Finding comfort in a bowl of ice cream
by Chelsea Boes
Posted on Thursday, April 9, 2015, at 2:16 pm
I’ll never forget the time my mother came to visit me in college, stayed for a few days, then decided to leave because she missed my father too much. “I’ve gotten to that point in marriage,” she said, “where I just don’t like being away from him.”
Last week, my husband Jonathan went to Utah for six days—the longest we had been apart since getting married. I knew I was self-medicating when the night before he left I bought myself a pint of Ben and Jerry’s, a bottle of nail polish, and a bouquet of coral-colored carnations. Sometimes when an onslaught of isolation approaches, you have to act kindly to yourself in advance.
When Jonathan and I part ways, I moan to people about his absence. They often reply, as though it explained my surplus affection for my husband: “Ah. It is still the first year of your marriage.” Every time I hear that, I teeter on the edge of believing that with each passing year my interest in our togetherness will inevitably decline. But then I think of my mother, who has somehow managed to grow not disinterested but steadily fonder of the blue-eyed youth she married almost 30 years ago.
Two days after Jonathan left, Mom sailed down the highway toward me, knowing that this spare April week might be the last we spend together before the next season of life overtakes. We spent our days spring cleaning, rearranging furniture, and eliminating old clothes. When she left again, I had my first night of true loneliness. I felt as though I was again living through a long-distance engagement—a flashy season, but acutely uncomfortable because you don’t get to be with the person you love.
I have known only a few people in my life who genuinely understand how to be kind to themselves without guilt. One was one of my college professors, who told us, “God can comfort you through a bowl of ice cream.” Another was a roommate in college, who would defer toppling academic tasks every Sunday so that she could have a cup of tea in fine china and write Scripture verses longhand on perfect stationary. Another is my mother, who feels free to go home to my dad whenever she—or he—gets lonely.
On Tuesday morning I got up at 5 a.m. to pick Jonathan up from the airport. I am legitimately terrified of driving in Loudoun County, Va., where we live. Accustomed to country roads, I fill with dread as I contemplate the five or six lanes that take us from place to place. And at 5 a.m., the route toward Washington, D.C., is packed with the streaming headlights of people who rise before the sun to race their way to the nation’s capital. But I had been kind to myself all week—painting my nails, smelling my flowers, and eating my ice cream. Now it was time to be brave—for to everything there is a season. I raced along the rainy highway to get the guy I love, and who I plan to love even more 30 years from now.