Me: I chop vegetables for dinner, I weed the flowerbed in our front yard, I scrub at the hard-to-reach places behind our toilet with rubber gloves and bleach. My husband weed whacks around the neighbor’s fence, he cleans out the gutters and he hangs dry-wall in our basement on his lunch breaks. With our time, in our home, these are the things that we do with our days in our first year of marriage. Together we make plans and we hammer nails and we strip carpet and we build a dream that we call home. Together we make plans and we make love and we make fun of the names that we bounce back and forth and we mix paint colors for the nursery and we build a dream that we call our family. Together we make plans and we encourage each other’s dreams, and we make sure that we get to work on time, and we deposit our milk and honey into the savings, and we build a dream that we call our nest egg.
And we tell each other, everyday, without obligation or reservation or fail; on the best of days and on the most taxing of them, over the crackling of a hot dinner on the stove or over the cries of a temper-tantruming two-year-old at our feet, “I’m so excited for the future, but I will always love this part of our life.”
So where are we, really? In the grand scheme of our lives, how close are we to where we thought we’d be at those mile-marker years of twenty-five and thirty? How far have we come in our journey toward personal growth? How successful are we in the eyes of those who label us by the level of our college degrees or worse, our job titles alone? Laid off Bank of America employee turned school bus driver, and college graduate turned full-time nanny. Soon-to-be mother and father of three.
He followed me down the hall and leaned against the doorway while I went to the bathroom the other day. This is where some of our best conversations usually start, and I wonder if that’s a normal part of being married for other people too. We started talking about the other people in our lives; friends who are getting married, friends who have gotten divorced and found their way back to one other, family who have had children for years but never made it down the isle, and others who got the good news days before a planned proposal. We talked about how seldom it is that a baby is actually received by other people as “good news” anymore. And what a shame that is. I took my usual spot on the edge of the tub while Spencer came in and took out his contacts. We got to talking about our life; the ways that we were out-of-step with the normal cut and paste outline you’re “supposed” to follow for starting a family, and the many, many ways that we’ve kind of naturally fallen into line with it over time. We laughed about the ones who try so hard to do everything just the way that they’re expected - as if life gives a damn that you built your life around a recipe. And we cringed a little for the ones who’ve made a lifestyle out of just not caring enough. And this is where we took a good, long look at where we stood among them.
We made our way into the kitchen, still laughing and griping and agreeing, and I put a casserole in the oven for a midnight snack we’d be able to share without worrying about the kids. He leaned against the back door, where he could see down the staircase into the basement we’re finishing ourselves. I put the potholders away and we both took a good look around. It’s always evolving. From the wallpaper we’d torn down, to the carpet we’ve ripped up, to the chair rail we’d installed. We’ve miter-sawed our own baseboards, built our own doorframes, grown our own flowers and tomato plants, and put up our own railings. We laid down tiles and installed new faucets. We made children and framed pictures of them up on our walls. And we made note of the way that we never feel finished. We couldn’t say if it was the improvement we were so hooked on, or the actual work itself; the high of creating a vision together and shaping it into reality; knowing that it was our vision and our elbow grease that made something so beautiful. It’s fun to know that what we see when we look around today is nothing compared to what it will be when we’re ready to say that our work here is done.
And by the time the casserole was done, we sat down to our plates giving nothing but thanks for this stepping stone in our life. I told him excitedly that I couldn’t wait until the basement was finished. He said, “Yeah, but I’m having fun just getting it there.”