These are the moments that marriages are made of, the millions of small decisions that we make that shape us as we go through the regular, everyday stuff of life. Such was the case of the suitcase in my living room.
My oldest daughter is about to leave for a year abroad in Israel and my mother gifted us three pieces of luggage, two of which were selected to make the journey to the Holy Land. The third would stay behind and reside in our attic until needed. The two chosen suitcases were moved to my daughter’s bedroom, and the one remaining stood tall and lonely in the middle of our living room.
In my house operates what I lovingly refer to as “the law of infinity.” This means that if something is left in the middle of a room, or on the steps, or in a hallway, it will stay there for infinity unless I personally pick it up (or direct someone to do so). Over the years, in deep and abiding gratitude (seriously) for my happy crew, I bend and lift and collect and arrange and sometimes ask my husband or one of my kids to move the sock, put the Lego in the basket, or the stroller back on the porch. I happily accept this as a privilege of motherhood.
But somehow, the suitcase was needling me. After all, it’s bigger than a sock. My husband was part of the conversation that concluded that this poor suitcase would not have the merit of traveling to Israel (its only crime being that it was eight pounds heavier than the others). So he knew it needed to be taken upstairs. For a few days, it sat in the middle of the living room. Then I moved it to the side, and that’s when the trouble started. It began with my lower self asking me why my husband has not taken it upstairs yet (my lower self did not ask it that nicely). My higher self said, “Oh just take it upstairs yourself. Stop being so silly.” To which some middle part of me said, “Oh leave it, he’ll do it when he gets home.”
“If he loved you, he would know you needed the suitcase moved.” “Oh please, if you loved him, you would not bother with this nonsense.”
That was Wednesday, and by Friday I was arguing with myself again. “But you teach this stuff,” said my higher self. “You know men don’t read minds. Just ask him to do it.” To which my lower self said, “Ha, after 18 years of marriage, he should do a little mind reading.” Higher self: “He is busy working and learning and helping with the kids. He cleans up every Friday night after the meal. He mows the lawn; he balances the check book; he gets up with the baby in the middle of the night.” Lower self: “So what, they are his kids too. You work; you cook.”
Quickly my selves had begun debating the merits of my husband, and thrown us into a competition for meritorious contributions to the household. I could see it going downhill fast.
Lower self: “If he loved you, he would know you needed the suitcase moved.”
Higher self: “Oh please, if you loved him, you would not bother with this nonsense.”
Friday afternoon, just before he came home from work, I moved the suitcase to the bottom of the staircase, where it would clearly block anyone and everyone from using the stairs. Lower self, one. Higher self, zero.
Friday night, the suitcase had been leaned heavily over on its side (not by me) where everyone could (and did) step around it without too much effort.
Comes Shabbos morning. The house is quiet; it’s me and the suitcase. Lunch guests are coming soon.
Lower self: “Can you believe it?”
Higher self: “Please, enough already just take it upstairs yourself.”
Lower self: “Move it to his bed. He’ll probably just sleep on it for six months without even noticing it’s there.”
Higher self: “If you asked him to move it, you know he would. He always does. Then you say thank you, and you get good karma.”
Lower self: “Forget karma, I’ll bet it stays there for another three months.”
Turns out that higher self won in the end. When he came home from shul I asked if he would please take the suitcase upstairs. “Sure,” was the answer I got. And he did. Of course lower self was not to be silenced completely. When he came back down I asked him (nicely), “How come you didn’t take it up sooner?”
“I didn’t notice it.”
Lower self wanted me to retort that he should have noticed. That he should notice me more, appreciate me more, pay me more attention. My lower self can be quite adept at carrying things a bit too far.
Behind him, my eye catches the bright yellow of Calla Lilies (my favorite flowers) that my husband brought home for Shabbos. They are winking at me from the dining room table.
I look back towards the stairs and smile, as much to myself as to my husband and say, “Thank you, honey.”