Monday, October 19, 2009
The Seven-Year Kvetch
Once upon an October afternoon seven years ago, when this man and I vowed to spend the rest of our lives together, come hell or high water, boom or bust, and walked out into the bright, crisp world and noisemakers clanged and the blue, cloudless sky glittered with cadmium-yellow leaves, I knew that October would always be ours.
This October, sadly, has been another story. Our anniversary weekend, a much-anticipated little night away at the romantic mountain hotel where we spent our honeymoon, didn't happen. Byron was felled with a stomach bug (breaking his much-ballyhooed twelve year no-vomit streak! sad!) and we canceled. But then he felt better! And plans were back on! And then my mother, the watcher of children, was felled with a weird flu (not swine, smaller scale, piglet, maybe?) and we canceled again. And it rained all week and the children were unusually shrill and exhausting and we felt like sad, sad bastards.
I took the whole thing particularly hard. There may have been crying. There were most certainly heaps of self-pity with generous sides of wallow and a freaking mountain of laundry.
And do you know what my husband did? Undaunted, he woke up on Saturday morning (a perfect, crispy, yellow-leaves Saturday, just like the day we married) and said, "I am taking the kids out of the house. For the whole day. You need a break. We'll be back later."
Now, there is a not a mother on the planet who has not dreamed of these words, but I, predictably was confused and skeptical. "What? Where are you going?" I asked.
"Don't worry about it," he said. Again, well played. And he delivered. He and the kids set out for the entire day on a series of secret errands, visits, meals, and parks. THE WHOLE DAMN DAY. And at the end of it, they all returned home with an absolutely giant pot of white mums and a card and sunny dispositions, and he fed them dinner and gave them baths and popped them into bed. And, truly, it was one of the most romantic gestures I have ever witnessed. Forget diamonds: all I ever want from here on out is THE WHOLE DAMN DAY.
I tell you all of this not to brag, or to make my husband feel appreciated (I hope he already does), but to acknowledge the simple truth of any good partnership: love is a choice. Sure, sometimes love is all swooning and songbirds and blue skies, but love is frequently sickness and recessions and exhaustion and whiny children. True love is not a reflex, an unconscious, bone-deep response, but a deliberate exercise, something in the muscles that you have to flex, flex, and flex some more. Love is being kind and brave when all you really want to do is put your head in the oven and call it a day. Love is relentlessly, foolishly, hopelessly optimistic in spite of everything. Love is my husband's choosing to shake off the dust, choosing to let go of spoiled plans and disappointment, and just make things better. Choosing me and choosing us, no matter what.
And, seven years ago, I'm sure glad I made the best choice of them all.
Incidentally, this is the 1940's couple from the top of our wedding cake, the cake we (nicely, no smushing) fed each other seven year ago. In taking pictures of the topper, I noticed that the groom is beaming while his bride looks fairly unamused and even a tad...bitchy? I decided that, if she was going to sit on the shelf and be all representative of our sacred commitment and whatnot, girlfriend needed to make better choices.
That's more like it.