I had just dragged myself through the front door after a 12-hour day. I was lamenting the fact that it was somehow only Tuesday when I was enthusiastically greeted by a dachshund who got tangled between my legs and a Labrador puppy who pile-drove me back into the front door.
My kids were sitting inches away from all this commotion. Did I get any help? Maybe a “Hey there, Mommy, you look a little tired. May we take one of your 6 bags?”
Nope. Not a peep. Not so much as a GLANCE.
As I shuffled past them, I noticed something. Something refreshing and sweet. Mango. Mango…body wash. Children’s mango bodywash.
They were clean!
Two clean children, in their pajamas, watching television. A sweeter sight I’ve never seen.
At least until I walked into the kitchen.
There it was, the most beautiful, romantic…I can’t even talk about it, I might get choked up.
A pile of chicken nuggets.
There was a neat little pile of baked chicken nuggets cooling on a dish on the counter, right next to a fragrant, hearty-looking stir-fry. Next to that was my sink- completely empty and scrubbed clean. The dishwasher swished happily beside it, full of all the dishes I didn’t have to wash.
On top of the dishwasher? All of the water bottles and sippy cups that the kids would need for school the next day, lined up neatly, lids (matching lids!) resting on top. The straws were even- I hope you’re sitting- the straws were already MacGyvered into the little lid holes.
As I stood there swooning, I heard footsteps coming up the basement stairs. The door creaked open and in strolled Pat, clad in an old t-shirt, covered in sweat, carting a large cardboard box.
“So,” he panted, “a few things.” “First, the new agitator came today, it’s in. I just finished. Look how bad this old one was!” he exclaimed, holding up the old, broken washing machine part triumphantly.
“Second, did you go in the freezer before bed last night? It was open this morning- like really open, probably about this much (a quick demonstration ensued). But don’t worry, I checked everything. The chicken sausage was still completely frozen- (looking at the worry on my face)- No, I checked it, don’t worry.”
“Anyway,” he continued, wiping sweat from his brow, “your dinner is on the stove. I browned the turkey and just threw a bunch of shit in it (adorable laugh), it smells pretty good though, right? I added taco seasoning, and I threw a little cinnamon in there since it worked so well with the bean chili. I just figured I’d give it another try. Let me know what you think.”
I followed my personal chef/handyman as he headed for the sunroom with the grimy old washing machine part. “I ran an empty load to check- I used like half the bottle of this Mrs. Meyers mint spray in it, I know you really like that one. So the instructions (wiping more sweat), I’m reading them and they’re like, ‘There’s this one bolt that has to come out, but to get to it you have to rig up this thing with a string and a tool, and really pull, but you still might not be able to get it out, it’s practically impossible unless you’re Hercules (adorable laugh). Cath, I just pulled- I mean, it took a few tries and I had to work it a little, but the thing came right out. Hercules…who even starts an instruction video like that? (adorable laugh, brow wipe) It looks like it’s working pretty well…”
In that moment, in that sun room, all I wanted to do was grab the box out of his hands and throw him right on the couch.
It’s funny how what sweeps you off your feet changes a little bit (ok, a lot) as time passes.
When we were teenagers, he used to sketch roses and fairies and leave them in my backpack or my locker. Once a week he’d visit me at my part-time job at a florist and bring me chicken salad sandwiches from Mr. Bruno’s, my favorite Italian place across the street.
In college he once left a little stuffed animal under the windshield wiper of my car. How he spotted my car in the cavernous mall parking garage STILL confuses me, but he did.
When we moved in together I would occasionally find those “Between You and Me” cards on my pillow when we were working opposite shifts. You know them. The tall cards with the long, ornate poems scrawled on 3 sides- he would always sign them “I always seem to find the ones that could have been written just about us.”
I mean, come on.
But time passes…and things change.
Engagement turned into marriage, and surprise flowers showed up at my office a little less often. But after working a double or an overnight, he would always walk wearily through the door with “your favorite sandwich from Natoli’s by my job site,” or a bagel with vegan vegetable cream cheese because, “I stopped for coffee and saw it on the menu, I couldn’t believe it! I hope it’s good for what I paid for it.”
And then…two turned into three, and three turned into four.
Children…they have a way of changing things.
Long, romantic, expensive dinners turned into grabbing a quick bite at the place down the street while my mother-in-law watched a sick child that we’d been home with for 5 days straight.
Spontaneous 3-day weekends turned into day trips to the zoo, planned around a nap schedule.
Marathon, hours-long sessions of…cuddling…turned into “Wait, let me check on them real quick and lock the door. Don’t fall asleep while I’m gone!”
And now I was standing in my kitchen at 7:45 on a Tuesday night, staring at my sweaty, disheveled, husband, who was so happy and animated as he talked about chicken sausage and washing machine agitators and botanical mint spray.
And I have never wanted him more.
Romance is nice- it’s lovely, really. We still go away once a year, just for a night, without kids or dogs, eat at an expensive restaurant, stay in a B&B, and stroll along a tiny main street with antique shops and cafes.
The other 364 nights?
We laugh a lot, over ridiculous things.
One of us waits in the kitchen with a glass of wine or a cupcake when the other texts “on my way, awful day.”
He sets my favorite mug under the Keurig before he leaves at 5 in the morning; on weekends I let him sleep late and push the “brew” button just as I hear him heading down the stairs.
We grab each other’s butts while we’re cooking and cleaning. This is a staple of any healthy marriage and I highly recommend it.
We’re there for each other.
In a household with 2 small humans, 2 destructive dogs, and so many loads of laundry that I’m surprised we’re not buried in socks (no wonder the poor washer keeled over), just being there for each other is a far greater expression of love than all the long-stemmed roses in the world (they’re over-priced anyway. I know- I worked in a florist.)
So romance…it’s all in how you look at it. Sometimes it’s Godiva chocolate and massages in a candle-lit room. Sometimes it’s a tired guy standing in front of you with a broken piece of plastic and a smile, and a pile of chicken nuggets on the counter.
I’ll take that second one every day of the week.