As I sit here, at my kitchen table, I feel Oreo crumbs under my toes from my children’s impromptu snack this afternoon.
It’s almost seven in the evening, and the sun is just beginning to dim. The grass in our backyard is tall – tall enough to make little legs scratchy on their way to the trampoline.
There is a roast in the oven and brown rice on the stove and a small variety of vegetables in the refrigerator, willing to be offered up for dinner tonight.
Katherine and Colleen are playing ‘kitchen’ with plastic dishes and food on the living room coffee table.
Jonathan is reading Harry Potter, on the couch, with his favorite pillow.
Emelie is in her room, vacuuming the baseboards, wearing all lavender.
And I am here. Thinking about an evening exactly fifteen years ago to the minute, when both of our families were gathered at the Black Forest Inn for a dinner. A dinner before the BIG DAY. A dinner that will always be one of my most beautiful memories – probably the only time this side of heaven when all of my family and Curt’s family and our beloved friends were gathered in one place, under one roof, eating, drinking, laughing and dreaming of a good life for me and my love. The night before our wedding.
We were so young.
I feel eons older, when I look at photos of us from that night and the next day.
“Look at you, little baby.” I say to myself – my slim figure, my un-crinkled eyes, still smooth (un-marred by varicose veins) legs in lovely heels, my un-highlighted hair, curled and wavy and shining. And in every picture, I have on a perfect ten smile – one that I’d have to attempt ten times right now before even getting close.
I was gloriously happy. We both were.
Everything was before us. And our minds were full of all the possibilities, all the wonder, all the dreams and unmet ambitions. We had no fear, no worries, no debt, no obligations to weigh us down.
It looks good. That moment, looking at the pictures – at our fifteen-year-younger-selves. And part of me wants to go back there, to sneak in on the edge of that photograph and pull my young self over to the edge. To whisper in her ear across the creased edge of the kodak paper.
“Get ready for a roller coaster, sweetheart. It’s gonna get hard, I tell ya. So smile all you want now…”
My first instinct is to issue warning.
“You’ll never believe how much braces COST!”
“Sometimes you’ll argue – over big things, not just little things.”
“Motherhood? It’s great and all, but so much more difficult than your fairy tale dreams of it are.”
“You think you want ten kids? You’ll barely be able to handle four.”
“And then, wait till you lose one. Miscarriage will rip your heart out.”
Part of me wants to tell her how it is.
But then, I have to step back and really see.
How it really is.
And, as I dust those black Oreo crumbs from my toes, I do see.
It’s absolutely NOTHING like I thought it would be.
It’s a million times harder
and a million times better.
I didn’t know.
I didn’t know that someone could love me so much, when I even make huge, idiotic mistakes. I didn’t know that this small house could be so full of mess and joy. I didn’t know that these children would wear me down and wear me down and give God a chance to rebuild me into something altogether new. I didn’t know that my husband working out of town for almost two years would show me how capable I really am. I didn’t know that going without vacations to Paris would make me see the beauty in a car trip to San Antonio or Colorado. I didn’t know that grief could make every breath more beautiful. I didn’t know that scrimping and saving could actually make me happy and each thing more valuable. I didn’t know that having children could reveal my worst faults and my greatest virtues. I didn’t know my husband would be even cuter at forty-four than he was at twenty-five. I didn’t know our children would be so beautiful and so unique. I didn’t know that they would show us the best of our selves. I didn’t know that someone could be so patient, so faithful, so strong, so faithful, every day.
I didn’t know I could love this much.
It’s only been fifteen years. I hope to have so many more. I know there is much more to learn than even this. And I’m guessing that I probably don’t know very much at all.
Sometimes, when I wake up in the morning, I think, “Things could be easier, or fancier or more exciting. They could be all sorts of different. But I love my life. Just as it is. I do. I really do.”
I remember that evening, driving out to our rehearsal dinner – the Black Forest Inn, which is now closed. It had been raining during our wedding rehearsal, and people were worried. And me, the one who usually worried about EVERYTHING, for once, didn’t care an ounce. I knew it would be okay. The roof of the church could have fallen in on us, and I would’ve known it was all going to be okay. And sure enough, as we got in the car to leave St. Mary’s and head out into the country, the big steely gray clouds dissipated, and the late golden sun permeated. The sky was piercingly blue, against the parting sky and there was a cool breeze – which in June in Texas makes people stop and wonder. And I remember, as Curt and I drove down the highway, toward the weekend that we’d never forget, we were in awe at how beautiful it all was.
“God made it perfect,” I told him.
And He still does.
I love you Curt.
How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.I love thee to the depth and breadth and heightMy soul can reach, when feeling out of sightFor the ends of being and ideal grace.I love thee to the level of every day’sMost quiet need, by sun and candle-light.I love thee freely, as men strive for right;I love thee purely, as they turn from praise.I love thee with the passion put to useIn my old griefs, and with my childhood’s faith.I love thee with a love I seemed to loseWith my lost saints. I love thee with the breath,Smiles, tears, of all my life; and, if God choose,I shall but love thee better after death.-Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Sonnets from the Portuguese 43