Thursday Thoughts: What Capsized My Heart


james-river-richmond-va-sean-cupp

When I was a freshman in college, I joined the crew team. This stumps me. There were many reasons why I shouldn’t have joined the team: first, I was terrified that my legs would bulk up like the awesome rowers in the Olympics. When an athlete is more concerned about her appearance than her ability, she tends to put a damper on the purity of the sport. Also, I hated the monotony of the gym’s rowing machine that we had to visit regularly. The only thing I did appreciate about it was the nice, zephyr-like breeze that blew from the front wheel. To top it all off, I couldn’t seem to position my oar properly and was always caught off guard by a nasty snag in the water that caused a muddy surprise to splash up into our faces. I hated that. As did my boat mates, who typically got the worst of it.

As I reflect on it, there were two reasons I signed up for the team: first, because rowers tend to be genuine folks and I thoroughly enjoyed the friendships. Secondly, because the coach was cute (of course!). So there I was, waking up at four-thirty in the morning to drive down to our boathouse that happened to sit aside the stinkiest stretch of the stinkiest river on the East coast: the James. We slipped our boat into the river right after it had run through the roughest part of the city – right after the mile-stretch where folks dumped in all of their cigarettes, Mountain Dew bottles, and broken appliances. One time, my oar bumped a dead body that was floating by. Of course, that could have just been in my imagination, but it was a definite possibility.  Despite the imagined-corpses, the “is that poop?!”, and the broken refrigerators, some mornings were slightly magical – enough to make me feel like I was doing something poetic, something Hemingway-ian.  Even the James River has a beauty of its own when the lights are low enough.  That must be why the coach scheduled practice before dawn.

One weekend, we travelled to a regatta in Pennsylvania and stayed with a boat mate’s family who lived close to the river. Bridgette’s family had a house big enough for 30 sleeping bags, so there we crashed. Her parents fed us like kings and queens, and we had a marvelous time together. Of course, I have no memory of the race itself – whether we won or lost. So let’s just say we won. What I do remember was how Bridgette’s mother wrapped her arms around her husband and called him “Beloved”. The whole weekend! When she needed help getting the waffles off of the waffle iron, it was “Beloved, would you mind flipping that Belgian for me?” When she wondered what he thought of our probably-amazing race, she asked, “What did you think of that victory, Beloved?” Or when he was just sitting with his coffee mug, looking out the window, she’d wrap her arms around his chest and murmur, “Whatcha thinking about, Beloved?” He was a fifty year-old man – more gray than not – with crowfeet wrinkles, a shy smile, and a uniform of working-man denim. Yet, he was Beloved. Each time she called him “Beloved,” something in me snagged like a lopsided oar in a quickly moving current. It capsized my heart and I remember it all these years later.

Here’s why: in calling him “Beloved,” that man’s wife secured his spot as the most important, sweetest, dearest person in their home. As college girls, we were accustomed to being the main attraction. Everyone watches college girls: they’re so pretty, so young, and have all the potential in the world. In any other home, we would have been the highlight. But in this home, “Beloved” was. Not only that, in any other home, we would have subconsciously thought that all of the males were swooning over us. And we would have pitied the husband who was now stuck with a fifty year-old wife with gray hair and crowfeet wrinkles. But, this woman put an end to all of that egotistical nonsense. There was no mistaking: she was the Lover, he was Beloved. We were the lucky ones who could watch and learn.

 Enjoy your home,

About Laura

We are one little family and we're on a mission: we want to discover our hometown and share the treasures with you! Just think of all the tractor-pulls, restaurants, farm stands, mom-and-pop shops, and local attractions that we'll enjoy together. We hope that our discoveries and ideas strengthen your family and our hometown Penns Valley, Pennsylvania.
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8 Responses to Thursday Thoughts: What Capsized My Heart

  1. Erin H. says:

    What a beautifully written post, Laura, and a great way for me to begin my morning. Thank you.
    -e
    (I always wanted to join/be a part of a crew team, but there isn’t one – or, wasn’t one – at Penn State when I was there. Where did you go to school?)

    • Laura says:

      Thanks, Erin. I went to The (beautiful) University of Richmond. (I didn’t know you were interested in rowing! If you ever have a hunkering for some oars, come paddle around on our pond! Ryan just bought an old green row boat.)

      • Erin H. says:

        I always kinda liked the rowing machine when I was a part of a gym that had one. I also like treadmills, so go figure. I was probably a pet gerbil in a past life, with one of those wheels.

  2. Sarah M says:

    Laura, thanks for a great reminder. Having a grumpy, not-enough-coffee kind of morning and forgot to make sure my hubby knew he was “beloved” in our home… Need a sticky note on the coffee pot to remind me!

    • Laura says:

      You’re refreshing, Sarah. These days, I find myself writing reminder notes about everything… from “Lia doesn’t like peanut butter” to the all-important “be patient with your toddler!” I’m with ya. But they do work wonders and help us to do the things (and be the things) we really want in the first place. I hope you got your extra cup of coffee. 🙂

  3. Linda Eysenbach says:

    How very dear–not only the wonderful “:Beloved” story, but that you appreciated it at such a young age. This is a great wake up call for us all to really cherish not only our spouses, but everyone we come across everyday–even if just in our thought. . When asked why the Bible mentions all those names, someone said it was to acknowledge the fact that EVERYONE is important and precious to God.

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