I began dating David as a 20 year old who had never aspired to marriage or parenthood. A few weeks into our relationship I asked David what he wanted to accomplish before the end of his life. He said he wanted to have a family and to become a father, and I was bemused because I didn't see the value in either.
David graduated college a year before me and began looking for work during the recession, crowding into job fairs at which he and other new graduates competed against men and women our parents' age for the same entry-level positions. He was determined to find work, marry me, and build a home for our family. I would see him at the end of most days having come from interviews and networking events, wearing one of his few suits in constant rotation, exhausted but already focused on the next day's search. I knew he preferred to be in social impact or arts-related industries, so it moved me when he pursued any opportunity for work - tech sales, administration, food service, education - for the sake of our future together.
The day after we set a wedding date, one of David's interviewers contacted him with an offer to teach sixth grade on the condition that he immediately enroll in a credentialing program. He agreed, and in the months leading up to our wedding began working 11 hour days, five days a week, with Saturdays set aside for grading and lesson preparation. He used the money to do what he called "preparing our nest," filling his studio with things he thought I would like. I remember visiting him and being presented with a tiny hair dryer, which he proudly set in his medicine cabinet. He said now, when I came to stay with him, I would be able to dry my hair.
David looked towards marriage and parenthood with joy. Before meeting him, I had imagined both as inevitabilities I would dread but eventually succumb to, as familial expectations and the fear of being alone wore down my determination to say "no." David's imagination was different from mine. He spoke of family as something winsome, and I was drawn towards the kind of relationships he envisioned because they seemed beautiful, and worth the sacrifice they would demand. I felt as if he had been somewhere I had never gone, and having listened to him describe it, I wanted to go too.
David and I are in our sixth year of marriage. We are expecting our first child in 10 days. I think about my 20 year old self and how my current position would terrify her, and I struggle to explain how things that were once so repulsive to me became sources of deep and abiding joy. Here is one piece of the puzzle: I think that in approaching family with a sense of wonder and awe, David taught me to treasure something I was ready to discard. Value has to be learned, and David was one of the people to tutor me.
Originally shared on Facebook on March 7. Photo credit to my sister, Yising