By Hannah Grieco
The green metal lime press was a luxurious wedding gift from my husband’s best man. I had never heard of such a thing before scrolling through the registry options. But I loved to bake and my fiancé’s favorite dessert was key lime pie. I’d create marital bliss in pastry form, a foundation of our relationship in the balance of sweet and sour.
And bliss I made. We’d sit together in the evening after dinner and drink decaf from our French press, like real adults it seemed, and I’d wait for him take the first bite. Would he close his eyes and slowly lower his fork down to the plate? Would he savor it, noticing the specks of thinly-grated peel? Would he love it?
He always loved it.
I pulled out the press every two to three months, spending a Saturday afternoon on the task. A tangible, digestible act of love. But by our second year of marriage, I was pregnant and no longer making homemade crusts. By our third year, a birthday pie was all I could muster, and that accompanied by grumbling about sleep deprivation and his forgetting to buy me a Mother’s Day gift.
Our marriage settled into a non-luxurious space: we loved each other, but I was too tired to spend my afternoon delicately crimping edges and juicing limes.
I put away the lime press and packed it along with us through multiple moves, where it stayed boxed through three years of traveling. We didn’t talk about pie as we had a second child and I became pregnant with a third. Who had the hands for baking, other than the occasional rushed box of cupcake mix for a birthday or preschool bake sale?
What I had was an enormous baby belly, a three-year-old daughter clinging to my leg, and a five-year-old son who wouldn’t sleep, who cried all the time. Who had undiagnosed autism, and whose panic and confusion hung on my heart every second of the day, bearing down until my own fear threatened to join his and overwhelm me.
By the time our youngest daughter arrived, my husband and I had long forgotten about the press. Our every interaction served as damage control and survival. Day after day was comprised of meetings with teachers and appointments with doctors, of battles with and for our son. Our married life was no longer comfortable or normal. Our lovemaking was furtive and exhausted. There was no indulgence, no whispered promises of sweet dessert.
After our fifth move, this time into my parents’ home to ease the financial strain of our extensive medical bills, I found an unlabeled box. I opened it and pulled out mementos of our marriage in earlier days. Silly wedding gifts we no longer made space for: an etched-glass vase, a framed photo from our rehearsal dinner. At the bottom, wrapped in newspaper, the lime press.
I opened and shut the handles, the metal hinge still smooth and silent. Then placed it on the counter by the sink, where, that night, my husband noticed it.
“I miss your pie,” he said longingly, then laughed. “That sounds bad.”
A dirty joke, a chase around the kitchen, a tight hug. Our children noticed us having a moment and immediately piled around to hug and yell and demand their moments too.
The next day, my husband brought home a bottle of tequila and a bag of limes.
“On a Tuesday?” I asked.
“On a Tuesday!”
So we had margaritas with dinner, and he smiled at me across the dining room table. We held hands and later tag-teamed the rough bedtime routine with the kids.
Giggling, a little drunk, I walked by and whispered, “You take the screaming five-year-old. I’ll round up the big kids.”
And he twirled me around the hallway, kissing the tip of my nose, whispering back, “Hurry up! I have more limes downstairs.”
The lime press moved into the drawer next to the refrigerator. It stayed quiet, unused, when my husband traveled. But he would text me on the way home from the airport. Did you buy limes?
One night I took out a bottle of lime juice, bought at the grocery store to save time, to make my own drink. My husband was on his laptop in the living room, hours of work ahead.
He walked in the kitchen as I poured and stopped, midstride.
“What are you doing?” He whisked the bottle away. “I’ll always make you a real one.”
I sat and watched him slice, and press, and carefully measure. Making a drink, just for me. Slowly pressing the lime halves so no seeds would get in, every amount just right, the taste just so.
A luxury, a gift, a marriage.
Hannah Grieco is a writer and advocate in Arlington, VA. Her work focuses on families, disability, and mental health.
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