Twelve years ago today I sat across from you at a restaurant for the first time. You had called earlier that week as I was watching That 70s Show with my roommate, trying to recall the face that belonged to the voice on the other end of the line. I had forgotten that I gave you my number when we met the previous weekend. Our conversation was brief. I didn’t know then that you can be shy, that you’re not much of a talker with people you don’t know.
I don’t remember every minute of our first date. In fact, I don’t remember a lot of it. I do remember that I instigated a lot of the conversation (12 years later and nothing’s changed). We went to a chain Mexican restaurant. You told me that you had made reservations at a little restaurant downtown but I was late and it was Saturday night. At times you seemed disinterested and I wondered why you asked me out at all. When you took me home at the end of the night you told me you would call that week. I didn’t expect to hear from you, but on Monday when I got home from classes your voice came through the answering machine asking if I wanted to go bowling.
That date was better. We began to talk daily and see each other every few days. I wondered when you would kiss me. One snowy day I happened to pass you between classes on campus. I was walking behind a building in a wooded area with winding walking trails. Snow clung to bare branches as students rushed by. When you saw me you smiled and made your way over. We talked for a few minutes and then you kissed me–quickly–before you said you had to go but would call later. Call you did, and the rest is history.
But things have changed, haven’t they? Our conversations of future dreams and making plans for the upcoming weekend have been replaced with reminders to pick up milk and bananas from the store, and did you pay this bill, and could you please for the love of God just throw the junk mail in the recycle bin instead of leaving it strewn all over the counter for me to wade through. We’ve all but lost sight of romantic gestures and inside jokes, the sweet nothings that shock a relationship with little volts of electricity. When we do talk in earnest, our conversations are interrupted with cries and whines and little hands reaching up to be held. Sometimes our words, benign as they might be, are splintered with the tight octave of accusation, one note above exhaustion.
We hardly ever watch movies anymore. And when we do at least one of us falls asleep halfway through. In the morning, you’re usually up and gone before any of us wakes up, and when you’re home I’m sometimes guilty of using you as a babysitter so I can go and do all the things that take too much effort with three kids. Remember when we lived in New York and we spent whole days strolling from the bookstore to lunch to the art museum only to come home and open a bottle of wine as we leisurely cooked dinner?
Now, the boys are almost always awake by 6:30, kicking their headboards and giggling across cribs. Mia, who has usually climbed into our bed at some point during the night, steals the blankets and buries her head. Then our day begins. Diapers are changed, mouths fed, dishes washed, laundry done, toys picked up only to be dumped again.
Luke has suddenly become attached to a blanket. He carries it everywhere. In twenty years, when we can again devote entire days to traipsing around the city if we so please, my body will ache to hold this little boy as he rubs the silky side of his blanket against his face. The visceral need to comb my fingers through Mia’s curls will find me when I’m engrossed in a novel for which I actually have time to read. And Wyatt. Wyatt has this way of staring at me as he “talks”, convincing me that the formless noises coming from his mouth are actual words — I just need to listen better, try harder to understand him. In twenty years, will he be telling me to listen better? To try harder to understand him?
I’ve heard it said that imagining the future is a kind of nostalgia. I get it. As much as I miss what we used to have, I miss what we have right now even more.
So things have changed in 12 years. Time has a way of doing that. Once, we were lovestruck college kids, then newlyweds, then adventurers. Then lovestruck new parents embarking on an adventure of a different kind. Now we are taking each day as it comes, marking time by diaper changes and bedtimes and chocolate stained clothing grown too small. We fall into bed each night with a soft “Good night.” It’s all we can manage before sleep overtakes us.
This isn’t forever — things always change, but will we remember each other when the fog has cleared? Will you still find me on the trail of a winter woods? Let’s just say that our love story is one in progress, evolving with the little people who shape and light our days, to be continued.