My husband, Hugh, is quite the reader proving, once again, that in some ways I married my father. There are worse ways to marry your father than to marry a voracious reader. He’s constantly bringing home thick tomes that he reads slowly, methodically, while listening to records. His uncle recently picked up Walter Cronkite’s biography and asked, genuinely baffled, “Who is reading this?” Hugh is, I told him. For fun.
He brings home books for me too, books that we would both enjoy. I rarely get around to reading them because, as Leslie Mann once put it, a piece of my brain fell out during the birth of each of my children, and I just don’t have the attention span I used to. Plus, I’m usually nursing and it’s much easier to check Facebook on my phone than to read a heavy book I might drop on my child’s head. This is also an excuse.
Hugh read enough of Stephen Tobolowsky‘s book “The Dangerous Animals Club” out loud to me to really peak my interest. It didn’t hurt that I had recently heard him on NPR’s Fresh Air and had been enchanted by the stories he told. I commandeered the book which is just fine because Hugh works all the time and I read much faster than him. I finished it in less than twenty four hours, laughing and crying the entire time.
“I am LOVING this book…that Stanley Toblerone is quite the writer.”
“What did you just call him? His name is Stephen. What is a Toblerone? Some kind of Russian Barbeque?”
“He looks like a Stanley, and a Toblerone is triangular European white chocolate candy bar. Duh. It’s a term of endearment.”
It should be noted that while I never forget a face, I frequently forget names, and have been known to improvise. It’s how Benedict Cumberbatch of Sherlock became Cummerbund Bandersnatch, and why mother in law’s Senator Russel Sweet Potato Casserole is now named after General Tso, at least in our house.
I also made the mistake of calling the character that Tobolowsky plays in “Groundhog Day” Ned Neiderlander, which Hugh pointed out to me is Martin Short’s character in The Three Amigos. Ahem.
Nothing fills me with quite as much joy as finding out an actor you like is also a writer. I think it’s because at one time, those were the two great passions of my life and I was not sure which one I would choose. Finding people who chose one, and then were able, down the line, to also choose the other, is like a gift to me. It makes me wonder if I might act again one day.
I cannot tell you how many times I put the book down, gasping. With laughter. With disbelief.
And then there was the point where I broke down in hysterical sobbing.
It was when he was describing how he met and fell in love with his girlfriend, Beth.
It should be noted that I knew that this was a relationship bound for doom, because of things he had mentioned, not the least of which was the name of his wife, which is Ann. Not Beth.
There must have been other clues, because I already had the sense that she was just…wrong for him. That they wanted entirely different things. This was confirmed a little later when he told her all he wanted was a home, and all she wanted was freedom. But first, he described falling in love. At first sight. And the moment when they first held hands. When he learned that “love at first sight was not necessarily a good thing, or a nice thing, but a true thing.”
And I burst into an avalanche of choking tears.
Because I have loved like that.
I have stared into the soul of someone desperately, horribly wrong for me and felt a deep connection that startled both of us. That transcended understanding. Where we could communicate without words.
And that didn’t stop it from being the wrong thing. That love could not overcome the fundamental differences in ourselves. No amount of emotion, or passion, or need could compete with the deep chasm between our souls.
And then I cried because love at first sight is the opposite of what I have with Hugh.
We met online, in 1997. Back when photos on the internet were at best at novelty. No one was scanning in pictures or taking digital photos unless they were AV clubbers with access to the goods. Neither of us did. Our stumbling, accidental courtship happened completely blindly, and we were therefore, blindsided.
We fell in love from the inside, out.
Me, a girl who had obsessed about her personal appearance since her very first Cinderella movie made a man fall in love with her without him every seeing her face.
Because our souls matched.
I’m loud, spontaneous and gregarious. He is none of those things. But we love books and music and movies the same way, usually the same ones.
We wanted children.
We wanted marriage.
We wanted it with each other.
And that is carrying me through these dark years where it seems our dreams are not materializing, our hopes are turning to dust.
I might not want THIS life. I want a different life. But I want it with THIS man.
And this was so clear to me as a cried over this book.
Thank you, Stanley Toblerone…I mean, Stephen Tobolowsky, for writing a book that my husband recommended to me. Because he knows me, he loves me, and he loves the same things as me. Thanks for writing the book that reminded me of all that.