I have a friend who I met years ago at the school where I'm employed. She's the parent of one of my son's best friends. And then she and I became friends.
Every Christmas, I receive gifts from the children at school, and all the teachers do as well, and every year, my friend Kathy would send in a gift with one of her sons to give to me. And after we became friends ourselves, she added a gift of her own just for me. One year, it was a jar of mustard. "Mustard?" I thought, as I opened the beautifully wrapped present. "Well, that's odd. And ooooo, it's gourmet." And life went on. It wasn't until later when I saw her over the holidays and thanked her for her gift of um, mustard, that I found out why she had given it to me. And she said it was because she was so touched by the story I'd shared with her recently about my husband, and the mustard. I scrunched up my face trying to remember what story she was talking about, and in the recesses of my brain, finally . . . it came back to me. I must have been drinking wine with her one evening, and shared something personal that normally, I would not have done. But we were becoming friends, and ever since then . . . ever since she gave me that mustard, she's been on my list as one of my favorite people. And it wasn't because of the thoughtful condiment, either. It was because she was touched by a story I had told her. And now that I'm not so shy about sharing anymore, I'm telling it here. Besides, I'm all about the stories. I've mentioned before that my husband and I have been together since we were both 19 years old. But, at one point, for reasons that I won't go into here, we separated when the boys were very young. I packed up my things, and the children, and got an apartment and a lawyer (although not in that order). And life was difficult, and I was very poor. We both were, actually. I had a good job as a production manager for a monthly horse publication, but it didn't leave much for things like, well, food. I remember having very little in my frig, and moving it all up to the front to make it look more full. And I used to add water to the orange juice to make it last longer. I had enough to pay the rent, and the day care for the children, and the gas for my car, but grocery shopping was sad. And the court-ordered check I received from my husband helped, but still, it wasn't enough. My husband saw the children every other weekend, and I'm sure they don't remember much about that time. I know my youngest son was excited to be living in a real town, that had sewers as he was hoping to see the Ninja Turtles climb out of one of the manhole covers. My eldest son was in kindergarten at the time, so he probably doesn't remember that much anyway. Like I said, it was for about a year, and things began to get better and we worked things out.
One day, while grocery shopping, I was adding up the dollars and cents I was spending. I had my list and on the list was mustard. And the French's mustard was on sale for 83 cents. But I really really disliked French's mustard (still do). I wanted the Grey Poupon, but it was so much more and I didn't have the extra dollar to spend on it. But oh, how I wanted it. And I was so darn tired of being poor and having to shop this way. And as I stood there in the condiment aisle, it all came crashing down. The children weren't with me at the time, which was a good thing, because I was slowly losing it. I mean, it wasn't just about the mustard. It was about this point I was making, and the respect I deserved, and the great lengths I was going to just to get that. And as I stood there, I quietly began to cry. Luckily, no one was around, but then I felt this hand on my shoulder and a familiar voice asking me, "what's wrong?" And I turned around, and standing there before me was my husband. And now, completely embarrassed, I mumbled something about it being nothing. There was nothing wrong. "No, it's not nothing," he said, "what's really wrong?" And I told him I wanted the nice mustard, and I hate French's. "I know you do," he said. I wiped my eyes, and made to go, but he stopped me again and gave me twenty dollars. And he said, "Here. I want you to get your mustard. And whatever else you need." And he kissed me on the cheek and he left. And as I watched him go, I realized that this was love. And that I still loved him. And then, in a split second, I thought, "Hey, why does he have an extra twenty dollars?" No, I'm kidding.
That day in the grocery store was the turning point, and eventually we got back together. Marriage is tough, and it's tender, and sometimes it's a lot of work. But I'm glad that he's still around. Those who know our situation know exactly what I mean.
And that, my friends, is the mustard story.
I'm still on the road trip, and I had this little story tucked back in my draft files. I'm sure I'm having fun wherever I am and I'll be back soon. Take care, my friends.
Sincerely, Country Girl