Thursday, February 06, 2014

way back when

Neil sent me this link earlier today which brings back some interesting memories.

He lived in the Philippines for two years while he was serving a full-time LDS mission. One of our first dates was to a Filipino fireside where they were serving native foods. I vividly remember Neil warning me that there were bones in the egg roll-like thing he had just handed me, and that the two motherly Filipinas smiling happily at me would not expect me to spit the bones out in disgust.

A month or so later, he was making a dish to share with his Tagalog class at BYU and for some reason made it in my apartment rather than at his house. I came home to a kitchen that smelled SO BAD and all my roommates were gagging (remember that one, Jen Bosen?) Poor Neil has been forbidden from ever making that dish ever ever again, especially after the slimy frozen okra he used in it traveled from my apartment to our first shared apartment, where I found it in the freezer five months later and gagged the whole time I was running it down the garbage disposal (maybe that is when I found out our apartment actually didn't have a garbage disposal?)
Neil on our honeymoon--we drove to Jackson Hole one day and went on a sleigh ride through the elk preserve
Me on our honeymoon--hanging out in the visitor's center at the elk preserve. If I recall correctly Neil yelled my name and took the picture when I turned around.

So as I was thinking about all of this, I was thinking about the old days back when we were students OH WAIT STILL STUDENTS and all of that. Tonight while we were washing the dishes I had a song stuck in my head, and it was really bothering me that I didn't know most of the words, so I went and found it online so I could sing along to it, and Neil stopped washing the dishes and came and took my hand and started dancing with me in the living room. I think I can safely say that this is the first time in our marriage this has ever happened--when we were first married I thought it would be fun to take a social dancing class together at BYU and it was a disaster! He is so much taller than I am that it's physically painful for both of us to hold proper ballroom dancing posture (we did, however, make it to semi-finals for cha-cha in the US DanceSport Competition--it was extra credit and we needed all the extra credit we could get in that class!)

Anyway, long segue, but we were dancing to the song in the middle of our living room and the kids were doing all their kid things around us and Neil asked me if I remembered back to the time when we first met eleven and a half years ago (and then in characteristic fashion he told me that was back when I still had chipmunk cheeks, which is true).
see? Honeymoon chipmunk cheeks.

I was thinking about those early years and the fact that they exist only in my memory and a few scattered photos, and I wanted to remedy that a bit.

When we were newlyweds, we lived in a teeny tiny little apartment in Orem just off of Center Street. It was (of course!) a basement apartment, but we were the first ones to live there and so it was just this teeny little place sparkling with newness. We spent our first night together there--when I was a teenager I loved the fact in Anne's House of Dreams that she and Gilbert went to their own home for their honeymoon. And I loved coming home after our wedding to our own little home that we had furnished together and into which we had put so much happiness and hope. It was perfect.

So back to the teeniness of this place--we could just barely fit in a couch and a bookcase turned sideways and a small dining table pushed up against the wall. The living room had a kitchen along its back wall; the oven was so small that none of our pans would fit inside, and the shower stall was so low that Neil could never stand up straight. But since we were newlyweds we found it charming and fun (I do miss the fact that our gas heating bill was never above $8/month!).

our one-month apartment's kitchen
After a few months we decided that we wanted to live closer to campus and we would like a bit more space. We found another basement apartment that was much cheaper because it was much older--when we first moved in we found the 4-digit telephone number for the coal delivery company on a tin placard nailed into one of the closets! It was quite run-down but we really wanted something that we could afford on our own (our generous parents had both been helping us out during our first few months). So we got permission from the landlord to patch and paint and take down the wallpaper. Actually, for one month we lived above our "real" apartment while we were waiting for the current tenants to move out. The one-month apartment was so incredibly filthy. I remember that we couldn't see out of the windows and our feet turned black when we walked across the floor. I spent SO much time scrubbing it before we moved in that the landlord ended up giving us a substantial discount on that month's rent (in retrospect he still got an amazing deal). It also had this sort of stale smell and so I bought tons of air fresheners and put them around everywhere--as luck would have it I recently bought a similar scent for the Glade plug-in in my kitchen and it made me so nauseated to remember that filthy apartment that I had to unplug it!

Anyway, eventually we moved into the downstairs apartment. I was excited to move because unlike the upstairs apartment it had carpeting in the living room area (wood floors everywhere else)--but no air conditioning or cooling of any kind! It was SO hot! But it did have a working fireplace and we spent our first Christmas together there (after which Neil hacked up the Christmas tree and burned it in the fireplace. In hindsight both of us are amazed we didn't set the place on fire). It had this funny little kitchen with almond-colored appliances and a tiled counter that ran in front of the previous kitchen door.

It was always sort of odd having a doorknob in the middle of the counter and I kept a potted aloe vera plant in front of it. And I didn't know how to clean the penny tile that was covering the counters in a way that made me feel like they were thoroughly disinfected, so every week or so I would just pour bleach all over the counters and let it sit.

The bathroom had a large hole in the ceiling (through which I could hear our upstairs neighbor dealing with a very miserable first trimester of pregnancy) and an odd vanity made out of plywood. A previous tenant had painted the entire bathroom like Van Gogh's Starry Night...a cool idea in conception but not in execution.  And our bedroom was this big beautiful wood-floored room that backed up to the communal laundry room (nice because we didn't have to navigate the cobwebby unlit stairs like everyone else since we had a direct door, not so nice because the washer and dryer were constantly rattling our walls in the middle of the night).
We paid $410/month for this apartment.

living room of our downstairs apartment--this was definitely its best angle!

I know it sounds like a total dump--and to be honest it probably was--but this was one of my very favorite apartments because we had so many good memories there. It was the first time I had ever really had complete creative license over my own space. I tore down all of the wallpaper in the kitchen and painted it a cheery bright yellow that set off the white cabinets. I washed all the grime off a half-dozen jars of home-canned peaches left behind by a previous occupant (no way I was going to risk eating them but they looked beautiful) and arranged them in the glass-fronted cabinet over the sink. I painted our bedroom one day by myself to surprise Neil while he was at work. I taped posters of paintings by Van Gogh and Raphael and Monet over the cracks in the walls. I arranged our wedding pictures on the mantel and carefully painted the beat-up but beautiful paneling of the old wooden doors. We made it into home.

And every Friday night, Neil and I would have the most fantastic time cooking together. We couldn't afford to go out to dinner or on a date (we could barely afford $20 a week for groceries!) but those Friday nights are some of my happiest memories. I had never cooked much before we were married and he taught me so much--that is really where I became confident as a cook and willing to experiment with new recipes or ideas. Whenever I think of that apartment, I think of the two of us laughing together in that little yellow kitchen while we stood side by side cooking together.

We were married back in ye olden days before digital cameras (or at least before we could afford a digital camera), so all these photos are on film. Film, people!

The first summer we were married we drove East for Neil's family reunion and then went to visit my family. On our way back we camped in Yellowstone and in the Black Hills (we managed to hit Sturgis week...would not recommend trying to find a camping spot at that time of year!)  I have lots of photos from this trip but here are just two of my favorites.

We look so young! Babies!

And remember when we took the kids to Arches? That was only our second time there together. Kind of sad. One of the things Neil & I regret about our time in Utah is that we only explored southern Utah together once, just five months after we were married. But in all fairness, we were spending our time there working like crazy to get awesome grades for scholarships and grad school and working multiple jobs to avoid any student loans, which didn't leave much time for fun. Sometimes I wonder if we should have eased up a little bit and enjoyed ourselves more, but in retrospect, our nose-to-the-grindstone attitude has paid such huge dividends that I always end up feeling like we made the right choice.

 And a photo from the very end of our wedding day. I'm wondering what the photographer told us--look so happy that you're falling asleep?  (One real regret I have is our crummy wedding photos. Oh well--I have the real deal squeezing my hand every day and telling me that I'm the best thing in his life.)


Elise Gray said...

I absolutely love this! Also, I love the graphic at the bottom of the page...and the fact that the Juliet character is jumping in a very Juliet-like fashion

Mary Beth said...

This was so sweet, and so fun to read! Thanks for sharing your memories. :)

Julianne said...

Fun post. Makes me want to take a trip down memory lane.

Neil said...

I remember the Christmas tree was sitting right outside our door for a few months before I chopped it up. I felt really bad when your grandma had to step around it to get into our place that time she visited.

I look back on those days with fondness, and I have to smile. In some ways I remember it as yesterday, and sometimes it feels so long ago.

I wish we had a canyon to drive through late at night, eating chips and talking about everything.

Amanda said...

Your comment on your wedding photo made me laugh. My same regret ( about my photos ha)

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