Last year was weird.
You saw the weirdness take shape in the form of germs and unflattering headgear and that time everyone was really enthusiastic about toilet paper, and all those insulting signs that assumed none of us knew the most basic principles of hygiene.
I, on the other hand, came face to face with the strangeness of 2020 in an entirely new and unpleasant way.
That be Anna.
In a wedding dress.
Yes, my friends, ’tis true. Anna betrayed the name of Baran. She forsook our sisterhood and the kinship of blood and traded away the awesomeness of our family for some guy.
A bearded guy, no less.
*splutters* The nerve.
Of course, there are upsides to this. The most prominent being I got all the hangers in her closet. And her stuffed Baymax, which she forgot to take with her.
(Did she “forget” because she’d actually lost it? Maybe.)
(Did she “lose it” because it was hidden in my closet?)
(We may never know.)
How did this happen, you ask? Who is this random bearded interloper, and how did he succeed in stealing the oldest of the Baran siblings? Friends, allow me to introduce my arch-nemesis, Jesse.
What a guy.
We met Jesse’s family many years ago when I was only a young sapling (five years old, to be precise – Anna was nine, and he was thirteen) and while it would be poetic to say they were destined to be together from the moment they laid eyes on each other, Jesse was too busy blowing up cameras to notice Anna, who likewise was so thoroughly stuck in the alter-reality of her horse-infested brain that she didn’t recognize him as human for at least ten years.
(Hint: They eventually recognized each other as humans. That’s when the mutual pining began. And the relationship. And I became a sidekick in the romance genre.)
If you want a crash-course through the multiple facets of Jesse’s personality, the best place to start is a trip we took him on earlier last year. First, he showed me how to access the hotel room’s plumbing so we could turn the hot water off in Anna’s shower.
Then he dragged us on a mile long hike through Tattouine-sized dunes, ignoring the actual trail and blazing a path up the largest dune he could find. All of this in below freezing weather with 30 mph wind gusts.
Then, on the way home, he made a sharp u-turn on a backwoods road so he could spend twenty minutes helping a random stranger whose car had slid off the road and gotten stuck in a snow drift.
And we finished it off with pizza.
All in all, he’s a pretty great guy, and and one of the few human specimens who manages to keep up with my family’s weirdness, if not surpassing us at times. (As I’ve told my family repeatedly, “Jesse is more ‘one of us’ than we’re ‘one of us.’”) Anna and him fit together perfectly – which is to say, they rarely (if ever) do things the normal way.
Case in point.
This shared trait of theirs became abundantly apparent when, only a few months into their relationship, c*vid struck and the world turned upside down. Stores closed. Politicians schemed. People locked themselves in their closets and shook in terror. Canada closed their borders.
Did I mention Jesse is Canadian?
Yeah. That went over well.
“I will never – I repeat, NEVER – have a long-distance relationship,” said a young, naive Anna several years ago.
I’m pleased to announce she changed her mind.
For six months, they conducted a romance worthy of an overly-long Jane Austen sap-fest, with mutual pining and interminably long telephone conversations and gag-worthy goodnight texts.
(This is, in fact, not true at all. Anna is not a sappy person. And she certainly wouldn’t survive in a romance novel, seeing as the best pet name she could think of for him was “Mi Hamburguesa,” which is Spanish for, well, guess.)
The cheesiest thing they did was drive all the way to the Michigan/Ontario border so they could stand on opposite shores and wave at each other as they talked on the phone.
We got dragged into this as well.
I think mom was cold.
Jesse also had an uncanny habit of calling her every time we were just settling down to watch a film, which resulted in a two-hour detour from our original plan as Anna wandered off to the wasteland of her bedroom and we, “the angry peasants” (as she affectionately dubbed us) gnashed our teeth outside her door and threatened to watch Lord of the Rings without her. (Weaklings that we are, we never did.)
After months of the telephone courtship, at long last a loop-hole opened: Canada decided that their citizens could fly to America and back. Americans weren’t allowed to fly to Canada, but Canadians could fly to America. Because I’m sure to someone, somewhere, at some point, that made total sense.
So back he came like a bastion of knightly heroism, and prompted me to write this journal entry:
What larks, I say. What larks.
The week was spent in great anticipation of a proposal, which we were all 97% sure would happen but nobody wanted to admit that we were 97% sure it would happen in the rare off-chance the remaining 3% possibility became 100% reality. (Don’t think about that sentence too hard. It’s not worth it.) Time dragged on, and my INTJ senses were continually offended by how uncomfortable and awkward it is to be a third-wheel. Like, here we are at the Henry Ford museum, but was Anna goofing off with me, like she normally would? Was she making snide remarks about tractors and taking unflattering pictures and saying strange things??
There she is.
The bond of our sisterhood was forsaken. The memory of joys past forgotten. I was spurned.
Naturally, I made up for it in subtle ways over the course of the week.
Very subtle ways.
(Who am I kidding. I’d been making up for it in subtle ways the entire year, let alone that week.)
(Case in point.)
So the week passed, and the day of Jesse’s departure came – still without a proposal. We started getting stressed. Half an hour before we had to take the guy back to the airport, he and Anna were still toodling around her garden, with no knees gotten on and no rings proffered.
(Not that I was watching them through the back laundry room window.)
(Oh no. I definitely wasn’t doing that.)
(Anna, why are you holding a chicken??)
(Is that… is she picking zucchini?)
They moved out of sight, so I migrated to a different window. And— did she somehow acquire a piece of our compost bin??
Yes. She had, in fact, burdened herself with zucchini and a broken piece of the compost bin.
As the story goes, they sat down on a very nice, very romantic rock, and were immediately bombarded by all the random stray cats hanging around our house. Jesse valiantly fended them off, and then proceeded to step directly on a red ant hill. Shrugging off this mild discomfort, he got up to propose, but Anna, thinking they were retreating from the ants, got up with him.
“Anna,” said the poor, long-suffering man, “sit down.”
So she did.
Zucchini, compost bin, cats and all.
And the rest is history.
Part 2 coming soon.