Journal Buddies #15 : I Am The One Who …

Ancient history. Image: Wikipedia.



This is the 15th installment in a series of 51 posts inspired by a list of writing prompts from the website Journal Buddies. If you’d like to know more, here’s where I explain what this is and why I’m doing it.


I’m going to take a pause from Babs and tell you about Eric. And virtual reality.

Eric, by the way, is my husband.

Yes, I did get married, as many of you have either figured out, suspected, or been told by a trusted source. Eric and I celebrated our one-year anniversary one week ago.

The story of this occurrence is so lovely, true, and massive, I’ve struggled to write about how it happened, how it’s been, and how it is. I haven’t written about it explicitly until this very moment. I’ve begun many times and stalled, because there have been events in my 40 years life that are hard to write about, not for lack of wanting to write about them, but because writing is hard, but writing well is much, much harder, and when a sublime and massive event arrives, a writer who cares wants to write about that event not just well, but sublimely. She wants to write the story so that the text itself feels as lovely as the experience was, as true as it’s been, and as massive as it continues to be.

This is tall order for her brain and the poor English language, who will quickly wonder how it got into this mess. And, because the writer who cares knows it’s possible to make the English language tell the truth about sublime and massive things — the books on her shelf prove it — it makes it easy to stall. In fact, stalling is the easiest thing to do when a person wants to put into words a sublime, massive situation because the hardest thing to do is to get it right.

I should probably just tell you what happened, event by event. I could just aim for “simple” and forget “sublime”, just build small words, one by one, and let massive take care of itself. I’ll keep at it, I promise. I can’t help but try; there are two true joys in my life and they are writing and Eric. It would be lovely to marry them well.

I cannot believe I’ve shared this news in a post that features an image of a floppy disk of Frogger from 1984.


Okay, let’s talk about this quarantine business because it’s what’s on my mind. Is it on yours? Eric and I began our official, strict, shelter-in-place, safer-at-home experience on Friday, March 13th. That day, we took a Sharpie and wrote on the old, peeling wallpaper in the hallway: “Mary + Eric’s Covid Quarantine 2020” because it was amusing to us, like we were cartoons on a cartoon desert island, carving the days on a coconut tree. And that first week, we dutifully added a hashmark on the wallpaper each day. Perhaps we stopped because it did seem sort of silly, sort of fun, but there’s nothing silly about this.

Incidentally, I’ve always believed that aside from first-responders and ethical journalists, the people that deserve protection and respect in any society are the great standup comedians. That might seem strange to some of you, but the maestros — Dave Chapelle, Chris Rock, George Carlin, Louis C.K., Patton Oswalt, and Michelle Wolf come to mind — witness and artfully tell the truth about human nature. When they do, we’re given access to a measure of relief, since laughing at ourselves is often the only way to get any. But not even the greats can help right now, so who are Eric and I to ironically mark days in the hall? It stopped being amusing so we stopped marking the days and now they all run together.

Anyway, about Frogger. A few months back, Eric purchased a VR headset for his PlayStation. “VR” stands for “Virtual Reality” and that thing looked ridiculous. I married Eric at City Hall four months after we met, and never once, not a single time — even through some real gnarly days in the past year — have I wondered if I made the right decision. I love the man more every day. But I do confess that when this 42-year-old person, this brilliant man, this funny Valentine of mine put that plastic contraption on his head and started swinging these two blinking wands into thin air, I stopped what I was doing and thought, “Well, you knew he was a nerd when you married him, Fons.”

When he handed the VR thing to me, I flatly refused it.

“Absolutely not,” I said. “I’m sure it’s very cool, but I am a serious person. I cannot put a plastic headset on my head and look around at things that do not exist. I support your fun, but I prefer to stay in regular reality, thank you very much.”

Headset or not, I am not a video game person, anyway. The last time I “gamed” was in 6th grade, probably, bored enough on a hot summer day in Iowa to pick up a controller on our old Nintendo. I was pretty sure I’d never “game” again. Pointless!

But because he was so into it and wanted to share the experience with me, he finally wore me down.

“Just for a second,” Eric said. “Just put it on for a second to see what it looks like. There’s a field of bunnies! You can walk around and look at everything! And there’s bunnies!”

I took the headset from him, holding it like a bag of old bananas. I put it on my head. Lo and behold, there was a navigable, digital field of shimmering bunnies that looked so real that I became dizzy and terrified and clawed it off of me.

Then came the pandemic. And around Week 2 of quarantine, after braving the long line at Trader Joe’s and seeing pictures semi trailers full of bodies parked behind New York hospitals, slipping into a different reality started to look attractive.

On top of that, Eric somehow managed to score an Oculus Quest. The Oculus Quest is one of the newest, most advanced VR contraptions on the market and it is a world away from the one he originally purchased (the one with the bunnies.) The Oculus Quest is sold out absolutely everywhere, but he just kept checking the website, I guess, and one day he got lucky. The old VR thing had a cord that had to connect to the TV and those derpy wands; the Oculus Quest is wireless and the derpy wands have been replaced with sleek controllers you hold in both hands. The headset is light and …

Y’all, I spend at least two hours a day on that thing. At least. I love it. I’m obsessed! When I finish this post, I’m going to go into the living room and put it on and play Beat Saber until I’m positively dripping with sweat.

Beat Saber is consistently ranked as the best game made so far in the VR genre. You put on the headset and suddenly you are basically in Tron. It’s not Tron, but it is this digital world — a very beautiful one, with moving set pieces and gradually changing colors and pretty, glowy things far up over your head. And suddenly you have a light saber in each hand — a light saber! — and then the music starts and it’s dancey music that (mostly) isn’t lame, and then these glowing blocks fly at you and you have to hit them before they hit you!

I’m telling you, it really, really feels like you have light sabers, because the VR thing works visually but it’s haptic, too, so when you cross your light sabers over your head, the real-life controllers in your hands actually buzz and give resistance, like you’re crossing the streams of two light sabers! I don’t know what that would actually feel like because light sabers are not real, but they feel so real in the game and it’s just amazing. It’s really amazing.

I am getting very, very good at Beat Saber. In the past month and a half, I have moved up the ranks. I went from playing games at the “Easy” level to the “Normal” level. Then I mastered all the “Hard” levels. Now I’m crushing the “Expert” levels. The final level is “Expert+” and I’ve got my work cut out for me. The higher the levels, the faster the glowing blocks fly at your head and in Expert+, they go fast enough to make me laugh. It looks impossible. But when my faith flags, I like to think of Serena Williams and how she practices every day and she perseveres and she’s one of the best tennis players to ever play the game. And I pick up my sabers and I hit glowing bricks. Hard.

Thank you for reading about how I got married and also about how I play video games, now. “I am the one who” never thought I’d do either of those things again, ever, but here we are.

And it’s sublime.

32 Responses

  1. Sue
    | Reply

    Ok Mary! You left out a lot about Eric. How did you meet for instance. I can only hope we will learn more. He does sound wonderful.

  2. Kevin Burkhardt
    | Reply

    Congratulations on your blessed wedding! And I have to admit that my wife and I do similar things… thinking that the other one is crazy because of some obsession, and then shortly afterwards, excelling past the previous. We lovingly can’t stand each other for that. Hahaha.
    I also wanted to tell you that our granddaughter speaks often about meeting you when you spoke at the Stuhr Museum in Grand Island, Nebraska. She also likes that she got to ask you a question (“How many quilts have you made?”) and that there is a picture of you, her, and my wife.
    Have a great day and keep enjoying whatever you enjoy!

  3. Clark
    | Reply

    Do you still have the Frogger disc? Does it work? Those old games are still fun.

  4. Kristin
    | Reply

    Congratulations!!!!!!! xoxoxox

  5. Mary Ann
    | Reply

    So very fun to learn new things! And to meet Eric.

  6. Barbara Dengler
    | Reply

    Wow, Mary, There is life after quilting!
    Just kidding! I am delighted for you!
    You sound so happy. It is a wonderful life!
    Please check in with us occasionally with your stories, and Congratulations on your marriage. Wishing you a fabulous life with Eric.

  7. Judy L Sanvitis
    | Reply

    Oh, Mary!!! I am so very happy for you and Eric. Sometimes you just know when it’s right. I knew my husband for 9 months and we’ve been married 45 years in May. You are a wonderful lady and I couldn’t be happier for you.
    Your color challenged student in Tabor City, NC a couple years back,

  8. Julie Williams
    | Reply

    You never cease to amaze me and you are very entertaining. Congratulations on your marriage, best wishes for your future and thank you for making me curious about VR. You rock.

  9. Margaret Ponder
    | Reply

    Oh Mary, I’ve been wanting to ask you for months how you two met and gets all the details, etc….but I felt that the timing was not right and that you’d share in your own good time – so thanks for this glimpse into your happy life with Eric. We girls are hoping to find out more when you are ready, because we love you and so grateful that you are happy!

  10. Cathy
    | Reply

    Congratulations! I have missed your writing. I too am now curious about Beat Saber.

  11. Cindy
    | Reply

    Congrats Mary & Eric!!!!
    Wow! What a nice surprise!!!! I am wishing you endless days of love and laughter!
    Can’t wait to hear the whole love story. xoxo

  12. Wenda
    | Reply

    Congrats Mary and Eric! May we all live long and saber flying blocks that make us laugh with someone we love.
    And anyone who does not remember…on the worst day of Mary’s life, I do believe she met Eric. My guess is he’s the nice young man she met at the bar that fateful night when she went for a walk.

  13. Bobbi Penniman
    | Reply

    I can’t be the only one googling for Oculus Quest?

    Now, more about this Eric. . .

  14. Pamela Barnes
    | Reply

    Congratulations Mary. We need more information about Eric.

    Quilters do game. I have all my FB contacts segregated into Gamers or Non-gamers so the folks who detest video games won’t have to put up with my gamer posts.

    Non-quilters just have to deal with any quilting or fabric posts.

  15. Mandy Laseter
    | Reply

    I am so happy for you, Mary. I knew my husband for 1 month before he started talking of marriage. Engaged at 3 mos. We saw each other every day until I went to college for a semester. I went back home for the next semester. We married 1 year after meeting. That was 43 years ago. I wish for you a lovely future with Eric.

  16. Robin Tuckerman
    | Reply

    Well done!

  17. Nancy Pederson
    | Reply

    Congratulations on yout marriage!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    I hope you and Eric have and enjoy many years together!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    I’m ooing forward to hearing more about how you met !


  18. Grammy Judy
    | Reply

    How often are you posting, I miss your posts. This is the first one since going down the Mouse Hole.

  19. Judith Coates
    | Reply

    Congrats from one who has 59 years under our belt and still hoping for a lot more!
    May happiness always find you.

    • Kathy K.
      | Reply

      Wow where is the rest of the story? What does Erik look like, what does he do for a living? Is he funny, romantic, does he want a puppy and when are you getting him or her? We need to hear details girl!

  20. Barbara
    | Reply

    How did I miss it! I didn’t know you were married, and a year ago.
    I hope you and Eric find yourselves knee-deep in happiness.
    My husband and I got engaged one month after we met, married 7 months later.
    We just celebrated our 50th anniversary last month.

    Can’t wait to hear more.
    Stay well, be safe,
    Barbara xo

  21. Diana L Kiley
    | Reply

    I’m so happy for you. it couldn’t happen to a nicer person – at least I think you are a nice person. I mean I have never met you but would like to someday. You have to be a nice person cuz it is a gut feeling I have. Ok, enough stumbling around. I just changed my mind – I’m entitled to do that. You are not a nice person after all. You are a big tease. Come on girl – we all want to know more about this wonderful man that has made you so happy.

  22. Britiney
    | Reply

    I somehow fell off the Papergirl bandwagon a while back without really realizing it. But today I happened across your writing prompts and, sheesh! I’ve missed you! Hugest congrats on your marriage and your mad gaming skilz. So glad you’re safe and healthy with someone you love and who loves you back.

  23. San Juanita Lopez
    | Reply

    Our first date was in Sept ‘69. We were married a year later. He was in the Navy so I saw him on weekends if I was lucky. About 3 weeks before the wedding he returned from a 6 month Mediterranean cruise. Congrats on your wedding with your knight in shining armor. Wishing you many laughter filled years.

  24. Brenda King
    | Reply

    Congratulations to you and Eric, and wishes for many more wonderful, love-filled years together! Love your posts, Mary. Keep ’em coming!
    Brenda King, Bend, Or.

  25. Teresa Dethloff
    | Reply

    Congratulations, Mary…. Getting married and finding some fun in the techno world. Your words give me hope and made me laugh.

  26. Sharon
    | Reply

    I LOVED this post! “Yes, yes, yes, I got married, his name is Eric – but, listen! I have to tell you about this VR……”


    I never got into “games”….but, now, I think I have to try this thing!!

    Be happy!

  27. Rob Mac
    | Reply

    Mary after letting back into your life with Papergirl it seems you have once again vanished. It’s been close to a month since your last post. In this pandemic environment it’s easy to think the worst. Hope you are both healthy and please come back to posting your blog again.

  28. Diane
    | Reply

    Congratulations Mary. I am so happy for you

  29. Tracy J
    | Reply

    I for one am happy for you! I continue to enjoy watching your videos, and every now and again search for your fabric…. I appreciate the honesty of your persona, and will always wish you well. It’s June, so I am hoping you and your family are staying safe.

  30. Kimberly JT Herrick
    | Reply

    Congratulations to you and Eric. I hope you have a long and loving marriage and that the fun-filled days greatly outnumber the more challenging ones.

  31. Meg
    | Reply

    My kids are just dying right now! I read the VR parts of the post to my family just now. They’ve saved money and are ready to buy a OQ2 as soon as we give them the go ahead. I’m thinking a few more chores are in order… Anyway thanks for the great post. I loved it and I am very happy for you. Quilter from WISCONSIN!

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