Be My Blue Valentine

April 1, 2011

I watched my first movie in over a year on my computer while Mishy slept. It was Blue Valentine, which stars Michelle Williams and Ryan Gosling. It made me cry and appreciate my family more. There have been many times as new parents when one of us were so overwhelmed and wanted to leave – to run away – to call it quits. Yet, we made it work. We worked at it and still do. Everyday. It’s not easy becoming parents. It not easy being married. At least it isn’t for me. I used to dream of having a cabin in the woods with a big dog as my companion. That was a dream I had in my early twenties, right before I met my husband.

A few months before meeting him, I visited my grandfather on my father’s side for the last time in Korea. (He passed away soon afterwards.) He told me I had to go to New York and to watch out for the men there. I was deciding whether to move to Vancouver to continue being an actor and playwright where I had friends and a high-powered agent very eager to have me as a client or to go to New York to intern at a small not for profit theatre company. My grandfather told my sisters to talk me into going to New York because I will meet my husband there. My grandfather dabbled in Eastern Astrology. That was how he sought reassurance with his family living in Canada. When I re-connected with him for the first time since our immigration, seventeen years later, he seemed to know things I didn’t have to say to him.

When I met my husband, I knew he liked me. He looked at me shyly and sort of nodded. When he started asking me questions, I felt he was going down a list and checking it off. I fit his criteria. I was from Canada. He’s from Montreal. I was young enough and yet experienced a life he found interesting – I had run away from home, was independent, was a published and produced playwright at theatre companies he wanted to be produced at, and an actor who made a living. He didn’t fit my criteria though because he came off as a nice guy who wanted something serious and I really wanted to have fun and be superficial. I was living in New York! He was also balding. I told you, I was superficial.

On the last day in New York, after I finished my internship, I gave my then friend a present – a shower curtain with many goldfish on it. I left it at the theatre where he was having a musical being performed and didn’t leave a card inside. He knew it was from me because we had walked by a store which highlighted the shower curtain in its window and he remarked how he liked it. When he saw the present, he told me he was really confused because why would a friend give him a present? His director told me, “She loves your ass.” Thinking about it now, I gave him a present because it was me being me. I like giving presents.

When his director said, “She loves your ass,” it emboldened him and when I dropped by the theatre later that night, he was cool to me, which made me start being interested in him. Funny how love works. One month later, we were engaged. Six months after that, we got re-engaged. My husband had asked me the first time to marry him when he thought I was breaking up with him. I was asking him for clarification on our relationship. He panicked and asked me to marry him instead. We agreed to do a do-over or a take two in film speak within six months. I set the limit of six months. Six months to the day, he asked me to marry him again. A year and a half later, we got married. People still talk about the food at our wedding because that was very important to me. Well, it still is. I like good food. We’ve been together for a long time. I used to tell him he took away my youth.

Seven and a half years after we got married, I got pregnant. And Mishy entered our lives. I find it hugely challenging being a wife and mother. I love being a mother. Sometimes I feel, like the character Michelle Williams portrays in the movie, that I am raising two children. I love how my husband is incredibly playful with Mishy. Tonight at dinner, we were eating at a restaurant and Mishy was putting her hands in his ice water. She then put her cold hands on his head. He didn’t like that so he put a piece of ice down her back. He used to do that with his cousins. She didn’t like that and cried and right when she cried, the waitress wanted our order – and my husband ordered while our daughter cried in my arms. On the way home, I asked if we could laugh, just laugh because I need to laugh whenever I get stressed. Laugh and breath. On the car ride home, my husband told our daughter he was playing and asked if he still could put ice down her back and she said not now, maybe when she’s older, but now, she doesn’t like it.

While my marriage is not like the character’s in the movie, I relate to their struggle of being parents and partners and how the early years were filled with so much new tingling kind of love and promise of the future. Now, it’s, well, not comfortable, certainly not comfortable – maybe dependable. I know he’s going to come home. Maybe that’s enough right now. I know he loves us and cares for us and wants us in his life and is willing to work at it. We both are. And we’ll be creating our future together. With our daughter.

We now have a queen sized mattress sitting on our living room floor. It takes up  a lot of space and my daughter can no longer ride her new tricycle around our place with ease. It was our former mattress until my husband’s side grew too lumpy. It then sat beside our bed for over a year. My husband was hoping it would become a place for where my daughter would sleep. No. Now it sits on our living room floor because we’ve had a flow of house guests. We might just kept it there because when it doesn’t serve as a bed, it’s an amazing trampoline and most recently, a wrestling mat. Wrestle Mania has come to our living room!

Every morning and most nights, if anyone comes calling, they will find the whole family – even our cat accidentally sometimes – wrestling on our extra mattress and it isn’t tame. My daughter is pinning us down, using the force of her legs to push us off and throw us onto the floor. My husband is using his full force to get me down while I play dirty and use my nails. He has an almost fifty pound weight advantage. I guess excuses are never a real reason to fight dirty… what if I say I use my nails with his permission and don’t scratch too deeply? Sometimes, I bite too… so does my daughter though her bites tend to be wet and leave absolutely no marks. My bites don’t break any skin, just a slight imprint for a few minutes. Those are my techniques to gain the upper hand from my husband in play.

Fred O. Davidson has an amazing theory of play called Original Play. He also holds workshops around the world. His theory is based on getting back to our animal ways of playing and connecting – to be wolves with each other, and play together which involves our physical nature. When Mishy was younger, we would head near Ocean Park Blvd where the beach meets near our home in Santa Monica. There is a large flat grassy area. Mishy and I would lie there together, then both get on all fours and be wolves together. She would climb on top of me, we would gently wrestle and sway together. She would lead me in how she wanted to play. We would play as animals together. I feel this newfound love of wrestling is a continuation of our physical play – one that invokes a lot of laughter, play, delight, and even tears – tears in line with Hand In Hand’s Playlistening – where through play, children are able to release and work on their fears, feel powerful and test themselves.

I received Hand In Hand’s DVD of Playlistening a few months back after participating in a focus group for them and recently asked my husband to view it. I am so thankful I have a husband who is willing to view these progressive parenting DVDs. The next day of wrestling increased in joy and my husband was giving me pointers on how to play with my daughter – which I found incredibly refreshing.


Original Play

Hand In Hand’s Playlistening: