Our first home, an old ranch house, needed remodeling from the doorstops to the ceiling trim. We decided to do the job ourselves. Friends warned us of the dangers ahead.
“The quickest way to divorce court is to hang wallpaper together.”
“It was the biggest fight we ever had.”
“I love my wife, but I don’t remodel anything with her.”
Despite the warnings, we wallpapered, painted and replaced everything from switch-plates to moldings. We had an advantage over our friends. Long ago we bridged a chasm that threatened to divide us forever.
I was twenty, a college junior, optimistic, and ready to take on the world at a moment’s notice. Joe was easy going and had a wonderful sense of humor. I expected flowers, candlelight dinners, and romantic foolishness under a full moon. Joe was a penniless student working his way through college. On his own for five years, he didn’t have time for girlfriends, but loved sports, especially football.
I enjoyed going to the college football games with him. I visited with my friends, cheered, sang, and occasionally asked him who had the ball and which team was winning. Joe watched the pigskin gladiators on the field. He was an expert on the plays, rules and strategies. At the end of a game, I could tell you what went on in the stands, and he could tell you what happened on the field.
For me, Saturday games were a chance to socialize and enjoy the autumn weather. Sunday games, however, meant staying inside with the TV blaring. He sat on the couch, drank beer, ate popcorn and yelled at the TV like a crazed maniac. I stared longingly out the window at the autumn sunshine.
As our love grew and we talked of marriage, I spent the New Year holiday at his family’s home. Joe had four brothers, all as football crazy as himself. For three days, we ate, drank, and slept football bowl games. Half way through the third day, my frustration peaked.
“Joe, I have to get out of here.”
“But sweetheart, the Giants are on next,” he said, puzzled.
“This is the third game today. You watched football all day yesterday,” I snapped.
“Diane, I only see my family twice a year. I enjoy watching football with my brothers, and I really like it that you watch with me.” He smiled, then kissed me.
Thinking he had solved the problem with a kiss, Joe joined his brothers to watch the next game. I stomped upstairs. His mother, Ann, noticed me pouting at the table. When she tried to console me, I unloaded on her.
“I hate football. It’s mindless garbage. How can anyone sit for that long and do nothing? The worst part is, he expects me to sit there and do nothing with him.”
Ann said, “Maybe you could read a book.”
“No, the TV distracts me,” I whined.
“Well, I crochet or cross-stitch while I watch TV. I’ll teach you,” she offered.
“No thanks,” I choked out. The very suggestion conjured up visions of a little old lady in a rocking chair. When my mother suggested hooking a rug, I reconsidered.
I bought a hooked rug wall hanging, 4.5 feet by 2 feet. It was a pretty scene of a sailboat at sunset, and large enough to last a football season. Next game, I dragged it out and worked on it. Joe didn’t comment. The second game he said, “I could help you with that. Do you have another hook?” I smiled and bought another hook the next day.
All that football season, we cuddled close and hooked the rug. I started at the bottom and he started in the middle. Soon we met and worked on the top together. While we hooked, the rug warmed our laps, stimulated conversation and bridged the football chasm in our relationship. I almost looked forward to our Sunday afternoons together. While I was out of town for a week, Joe finished the rug.
“I wanted to surprise you,” he laughed. “The more exciting the game, the faster I hooked. Let’s get another one.” I couldn’t find another big rug so I bought two small ones. Ten years later, they are still unfinished, buried in the back of a closet. It just wasn’t the same. We weren’t working together. The shared project produced more than a rug. It produced intimacy and communication.
Now we have a two-year-old boy and a four-year-old girl. Joe still watches football, but limits himself to New York Giants games. He explains the rules and strategies to the children. On game day, we all dress in Giants sweat suits, share popcorn, and cuddle on the couch. Joe and I both yell at the TV like crazed maniacs. To everyone’s amazement, even mine, I learned the game and can debate strategy with anyone, including my four brothers-in-law.
That old hook rug decorates our remodeled hallway. It represents the way we conquered the challenges in our lives. I start at one end, Joe in the middle and together in love, we reach the top.