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The Cat Rug

I wanted to hide it in the garage. But my husband was latch-hooked to it.

My husband and I have different tastes in home decorating. I think there should be a master plan, a style, a theme that harmonizes the individual pieces. His philosophy: "If I like two things, then they go together."

My greatest surprise when we bought our first house was that he'd even have an opinion about home décor. I thought I'd decorate and he'd say, "That's fine, Honey." I should have known better. I should have realized that the art of decorating, as with everything in marriage, involves the art of compromise.

My wake up call was the "cat rug." I'm not talking about a rug where the cat sleeps. This monstrosity is a large latch-hook rug that prominently features a Siamese cat. It showed up in the hallway of our first home shortly after we moved in. The cat rug came to be a sort of shibboleth between his people and my people. You either "got" the cat rug or you didn't. I and my people didn't.

In my defense, my only prior encounter with latch hook was when my sister was given a latch-hook project as a form of occupational therapy during an extended stay in a psychiatric hospital.

My husband's family, on the other hand, is a bastion of latch-hook tradition. His beloved grandmother held a black belt in latch hook. She single-handedly created enough latch-hook pieces for every member in the extended family. Her influence moved other family members to dabble in latch hook too. In fact, my husband's first latch-hook rug graces the floor of our daughter's room. And now my sweet, but naïve daughter is sitting at her dad's feet with her very own latch hook.

Also in my defense, growing up I never had a cat long enough to grow attached. The few animals we had in our home either ran away or threw themselves in front of moving cars (except for the turtles, who threw themselves under Dad's lawn mower).

My husband's family had a Siamese cat for nearly 18 years. I sense the cat's importance in the fact that she is the subject of more home movie footage than some of the children.

Not long after we settled into our new home, some of my college friends came for a visit. The first item on the agenda was a tour of the house. "What's with the cat rug?" one of them asked, with all the tact of a really close friend. I tried to explain my in-laws' latch-hooking tradition and their beloved Siamese cat. "But why do you have to have it in your hall?" she asked.

Obviously she wasn't married yet.

After the walk down the aisle, I was faced with a crucial choice: to accept lovingly all aspects of my spouse's personality in the "front room" of my life, or to shove parts of him into the "garage." His hand-me-downs, his hobbies, and his habits are all part of the deal.

For me, love means having a cat rug on the floor, even if I don't see how it fits the overall decorating scheme. Love means an antique Spanish sword on the wall, a dartboard in the family room, and a bookcase dedicated to baseball card storage. For my husband, love means living with a flowered bedspread, enough scrapbooks to document the history of the world, and an abundance of fake ivy scattered around the house.

Not everything in our house matches. Not everything is neat and tidy. None of our rooms would make the pages of a magazine. But they are filled with the give and take of more than a decade of shared living, with memories we've built together.

They're also a daily reminder that marriage is not about me. The things in my home that are more my husband's taste than mine are small, tangible reminders of the surrender that love requires. And it's often the small things that are hardest to surrender. I can easily promise my faithfulness until death do us part, but I'm not so eager to agree on the thermostat setting and the direction the toilet paper should be rolled. I'll love him and cherish him, but I'd rather not give him input on paint colors.

It's no surprise that Christ compares our relationship with him to a marriage. Learning to let go of the little things out of love for my husband is good practice in letting go of every little piece of my life to God. I may wince at some of the things God chooses for us, or pout about giving up something, but in the end, love means surrender.

I'll admit I'm still tempted to shove a few things into the garage. Instead, I flex those surrender muscles and remember to be grateful for all the parts of me my husband lovingly keeps in his front room.

Beth Ortstadt is a freelance writer who lives in Kansas.

Read more articles that highlight writing by Christian women at ChristianityToday.com/Women

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Compromise; Home; Marriage
Today's Christian Woman, Spring, 2006
Posted September 12, 2008

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