Back in 2011, my sister, her boyfriend and I had been backpacking around Europe. We had made it to Dublin and on our first day we decided to stop in at one of the local grundgy looking pubs around town for a pint because, well obviously we were tourists, and that just sort of the thing you do when you’re in Ireland. One in particular that we came across, looked like a hidden gem near an alley, as cliché and amazing as an Irish pub can get. Thinking it was 3pm on a Tuesday and we could have a drink in peace while looking over our maps and internet connections we decided to try it out. We heaved the creaky door open only to find the entire darkened pub was filled to the brim with every single bearded, cap wearing man in Dublin, all of which, were not quite expecting nor liking the door being slung open revealing every crack and hangover in the old bar into the afternoon sunlight.
We stood in the doorway for what felt like an eternity, backlit with a delicious sunny day and the glares of every Irishman in the pub cast upon us. Have you ever walked into a room where people were obviously just talking a magnificent amount of shit about you seconds prior? Well, I am positive someway, somehow, even never have meeting us before, those Irishmen had just been talking shit about the three of us. The oh, so clearly, American tourists with our torso sized backpacks and sightseeing maps frozen open in my hands. Maybe just add to the imagery the facial distortions of that of a gaggle of high school girls when someone farts in a crowded room…and that’s maybe the best way to describe the glances we were getting from the doorway. My sister and I froze, apparently thinking the best solution was to just stare back at them. But eventually, and miraculously, my now brother in law had the wonderful idea of shutting the door again, taking us out of that deer in the headlights conundrum. It was a very simple move, something that my sister and I would’ve done… eventually, promise.
Ryan has always had the refreshing sense of survival not always found in our Matthews’ family. Our family tends to sometimes just freeze and maybe laugh awkwardly in anxiety ridden situations. An essential move I still utilize to this day.
Smile, nod, fake laugh.
It’s a Kendall Classic.
Let’s take my Grandparents house for instance. It’s pristine. It looks and feels the exact same today as it did when I was a kid. The furniture, the carpet, everything. If there is at all any consistency in life, it is I know, in my heart of hearts, that when I enter my grandparents house and take a right into the living room there will be those tiny little Swedish figurines in the exact same stance and order as they were when I was 8 years old and salivating over the thought of playing with them.
In this house there was this candle, see. To my sister and myself as little girls, it was the most beautiful candle in the world. It had delicately, thin twisted ribbons of wax that cascaded down the sides of it in all sorts of shades of blue and green. I mean this was a fucking magic fairy style candle and it stood, never lit and totally untouched, in the center of my Grandmother’s coffee table.
I think my sister and I stared at it growing up over a million times. Because a pretty candle is just the place your eyes go to as a child when adults are talking boring things, and quite honestly even when you’re one of the adults talking the boring things. Every lull in the conversation or that moment of silence that fills a room before the next topic is brought up, our eyes would land on that candle. My sister, brother, our cousins and I might exchange some sort of one sided I wonder how they make a candle like that shrug type questions and things would move on.
Years later, when we were all teenagers, Valerie brought her then boyfriend Ryan to our Grandparents house for the first time. I remember sitting in the living room, and after the appropriate amount of small talk, the adults ventured into the other room, talking politics or taxes or retirement or honestly I wasn’t listening so I have no clue, but that’s what adults talk about right? After the momentary silence broke over the room as they left, all of us ‘kids’ just sat there, eyes, like always, going straight to that candle.
I made a comment, like all the comments, “I wonder how they put all those different colors in one candle”
My sister shrugged her shoulders. My brother made a “I don’t know” noise.
Then all the sudden, Ryan reaches over the table, hand outreached and picks up the candle.
I think I froze mid-yawn. My eyes were as round as orbes, staring at the poor unknowing Ryan, who didn’t know you can’t just go around touching consistent Grandparent candles that always stay put. You’re touching the fairy magic perfect never even lit candle that we’ve never seen anyone touch?
I glanced at Valerie who was looking toward Ryan like he just lifted our actual Grandmother up and basketball spinned her around the living room. My always laid back brother was looking at him and then the candle like he just touched the holy grail. Pretty sure my cousins were staring at my sister like she brought an alien into the household.
The universe was an inch away from splitting, y’all.
He was inspecting the bottom of it to showing all the layers of color underneath “yea, looks like they just layer it one color at a time.”
So casual for just unraveling the dynamic of our granparents house, bro.
All our lives we’ve all been staring at that perfect ass candle and making comments about how it’s made and not one of us ever thought to just pick the damn thing up and look at it. It was kinda a revolutionary moment, guys. Obviously, we had a very difficult and trying childhood.
But that’s always been Ryan. He’s not a talker, he’s a doer. He figures stuff out. If he wants to know how something works, he just ups and goes and finds out how. He doesn’t just talk and shrug about it. He’s a hands on the candle, type o’ guy. Figure it out.
I think it’s been a good influence on our brand of Matthews’ ‘maybe tomorrow’ attitude we used to have as kids. Especially towards my sister, who ten years later and two Bolster kids down, I swear she’s gone from our classic childhood Matthews’ signature of nervous laughter in the face of awkward to a kind of Mega Mom Chief. No more, staring at the candle kind of talk for that one.
She just handles things now.
I once walked in on her with dinner on the stove, laundry going, vacuuming the living room, all while on hold with the phone company, and whislt her young smiling baby was stradling her leg, happy as a fresh clam. Probably out of sheer amazement of all the things her momma could do at once, cause honestly, for me, just the vacuuming part is like a whole weeks worth of effort. To be honest, I don’t even know where my roommate keeps the vacuum in the apartment. I don’t even have an apartment as of right now, I sleep on a couch, and in hotels while traveling for a living… That should give you a small clue to the last time I accomplished that task right there.
I think that’s why people are brought into our lives though. To show us a different way, maybe a better way, of going about things. I’m not saying we wouldn’t have ever picked up that candle and learned for ourselves how it was made. I think we would have, eventually. And I definitely believe Valerie would’ve been a badass mother either way. Something in her DNA that just clicks with her as a Mom, whereas maybe I got crooked teeth and reddish hair. To be an optimist though, I do like my hair.
But that little bit of candle pickin sass did influence, and as I didn’t know my brother in law before he was with my sister, but I’m hella sure she’s influenced the butt off him in a thousand different ways only he knows.
Those seem to be the best types of relationships, the ones that help you grow and morph into even better Supernova awesome stars of people you already are.
Those are the types of relationships I see and just go, woah.
Ya just have this wonderful feeling that they are constantly becoming better people for being around each other, the both of them, equally. And that’s always just plain inspiring for humanity, I think.
Back in Ireland, as soon Ryan had tightly sealed the pub again from the monstrosity of the outside world, all the Irishman, beard to beard in solidarity, raised their glass and actually cheered. Valerie and I had gone from frozen messes of awkward to gulping our Guinness’s happily. Relieved that they all seemed to only hate the daylight and not American tourists.
Thanks for the smooth door move, Ryan.
Even if we’re not realizing what we’re learning from others, we constantly are. Even if it’s those minuscule moments of action so small we don’t even realize it.
So pick up the damn candle, folks.