This morning as our kids woke up and piled into bed with us in their usual order: Jude and Violet between us, Margot on top of me, I looked across their little heads to the man who shares this tremendous task of parenting with me. This is called love in a family; sometimes all you get is the brush of fingers across the span of a queen-sized bed you bought as newlyweds, unable to imagine how full it would be within a few years.
Ten years ago, I was 27. I was living in a one-room schoolhouse, and performing in a local theatre production, reprising the role as Maria Von Trapp that I'd played in The Sound of Music the year before. The show was called "Reflections" and celebrated 20 years of musical productions.
The young man who played percussion in the orchestra pit was not a complete stranger to me; his mother was a singer as well, and I'd seen him at the whitewater rafting company where I performed in the summers. He was cute; tall, muscular, tanned, musical. He was also seven years my junior, and hadn't really crossed my 'radar' except to notice that he was cute.
After the cast party on November 18, 2001, I saw him walking down the road; he planned to hitchhike home at two in the morning. I knew he lived on the way to my house, so I picked him up. We went to a local truck stop, ate grilled cheese and cream of cauliflower soup, and talked like we'd been starving for conversation all our lives. When we got to his house, we sat in the driveway listening to a CD of Lena Horne, Billie Holiday, and Ella Fitzgerald (he knew all the songs), and watched what turned out to be a meteor shower. We talked and talked and talked until the sun came up.
Neither of us wanted the conversation to end yet, so I suggested a road trip. That's something you do on a first (unexpected) date when you live in the country. We stopped by my house for coffee (and so that I could brush my teeth!), then headed out to Mount Saint Patrick, a wee settlement dominated by the Catholic church and a Holy Well, where petitioners visit to draw up water used for healing and blessing. We wandered the graveyard and signed our names in the Holy Well guest book. We drove some more and found a field where we cloud-gazed and talked some more.
After much talking and laughing, one of us got up the nerve to try a kiss.
The rest, they say, is history. After a brief separation where he went to Scotland ten days after we met, and stayed there for two months, we've been together ever since.
This morning we smiled at each other. Our faces show some traces of our journey: sleep deprivation, stress, laugh lines. Our bodies have changed, too: he's a little thinner, I'm a lot curvier. These days, we talk about how we're going to make the money stretch another month, argue about parenting, and feel like the proverbial ships in the night, passing in a hurry, kissing as we go out the door, handing the kids back and forth in what we call tag-team parenting.
We don't have a babysitter for tonight, but I think we'll find a quiet way to celebrate the fact that after ten years, we're still choosing to be together. The passionate tidal waves of those early days have quieted into the steady ebb and flow that is a marriage.
But if I look really closely, and listen very quietly, I see that man I fell in love with in his face, and feel that giddy thrill in my heart that I knew when I realised he might actually be mine.
I wonder sometimes about the Holy Well, and wonder what we'd see in our signatures in that guest book; can handwriting hold all the hopes, dreams, wishes, and prayers of two young hearts that were quickly falling in love? I suspect that when we make the trip back there, and look back ten years, we might just see all those things in our names, written side by side.