Every couple has that thing their first year of marriage—the thing that is really hard but makes them so much closer than they would have been beforehand. Tight finances, a move, a new city, a new job.
My sister and brother can thank their thing to french fries at midnight gone horribly wrong.
At 2:00 a.m. on a snowy, cold night at the beginning of December, Andrew and I woke up to a pounding on our window that was Amy and Kevin. Since neither of us sleep near our phones, we missed the seven texts, the nine missed calls (moral of the story: NEVER call us in an emergency because we WILL LET YOU DOWN). Their neighbors got a craving for french fries at midnight, and grease fires spread fast so before they knew it the smoke stung their eyes and they had to leave.
We let in our smokey siblings through the back door, stayed up late drinking cups of tea, and asked them WHY they chose to exit a burning building with only a fossil purse, Ugg boots, and the firesafe box—the ONE thing that should actually be safe in a fire. (It should be noted here that neither of them chose to bring their bibles which could reflect a huge priority chasm.) We echoed each other’s sentiments, that it could have been worse, so much worse, and if it’s just smoke we’re dealing with, it’s not so bad.
We found out the next day the damage was worse than we thought. Smoke makes everything hazy and sticky and it had put a nice filmy cover on all their newlywed, married things—their dish set, their duvet, their couch and photo albums. One night with us turned into two, and then three, then a week, then a month, and then it was the end of January before Amy and Kevin finally moved back home. Our first long term “lodgers.”
On paper, the situation was less than ideal. June was seven weeks old the night of that fire, and Andrew and I were sleep deprived and stumbling through our days as we adjusted to life as new parents. Our house is creaky and drafty and there is nowhere to escape a baby cry. Amy and Kevin had been married only five months and were still making sense of their own rythms and patterns. They had just decorated the apartment for their own first Christmas together. They had to fight their insurance to save and clean all of their belongings. We put them in the office with my desk, my manuscripts, sewing table and wrapping paper. It could have been awful.
But it wasn’t. It was amazing.
I think the thing that really saved Amy and Kevin’s first year of marriage was the garbage bags they lived out of for two months. Kevin has a very—unique—way of organizing things, and we’ve always laughed at his garbage bag system and the way everything always had to be perfectly organized, until they moved into a guest room with journals and notebooks where drawers should have been. Suddenly Kevin’s bag system seemed like a great idea, and it kept their clothes and belongings organized—their on-the-road travel system.
I say this to prove that Amy and Kevin are really the ideal house guests—if anyone has to let two people into their home for two months, I highly recommend them. They are neat, thoughtful, and will eat anything you put in front of them. They do dishes, they sweep floors, they play with seven week old babies—which really means they get a quad work out from bouncing on end. They are gracious and content with garbage bags for drawers.
At the risk of making them sound even more like an advertisement, they also cook. Once a week, I spent extra time playing with June at that five o’clock witching hour, because I knew dinner would be made and it wouldn’t be by me. Amy and Kevin would come home from work, get out the cast iron skillet, and start browning beef in spices. They laid out the shells, the sour cream, the chips, the lettuce, and Taco Night was born. It became a tradition we looked forward to every Wednesday—hump day, to get us through the week. We finished Taco Night with big bowls of ice cream, a game of Scrabble, or an episode of Sherlock.
The visitors didn’t stop coming when Amy and Kevin moved in. We had friends come to stay from Pittsburgh, from Ukraine, from Virginia. Amy and Kevin were shuffled around like ping pong balls, giving up their bed yet again, moving upstairs with June, waiting in line to use the bathroom and the toilet seat that was forever warm. They were a huge help with this—they again, helped with meals, with snacks, with entertaining in general.
I’ve heard that it’s good to practice hospitality, to open your home, to be gracious. And Andrew and I love to do it. But the thing is, every time I open my home, it’s me who really ends up benefitting. I think every mother knows that those first weeks back at home are overwhelming. Andrew and I, who used to have plans every night, found ourselves suddenly housebound in the evenings due to our angel sleeper who must be in bed by 7:00 p.m. Having Amy and Kevin live with us was like having friends over every night—friends who also helped with bath time and who were more than happy to play the same games and have the same conversations on repeat, and who didn’t mind a crying baby because that baby was their niece and they love her almost as much as we do.
I knew, being the person that she was, that Amy would be there for me when June was born—we just could not have anticipated how there for me she was. She was there to help me process this enormous change in my life, to talk about it for hours, to celebrate all milestones that happened during those weeks—the first time she slept through the night, her first time in the big tub, the first time she reached for an object on purpose. Because of Amy’s support and encouragement, I felt like a different person by the time they moved out, and I found myself embracing and enjoying being a mom so much more than I did at the very beginning. I think the Lord knew I would need that—that it would take someone who has known me all my life to come into my most personal space in the midst of the biggest change to make me feel like myself again.
Amy and Kevin are back in their apartment now, and thanks to Renter’s Insurance, they are the proud owners of some brand new leather furniture. We can’t wait to try it out at this week’s Taco Night.