Except for the circumstances, it was a thoughtful present — a reproduction antique washstand I might have used in my old-fashioned Western-themed bedroom. But three years ago, it was a dissonant gift from my soon-to-be ex, who already had one foot out the door.
What I wanted — from each of us — was something less material and more substantial: tenderness, engagement, a faith in our possibilities that allowed for difficulty. What I got in the end was a big white basin and pitcher which — this will not surprise you — has haunted a dark corner of my basement ever since, an artifact of love that wasn’t.
Until two days ago.
The young man who called after seeing the washstand for sale on Craigslist was trim, handsome, personable. He took the pitcher in careful hands and studied its smooth contours; he gauged the diameter and depth of the basin. He looked pleased; it would do nicely, he said, though he didn’t really need the wooden stand.
“What are you going to use it for?” I asked.
“I’m getting married Friday,” he said, his dark eyes sparkling above a shy smile. “I’m going to use it to wash my wife’s feet.”
Yep, that’s what he said: I’m going to use it to wash my wife’s feet.
Of course, I hugged him at that, and — no longer caring a whit about the price I’d set — asked if he’d accept the washstand as a wedding gift. Which he did, graciously, and we chatted amiably as I helped him take it to his car. He is a mechanical engineer, his bride a nurse. They’ve been together three years, though they aren’t long out of college; they moved to my town just a month ago.
And here they stand, on the cusp of their shared life, this brilliant, auspicious beginning full of possibility and promise. Anything might happen as the years unfold. But for now, this: the tender love of a young groom who is planning to wash his new wife’s feet.
He opened his arms for one more hug before he drove away, though he remains with me; they both remain with me. Some mysterious rectification had occurred, some soft reckoning. The emptiness in the gift given me had been redeemed in the giving to them, restored to meaning — which is to say, to love. And as they wed today, my heart could not be gladder if the union were my own.
How about that?
Life: Sometimes you just want to hug it. Or — better yet — wash its dancing feet.