"Aww! Who did he walk to?" my mom asked.
"Umm...no one." I was sitting in the armchair, and Westley walked from the footstool to the couch. Two steps, lurching forward. I didn't even realize what he'd done until he made contact with the couch seat cushion and gripped it hard with both hands. Rob was in the bathroom.
Five years ago last Friday, Rob and I met face-to-face for the first time. I was wearing some horrible pinstriped jeans, and he was wearing a polyester canary-yellow tie. We both dress a little better now.
We had been writing back and forth for three weeks, sharing dumb jokes and movie recommendations. I was at school, hating Shakespeare. Rob was high on flu medicine and watching romantic comedies. The trip idea was strange and sudden, a major leap forward in our bizarre, not-yet-established-but-oddly-serious relationship. He would be spending the week after Christmas with me and my family while I was home for winter break. We'd spoken on the phone once--briefly--when my mother and I went to pick him up at LAX. I was more nervous than I've ever been in my life. When he got close enough to say hello I forced myself to take two steps forward and hug him. To see if he was real.
We slept in the same room, in twin beds separated by a screen that used to belong to my grandmother.
After taking those few first steps, Westley took a break on Christmas and didn't walk in front of anyone. Then, on Boxing Day, the walking was back. He bounced back and forth from Rob to my mom, lurching forward like Frankenstein's monster. He walks really well as long as he can hold an adult finger in each hand, but his independent walking is difficult, an unpleasant necessity to keep from falling.
He was toddling around the living room with my mother's assistance as Rob and I were getting ready to leave for the evening.
"Bye-bye, Mommy! Bye-bye, Daddy!" my mom said on Westley's behalf before offering him an explanation. "Mommy and Daddy are going to celebrate their anniversary."
"We're going to try to remember why we liked each other in the first place," I clarified.
"Exactly!" My mom often takes my jokes semi-seriously. "That's important, because without the two of you, he wouldn't be here!"
Rob and I have lots of anniversaries. The day Rob first wrote to me, the day we first met face-to-face, our first date, our first date that felt like a date, our wedding anniversary, our actual wedding anniversary, the date of our marriage blessing... We could probably come up with one for every month, if we worked at it.
The first meeting seems like the most important date, to me. Meeting Rob changed the shape of my path and the direction of my thoughts. Having a partner, someone I could be comfortable with, was suddenly a possibility instead of a fleeting dream. It was exciting and terrifying, and I was sure I could never make it work. I wasn't sure I wanted to make it work, even after thinking it wouldn't happen.
But, as we spent time together, it turned out that we really could like each other. And we could mess up with each other and take each other back. I could fall forward in some pathetic walking-motion, and Rob would be there to catch me.
We celebrated this year by going to see You Can't Take it With You. It seemed sort of meaningful, since it's one of the two plays we've both performed in (in different productions, of course). Neither of us remembered it very well, but I thought that it was especially fitting for the anniversary of our first meeting, since Rob met my family at almost the exact same time he met me. However, we're not the new couple around whom all the chaos revolves any more. We're the married couple, living in the midst of the craziness as we contribute to it with our candy-making and xylophone music and printing press and floundering attempts at ballet.
Of course, we've moved ahead of the characters in the play. We've gone ahead and had a baby, and he will soon be running circles around us......................................