When David promised me "with all my worldly goods I thee endow," an honest-to-goodness titter passed through the crowd at our wedding. People had seen his car—an ancient, rust-encrusted Buick he bought for $50—and most of our friends knew he was a grad student with the usual burden of student loans to repay.
It's no wonder then that our first apartment was in a neighborhood apparently designed to panic our mothers. Wrought-iron bars on the windows, doors with double deadbolts. We got used to the nightly thump-wump-thump of the police helicopter patrolling over our building after dark. When my sister came to visit, she saw a woman lose her purse to a young hoodlum just down the street. Another friend told me someone regularly sold drugs just a few doors from our concrete front steps.
It was that kind of neighborhood.
But the rent was cheap and the apartment was, well, furnished: a battered red couch, greasy kitchen cabinets, rotting curtains, wobbly dining room chairs and a bed that swayed and mattress that bumped in odd places (I layered it with old linens and a good mattress cover, not wanting any indirect contact with the numerous sleepers of the past).
Judging by our contentment and thankfulness, it could have been a palace. And it was during those first couple of years of marriage that I discovered one of the things I like most about David—and one of the things that binds us most tightly together—a spirit of thankfulness.
While together in our first home, we started paying down school loans. We covered David's current school costs without taking on further debt; he worked various odd jobs between classes and I had the dubious honor of being in charge of the sock wall at Dillards. Not only did we survive; we were happy as clams. David cheerfully stuck pieces of cardboard into his shoes to protect his socks (the soles had worn through in places); we gave up pop and juice and drank only water; and we never set foot in a restaurant—not even a McDonald's—until our first anniversary.1