The sun was shining, illuminating occasional puffy white clouds and a big, blue Prairie sky. One arm tingled, refreshed and chilled from the AC, while one leg of my jeans was almost too hot from the sun shining in the window of S.’s ‘cranberry-purple’ car. The grey asphalt curved away, disappearing into the ditch as we drove along on our way to go grocery shopping. It’s nothing earth shattering, but it makes me happy.
We’ve gone shopping together before – it makes sense to carpool when you live out of town on a limited budget and to be perfectly honest, I’ll go with S. when I don’t need anything just to spend time with him. I love sitting in the passenger seat without a care in the world, knowing that the man I love is sitting so close to me.
We are quite different shoppers. He’s a ‘get in and get what you need and get out as fast as you can’ kind of guy, and not only because he’s so efficient in his daily life. He hates shopping, even for groceries. I don’t mind shopping. I don’t like buying so much, but I like to take my time, meandering from aisle to aisle and perusing the merchandise laid out on the shelves. Even when I’m focused and in a hurry I only go at his most relaxed pace. So far we’ve laughed about it – even if it’s sometimes only to dispel tension – avoiding any real squabbles. He bugs me that I’m going to get hit by the cart as I gaze star-struck at the shelves around me, I tease him about his scurvy-inducing phobia of the produce section.
We are also quite different when it comes to how we deal with our groceries. We were sharing a cart and as I wandered along he came up and casually put his ground beef in the cart. On top of some grapes.
“You can’t do that!” I almost shrieked.
He picked up his meat very quickly, startled. “Why not?”
“The meat juices could leak out…that’s how you get E-Coli. You can die,” I said. It seems I’ve heard that somewhere although upon reflection I don’t know if it’s true.
“It won’t leak,” he said, scoffing. “It’s sealed.” But nevertheless he put his meat on the very bottom of the cart.
I leaned towards him, instantly embarrassed for freaking out. “I’m sorry,” I said.
“It’s okay,” he said, returning my kiss.
When we got to the teller, he started handing me things to put on the check-out counter. “Could you hand me the heavier stuff first?” I asked.
At his quizzical expression I explained, “It makes it easier for the person bagging the groceries if they’re in order of weight.”
“You do realize that they don’t pack them in your special order,” he said.
“Yes, but it makes it less likely that the bread will end up under the cans,” I said. I thought everyone knew this, but apparently not.
As we drove out of the valley, he shook his head.
“What?” I asked.
“You are really particular when it comes to food,” he said. “Sometimes I feel like I’m irritating you by not following your system.”
I thought for a moment. “I just forget that there’s more than one way to do things,” I said. I still felt bad for freaking out about the meat. “It surprises me and sometimes that probably sounds like I’m irritated, but I’m not. I’m not irritated with you.” I looked out at the hazy blue horizon. “I’ll try to remember that there’s more than one way to do things.”
“It’s okay,” he said.
I looked over at him, the familiar lines of his face and his blue eyes revealing themselves to me as if I’d never seen him before. “I really appreciate how you just take me in stride,” I said.
He glanced at me with a little smile in his eyes before looking back at the road. “You have to take me in stride too,” he said.
“I guess.” I was silent as I thought. “You just accept my idiosyncrasies. I appreciate it.”
He shrugged. “Why not? They’re not going to change.”
And just like that I discovered another level of love to fall into.
He accepts me right now, how I am now, and doesn’t need me to change for him to love me.
It surprised me. It still does – I guess I didn’t think I’d find someone who would, or could, accept me like that.
I had that goofy Bridget Jones smile on my face the rest of the way home. When he asked me why I had no answer except “I’m happy”. I finally understood the magic of those words – “He loves me just the way I am”. There is no phrase as perfect in the English language.
Or as priceless.