He adds items to our luggage after I think we are finished packing for a trip. I say we won’t need it. I say we should pack light. I always say that. I tire easily when preparing for a trip. My excitement usually peaks, then crashes into irritability and fatigue right before we start to load the car. I gripe about why we’re taking so many bags. Why it takes so much time and effort to pack the car. He is always right about the last-minute items. I am always appreciative. “I’m so glad you thought to bring that,” I’ll say. He never says “I told you so.”
He was a Boy Scout and then an Eagle Scout: a childhood career of citizenship, commitment, survival skills, and “Always Be Prepared, Always Do Your Best.” He is still an Eagle Scout. I was in the Girl Scouts for less than a year. Like many of my childhood interests, I quit after one season. I still find it hard to persevere.
He is our children’s playmate. I am the one who nurtures and organizes our flock. It isn’t that I don’t like to play. It’s more that I’ve forgotten how. Our daughter will invent a game and he will see the whole picture, enthusiastically synthesize her vision, and they will enter the new world of their creation. I struggle to unearth the child I’ve buried inside. On the rare occasions that she does come out, we are late to the party. If I am honest I should confess – I used to resent this. Now, I’ve come to accept, even love, my role as observer. If I watch long enough I will learn the secret that only they seem to know. If I watch long enough, I’ll grow out of my fears and join the fun.
But even before parenthood, he taught me about adventure. Once, in the very early days of our relationship, during one of our first out-of-town trips together, we found out that one of our favorite musicians was playing in the same town. We were visiting my parents. I still felt young enough to need my father’s permission to go, and was nervous to ask. Requests for impromptu fun were tricky with my Dad.
I waited in anticipation: Did he enjoy our visit? Does he like him? (PLEASE LIKE HIM) Is he in a good mood? Is he worried about me?
He said yes! And then – I lost my mind. We didn’t go to the concert. I cited our early morning departure and low cash flow as evidence to the idea’s absurdity. Why did he agree with me? Why didn’t we go? What were we thinking?
18 years later he surprised me on my birthday with a ticket to see the same artist. He stayed home with the kids – our son was still an infant. It wasn’t until I got to the concert that I recognized a sneaky fear that I would not assimilate to my younger self. Had motherhood, many years of marriage, and life in the suburbs altered my reality that much? Had the childhood part of me been eradicated? Snuffed out during the process of growing up?
But, at the show, I was 19 again. Safe in the familiar landscape. Anonymous in the dark, smoky venue. The music started. Goosebumps. Joy. Youth. This music gets me. The songs written just for me. He is not here – my partner, sidekick, inspiration. My co-parent, co-pilot, co-conspirator, with whom everything is brighter and more fun. Was he off on an adventure with our daughter? Castaways on a princess pirate ship crashed on a cookie island?
He easily transitions from work to play. I am almost always thinking about work. But now, our adventures include 2 small people, all of them propelling me to let go. With them, with him, we seesaw between our early days and the future we’re creating. And despite our differences, we are doing it all together. He and I.