Friday, February 08, 2008

Putting a face to a name

It’s an old story, but always worth retelling: When I was pregnant with Matthew back in 1982-83, for the first part of the pregnancy Ed and I did not know the gender of our baby (before we accidentally discovered it on ultrasound). So we made it a point to choose two viable names, one for each gender, well ahead of time. For a boy, we chose Matthew Ensley (the middle name after my late father), and for a girl, we chose Sarah Elizabeth, to our ears a beautiful name. For a few months, we referred to the baby as “Matthew or Sarah” until the day of that ultrasound, where we learned that we had a Matthew Ensley, and our alternative beautiful name “Sarah Elizabeth” would be confined to the annals of “what might have been” - or so we thought.

Fast forward many years. Matt had grown up to be a mature, witty, intelligent, affectionate young man who was making his way through the university. He had never had a serious girlfriend before. Then one day we heard of a special friend, a young lady who made him laugh a lot, who brought out the best in life, someone he missed when she was not around, and someone who brought that glow to his face when he talked about her. When the relationship turned to love, we knew it was the real thing. Her name, of course, was Sarah Elizabeth, and she and Matt were married in 2005.

We had always hoped that our children would make good choices in their lives, and finding a partner is one of those decisions that one hopes for the best. In our case, I am so grateful that both our children married people who bring love and laughter to our lives.

One of the qualities I appreciate in Sarah is her willingness to do just about anything that would be helpful or fun - or just for the experience. As I scroll through my collection of almost 900 photographs in which Sarah appears, I see this attribute frequently. In one picture, she is in Memphis, ready to eat her first Krystal hamburger (she didn’t like it). In another picture, she is trying on all sorts of silly hats. In another picture, she is shoveling dirt, trying to help us “create” our new yard. In another one, she is helping with our wood pile. In another, she is carrying boxes in the cold rain while we moved from our Victorian house to the storage unit, then out of the storage unit to the new house. I even have a picture of her giggling as she tried out the bathtub in a model home (fully clothed, of course!). I have countless pictures of her interacting intently with Caroline and Charlotte. When I had to go to the photographer’s studio for my magazine photographs, it was Sarah who agreed to keep me company during what turned out to be (and I'm sure she would agree) an extraordinarily unusual afternoon.

She is artistic, too. She taught herself to quilt. She does scrapbooking. She makes a remarkably intricate gingerbread house for Caroline and Charlotte every Christmas. She bakes delicious cookies and muffins and other yummy things.

She is generous with her time and talents, and puts great thought into giving gifts. As one example, my dad was a philatelist. We still have his stamp collection many years after his death, but, alas, no one in the family has shown a real interest in continuing with it. When Matt was younger, my mom would send him a handful of loose stamps from the collection, trying to gently nudge his interest, and, surprisingly, Matt actually kept up with them. A couple of years ago, Sarah took those stamps and made a collage for me, which she framed. Now they’re out of a drawer and on my wall, and every time I see them, I think of Daddy. Likewise, when my sister scanned a bunch of old family slides of us when we were little and sent them via e-mail, I forwarded them to the kids. Sarah quietly kept them for over a year. She presented them to me this past Christmas in a gorgeous scrapbook filled with decorations and poems and such. When Ed wanted a stupid sign for our new yard, Sarah didn’t blink an eye - she made it just like he wanted it - to say “Beyond this point, there be dragons and grumpy old trolls.”

Finally, and most importantly, she takes care of our Matthew, being a supportive, encouraging, loving wife. She tolerates his obsessions with his latest technology and pet projects and she tries to get him to eat his vegetables. She even graciously puts up with Ed (for that alone, she gets a gold star, don’t you think?).

Today is Sarah’s 25th birthday. I am so grateful that she has come into Matt’s life, and with that, into our lives. We’ve only known her now for a few years, but, after all, Sarah Elizabeth has in essence been in this family for over 25 years. Happy birthday, sweet Sarah - with many more to come! We love you!


Cuidado said...

If I'm not mistaken, she has your smile. It's said boys often choose women like their mothers.

Anonymous said...

What a lovely entry. I surf past here very occasionally, often find something I enjoy, but this might be my favorite entry yet. It's just beautiful. :)