Nineteen Years (and counting)

Primitive Valentine Heart Barn Wood Wall by rockriverstitches

In light of Valentine’s Day on the 14th, let’s talk about love after nineteen years. Because, folks- this is what it looks like.

The alarm rings. Or maybe it doesn’t. All depends on whether or not he set it the night before, the alarm clock being located on his side of the bed. I am sandwiched in between Husband on one side and Youngest on the other, she having woken in the middle of the night from a bad dream. I have a kink in my neck, and an aching desire to crawl down deep under the covers and hide; but I instead scoot over the top of my little girl’s sleeping frame and find my way in the dark towards the dimly-lit stairway. I am ever the lone body awake at this hour. Soon the sounds of my feet padding down a wood staircase, the scrape of a kitchen chair, along with the relentless sound of water pelting the shower wall- all will beckon both him and the others to embrace the day.

Because this is what love looks like after nineteen years.

I am in the shower, steaming hot water running just fast enough to keep me from shivering on this -17 degree morning (Husband having purchased a water-saving shower head a few years back). I hear him in the kitchen pouring cold water into the stainless steel coffee pot, the ‘drip-drip’ of scalding water running over a premium dark roast. That coffee is for me- he having given up the stuff on which my life depends a mere two years ago. I will soon smell the fragrantly rich scent of grinds brewing, beckoning me to stop and place movement and voice on hold- even if for but a moment. To savour and breathe deeply of life’s goodness.

Because life is still good nineteen years later.

A text is sent at 10:17 a.m. Daughter has an away-game and has forgotten about it. She needs money for supper. Husband messages to say “I have prep next period, but no cash.” I am scrambling, having left my own classroom with working students to then, minutes later, take the phone call (I will not have yet read that above text): only to find out that Husband is on his way- and do I have a bill for him to snag and then be on his way? Within ten minutes, I meet him in the school corridor. A kindergartener has asked me to zip her coat, but I can see Husband making quick time as he takes long strides toward me. I leave him to complete the stubborn zippering on this little one while I run off down the hall to find my purse. I can hear a female teacher behind me saying something about his prowess at being a jack-of-all-trades. Because he is.

Even all of nineteen years later.

We make eye contact over supper while the kids banter and squabble and then settle into the regular pattern of being together- that pattern we’ve established over the fourteen plus years in which we’ve been parenting. His eye catches mine when something funny is said, or maybe it was something surprising. His eyebrows slightly raise while a slow smile forms at the corner of his mouth. I smile too. Because it seems we just know why these supper-hour conversations are so precious.

And I admit- I have gotten use to seeing him there, elbows resting on either side of his plate, hands drawn together in a clasp. He is always there- at the head of the table. Solid, dependable, unwavering in his commitment. I grab a bowl of corn and divvy it out to the two at my end and then manoeuvre the remains of the dish toward the other two at his end. He spoons the vegetable onto each plate, making sure the rest of the table gets fed, while I grab a bottle of bar-b-que sauce from the fridge. For those who just can’t do without.

Nineteen years is enough time to know the rhythm and flow.

And there are days when the cords of wood have been dropped off- two truckloads one after the other, days where we make steady time, moving in silence beside one another until the last log is stacked. Days when we pass each other in the kitchen as he heads one way and I go the other. Days where we wonder what we ever did before we had cell phones, texting and e-mail exchange. That’s how it is with us, nineteen years later.

But on most of those days, you’ll find us here, growing hearts. Building our home. Sharing the load in taking turns with homework, piano practicing, dishes and cooking. He, doing the vacuuming each night while I stay on top of the endless laundry. It’s not a glamorous life, but it is ours. And there is a lot to be said for that. It is a life we both know well enough to know that we’ve been given something good. In fact, it’s golden.

Nineteen years and counting.

Because nineteen years of staying in when we felt like backing out, holding on when we sometimes wanted to let go, giving over when we maybe wanted to give up- can make a person appreciate the years that much more. It is just the way of living sometimes. It’s certainly our way. Because for nineteen years, we’ve had time enough to know that we’ve got something beautiful, something worth striving for, committing to.  Something worth cherishing.

Nineteen years is plenty.

I crawl into bed and reach for the light. And beside me already sleeping is the man that stayed by my side through nineteen years of everyday, honest living. Through it all. And while nineteen years might not be a milestone for anyone else, in our books it is long enough to understand what true love entails.

It’s also short enough to wonder what the next nineteen will bring.

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This is a Love Story…

It is Valentine’s Day evening and I am just finishing up washing dishes- having made four cups of chocolate and two bags of popcorn as a bedtime snack for four kiddos. They sit now on the living room floor with that stash of goodies, plus various bowls of candy and chocolates besides. And that is where they will remain for the rest of the evening as they watch their Friday night movie. I sit down for a spell with a mug of Earl Grey tea while Husband goes through the newsfeed on his phone beside me.  Every once in a while, Youngest comes out to check and make sure that Mom and Dad are still here. Especially during the scary parts.

This is our love story.

It’s the story of a family. The story of a home. The story of us.

It’s the story of a boy who met a girl when she was young and foolish. Before she had yet found herself or discovered who she was. It’s the story of a boy who took that girl out to a brunch one Sunday afternoon and the story of a girl who said yes. In spite of it all. A story of a girl who started noticing that boy- paying more attention- and the story of a boy who later took that girl to the ocean one starlit evening where they sat shivering together on a blanket in the cool August air. The story of a boy who one day told that girl he loved her- that she was the only one he’d ever loved. Had ever fallen for. The only one to whom he’d ever whispered those three little words. And it is the story of that boy who eventually led that same young girl back to the same sandy shore he’d taken her to first so as to bend down in front of her and hold her hand. And tell her that his love was for her. And her alone.

It’s the story of a girl who had many dreams. Had plans and goals. The story of a boy who understood. Who waited for her while she followed those dreams. Waited while she followed her heart. It is the story of a girl who one day realized that a dream without love is no way to live. So the story plot unfolded as the boy asked that girl to stay with him on this fair isle and thus follow her dreams by his side.

It’s a story. And like all stories, it has its twists and turns.

It’s a story that has not always been an easy read. There are times the girl wanted to close the book and say those words “The End.” There were times the boy felt the same way. And together, they wondered if it was time to start a new story with new chapters and new characters. Something more exciting. More adventurous.

But something compelled them to continue. The story- it was theirs. And it truly wasn’t finished yet. So they stayed the course, and the story continued.  Continued because: it was still a story, no matter how difficult it was, at times, to grasp.  Continued because: it was still worth it.  Continued because they had invested so much- there was so much to lose and still so much yet to gain.  And no matter the storyline they both knew through it all: it was their story. And because it was theirs’, they persevered.

And so they did. They persevered.  They worked harder than they had ever had to work before.  Because that’s the way of stories- they require engagement, concentration, commitment.  Thought and deliberation.  Intention.

It’s Valentine’s Day night. But I have never loved this holiday. Too many years, it has felt that I could not live up to the expectations that it brings. It ask too much of us- to put our love on display for all the world to see and judge- as to whether or not it is worthy. As to whether or not it is romantic. As to whether or not it is exciting. Thrilling. Exhilarating.  As to whether or not it lives up to the standard. Sometimes this holiday makes us feel that our story is not enough.  That it needs to be more.

This is the story of a girl who decided- somewhere along the line- that dirty mugs coated with cocoa powder in her sink and leftover kernels of popcorn hidden in the recesses of her couch with the ones she loves by her side are all a story she ever needed so as to be complete.  It’s the story of the boy who loves her.  And that’s all that really matters.

To the girl.
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And so, the story continues…

Funnies from the Kindergarten Classroom…

Me: “Students, what are mammals?”

Students: “They’re those animals on the movie Madagascar.”

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Me:(after a not so quiet, Quiet Time) “Students, do you know the meaning of the word “still” ?

Female Student (using a very loud voice): “NO!!!!!! I DON’T KNOW WHAT IT MEANS????!!!”

No, dear. I don’t reckon you do.

 

And…

In the spirit of Valentine’s Day, I can report that love is in the air in Room 103, Kindergarten English. I had two love birds heading out to recess today calling each other sweetie and pretending to be Husband and Wife. Mind you, these same two could just as easily be fighting over who gets the end desk first thing in the morning or who gets to open the classroom door when a visitor comes knocking. But isn’t that the way real love goes? So I guess you could say that art mimics life in this instance as well.
And keeping in the spirit of hearts and lovebirds…I had my first experience chaperoning an impromptu date for my youngest. Who is five, by the way. And the date was with a handsome six-year old at the rink. He chased her and she chased him back. But mostly, she tried to skate away. I asked them who was fastest, and they both agreed: MaryAnne. So, this little guy was not too happy when they weren’t able to sit together on the bus, as we had to assign so many students to a seat. So, in the interest of puppy love, I conceded him the victory, and allowed him to sit three to the seat, with MaryAnne and me. Lots of googly eyes and shy smiles going on. Lots of stifled chuckles on my part. I found the whole thing…endearing and disconcerting at one and the same time.
And me thinks. This mama might just set the precedent…I might be the third wheel on every other date that transpires from here on out!

Happy Valentine’s Day, may it be a joy to one and all!

This is what Valentine’s Day looks like after 18 years of being together.  Let me paint for you a motion picture.  First of all, there is a wife who wakes up on her side of the bed, because you get to own a side when you’ve been together this long.  That wife tries to disengage her arm from underneath a pillow where an appendage has grown as an offshoot from her body, literally overnight.  That appendage is otherwise known as a child, and could be any random child; but usually is one under the age of seven who suffers from bad dreams and separation anxiety.  There is also a husband somewhere in this picture show, look closely and you will find him settled into the cocoon otherwise known as his side of the bed, which is near the alarm and the window.  That vantage point chosen for such a time as when he might have need of jumping out the window and fighting the bad guys through the night, so as to also appease said child with nightmares and the wife who would rather not get involved in any such nonsense during the only hours of the day in which she has any peace and quiet.

If this were a slide show, one might observe next in the archives a picture of said couple breezing by one another a half an hour later.   One part of this couple has hair that looks like a rat’s nest, the other looks like he wishes he was still cocooned in a bundle of cozy Brunswick flannels instead of packing sandwiches his wife will inform him later on, will not be needed.  The couple does not have time for cozy cuddles or lengthy exchanges as the dog needs to pee and said child with separation anxiety is hovering by the kitchen island waiting for breakfast.

There are Valentines to be exchanged, as is the routine fashion of this day of hearts.  However, if you look carefully at slide three, you’ll notice that the wife’s Valentine’s  for her sweet are still in a plastic Zellers bag, and the card is unsigned.  She has snuck it downstairs and will retrieve and sign it when the husband goes out to fill the wood furnace.  If the dog doesn’t get at it first.

Slide four allows careful view of this couple as the husband comes to the wife’s workplace to drop off a few items that have been overlooked in the morning rush.  He will breeze in and then out again, as the wife trails on his heels down the hall to do a few last minute preparations of her own, before an official Valentine’s headache sets in for the remainder of the day.  This headache will peak right about 11:03 a.m., at such time as the wife, who doubles as a Kindergarten teacher by day, is making dozens of intricate knots with string, so as to compete the heart art craft her students no longer have interest in finishing.  She will be heading for a migraine at roughly 11:49 a.m., just before the bell rings for indoor recess. Again.  For the third time this week.

The highlight of the day will be at roughly 12:35 p.m. when a cheery voice on the loudspeaker calls the wife up to the office, informing her to come right away.  Thus, allowing her a quick get-away from the Valentine’s Day mayhem going on inside her classroom at the bottom of the stairs.  A classroom that coincidentally happens to be in a direct line of through-way traffic to the fountain for every other child in grades K-2 who happen to be exhibiting signs of a sugar high from the fifteen cupcakes they ate for snack.   The wife, in this afore-mentioned duo, will be forever grateful for the flowers that are waiting for her on the office counter, but wishes her thoughtful husband might have been so kind as to include a bottle of Tylenol, extra-strength.  Next time…

There are a few other obscure slides in between, of which there might be some screaming at the kids and the dog, and a bit of nagging a certain someone to set the table and make the coffee.  And a bit of hair-raising as the kids go about their after-school activities.  I won’t bore you to death with the details.

There is a pretty sweet slide towards the end, in which a very romantic dinner for six is being served around a over-sized, birch table.  The children are laughing and opening Valentine’s Day cards, and the husband and wife are exchanging pleasantries with one another, over six feet of space that separates his end, from her end.  The supper will be forgotten (a store-bought pizza and a salad that one of the kids referred to as “a bunch of vegetables in a bowl”), the gifts will be used and eaten, the cards will find a permanent home in a memory box, but the memories will last a lifetime.

There may not be pretty pictures on every slide, but it is sure to be captivating, full of vivid imagery and detail.  It is a slide show for the record books.  This is what Valentine’s Day looks like after eighteen years.