I think, a 96%. Despite my past and my caution, I decided he might be a keeper. He has been with me ever since, through good and bad, like a candle which never flares but never wavers.
This I believe: love in all its forms is the strongest force in the world. My box shows a transformation in me from a frightened, browbeaten lost soul, all because of a man who saw through those things to the possibilities of who I could be and who I now am.