Take a stroll with me, if you like, down memory lane.
You see, as one finishes law school, (classes ended last week! Exams for two weeks and soon - Graduation!) one must apply for the bar exam - that behemoth of a two day long exam which determines whether one will be licensed to practice law. But before even being allowed to sit for the exam, one must provide the Board of Bar Examiners with A LOT one's pertinent information, such as: all employment records from the last 10 years, all school attendance records from the last 10 years, driving records - from any state - for the last 11 years, fingerprints, court records, name change records, and all addresses from the last 10 years. Should one forget the addresses of the place one lived at 9 years ago, when one was but an adolescent, never fear! One may go spelunking through one's memory boxes. (AKA the beginnings of a "hoarding problem".)
I knew that if I went through these boxes I would find cards and letters with the addresses I needed. I wasn't prepared for the time-suck that would become this evening, spending hours looking through all our old mementos long after I'd found the information needed.
You see, I'm a bit of a romantic. I like to save things. Only weeks after meeting M, I stumbled upon the beautiful box pictured on the right and thought it perfect to keep the trinkets and tokens of our time together which I had been keeping. Isn't it poetic that my tiny trinket box of what I thought would be a lovely yet short-lived relationship has blossomed into the trunk pictured on the left, which is stored in the house - nay the LIFE - M and I have built together?
I love looking through all the things in these boxes and periodically break 'em open just to look through them again. Writing this blog for the last few months has given me a new perspective, and looking through them again today I was struck with how much our early relationship was infused the exploration of our cultural differences.
Like, see the picture above? There's so many cute stories to the stuff there! The broken pieces of a bangle bracelet: M bought it for me at the first ever desi store I went to, and it's the biggest size available and it barely fits on my hand. I tried to put some of them on in the parking lot and it broke and scratched my wrist and then I bled on his shirt on the motorcycle ride on way home. I found that if I used some soap and water to put them on, I could get them on without breaking them, but they're so delicate that they'd break anyway when I'd bang against some wall or desk. I'd wear a few at a time until I was down to my last one - that one in the picture - which I saved when it too, finally broke.
Or the little bunny candy! It's from our first Valentine's Day together. When M went to the store to find a Valentine's Day present, he knew to buy candy and a card, but what he didn't realize was that sometimes seasonal candy displays in stores are put up a little early. He didn't know he was in the Easter candy aisle - he just bought whatever chocolate he thought looked nice. And then he was embarrassed when I was confused about the bunny candy in my Valentine's Day gift box. (Awww....)
There's also the Pakistan flag pin he gave me (clearly a few months into our relationship) and all the tickets to the movies and plays we used to see. (Remind me to tell you about the time I took the desi boy to The Vagina Monologues!)
You see the little plastic thing, behind the earrings? We were hanging out one night and he was playing with a flashlight and M - the geeky desi Electrical Engineer since birth - on the spur of the moment said that he could take the light bulbs out of the flashlight, stick them in the little plastic cup, and wire the thing with a an adapter. All while his not-that-interested girlfriend watched in non-amazement. (When I asked M to proofread that last sentence, he said "Hm, I remember - but I had to bring the voltage down too...." what a geek!)
And these receipts - they're from two different times we went to Wal-mart; the first time M cooked for me at my apartment and the first time he said he loved me. Sounds so normal, but the memories behind THESE are so desi-fied.
The cooking one: M had come to my apartment to cook something for me, and he decided we needed to go to get some fresh ginger. When we got to the cash register, the terrible woman behind the counter didn't know what it was. She asked M what it was, and he told her it was ginger. She didn't even bother to ask him to repeat it, she just looked at ME with this vapid stare and said "I can't understand him. What he just say?" It was terrible. M was so. pissed. off.
The I love you one: Long story short - we were in Wal-mart talking about a friend of M's who had recently very publicly vented his disapproval with M's new relationship with the white girl, and I made a remark about that guy that M thought was funny and as he laughed, he sort of absentmindedly said "that's why I love you." Imagine your first "I love you" coming from a conversation about how someone was talking about how you're not good enough for their friend? He didn't even realize he'd said it - then or later. In fact, he doesn't count that as the first time he said I love you.
Even THAT story is desi-fied, too. The first time HE thinks he said "I love you" to me was on our way to a function on New Year's Eve 2003. On the drive there, he'd asked if I wanted to practice some of my Urdu. He even goaded me into it when I said I didn't really want to. On the way we practiced a lot of new words including "I like this" and "I love vegetables" and "I remember you" - all the vocabulary I would need later when he would rearrange them to say "Mujhay tum se pyar hay" - I love you - at midnight. He also wrote me the same thing in a note when I left for college a few days later.
(Even all these postcards are signed "Tumhara M" - Your M.)
It's nice to look through these old things and think about how far we've come. It's nice to be on the other side. Wondering if learning Urdu would ever be useful, whether M would ever truly my "Tumhara M" to me - those days had their own charm, but it's nice to know he really is. My Urdu is useful, even if I'm still not fluent, I have plenty of intact bangle bracelets these days, and M's accent has reduced enough that cashiers don't look to me to translate for him. He even buys heart-shaped candies in February.
Hey look! I even found that Curious George book!