We have been neck deep in cleaning things out recently. Cleaning out attics in childhood homes. Cleaning out storage containers collecting dust in closets. The kind of cleaning that is simultaneously freeing and heartbreaking as you view your life through a box of old photographs, letters, report cards, and trophies.
In the midst of all the cleaning, my husband and I came across a treasure trove of old letters, poetry, and pictures from the earliest parts of our relationship through the early parts of our marriage. There were the sweetest poems written by a 19 year old boy who was in love and needed the world to know. There was letter after letter from a 20 year old girl to her summer camp counselor boyfriend, reminding him many times not to forget her and how much she longed to be back in his arms. Some of it made me cry. A lot of it was embarrassing. And quite frankly, some of it made me question:
What happened to those love struck, googly-eyed kids?
Have we lost something that was so spectacular that we had to use the biggest and most elaborate words we knew to describe it? Have we lost the passion that made us think 4 weeks away from each other every summer would be the death of us? And where is the box of letters from now? Why have we stopped writing over-the-top, cringe-worthy love letters?!
Well, thankfully, life sometimes has a way of answering all the tough questions in real time. The very night we discovered the love letters, our eldest child woke up at 1 a.m. and ran into our room to announce that he needed to throw up. Simultaneously, my husband and I sat up and yelled, “throw up in the toilet! But if you can’t make it, at least get to the tile floor!” In true over-achiever fashion, he listened to all our instructions and gave us the full trifecta in that one short vomit episode…bedroom carpet, tile floor in the bathroom, and on the toilet with the lid closed.
People, I do not love vomit, even on my best day. It’s probably my number one parenting weakness. Add pregnancy into it, and I’m helpless against that bodily fluid. As we both got up to handle the situation, my knight in shining armor – the one who wrote me love poems and songs when he was young and clueless as to what life would hold for us (especially clueless to the amount of vomit that parenting would entail) – calmly sent the puker out to me to help change and get settled back into bed while he painstakingly cleaned up vomit from every corner of our bedroom and bathroom. We laid down back in bed once it was all handled, and I thanked him for handling the clean up, and he answered, “no problem babe. I know how much you hate puke.”
It was in that moment that I realized how silly I was to think that there was any love lost over the 16 years that we’ve walked so far.
Love has changed. Love has transformed.
Love has grown.
It’s a love that doesn’t always fill up a box with passionate letters, but it fills up a stolen moment with enough passion to sustain and nourish until the next quiet moment is found.
It’s a love that doesn’t have to be questioned or reminded. It encompasses each and every moment of family life. It’s the kiss at the door before we part ways and the comfort of sliding our exhausted bodies into bed at night for that last peaceful, snuggly moment before the exhaustion completely takes over.
It’s the shared joy of watching your children succeed, the shared pain in seeing them struggle, the shared fear when they are sick, and the shared laughter when you realize they inherited every quirk you swore you didn’t possess to begin with.
It’s a love that holds your hand when bad news is delivered and dries your tears when life isn’t all you had hoped for. It’s walking through grief and hardships.
It’s learning to budget and grocery shop and keep a house clean and plan for retirement and save for college and juggle what feels like a million balls in the air without ever losing touch in the process…or at least not for long.
It’s anger and frustration and “if only you knew” that gives way to conversation and softened hearts and greater understanding.
It’s love that is the highest of highs and the lowest of lows and every level in between. It’s felt the immensity of wedding days and births of children, and it’s felt the strain of lopsided division of labor, and it’s felt the comfort and complacency of mundane days filled with routines that work like a well-oiled machine.
It’s the kind of love that rejoices in a 5-night trip to reconnect and get away, only to realize that 3 nights would have been plenty and the insanity that is family life is missed more than you ever thought possible.
It’s love that always ensures there is a cold Diet Coke in the fridge and gets up early on Saturday morning to keep the house quiet enough for a highly coveted morning of sleeping in.
It’s sushi on the couch in pajamas. It’s a fancy dinner out with clean hair and make up. It’s the kind of love that appreciates both equally.
So what if it’s no longer the kind of love that allows for 5 page love letters and books entitled “101 reasons I love you”?
Now, it’s so much more than that kind of love.
Maybe your Valentine’s Day won’t be filled with the flashy romance of a Hollywood rom-com. I’m positive that mine won’t, but maybe it’s time to celebrate the kind of love that has transformed and changed and grown with each and every stage. That love that has been stretched and tried and inflated and has remained. Your own love story, whatever it may be.
Beautiful reflections on your wonderfully rich life and love. That precious love-struck look is there when the five of you come ito church and quietly settle into the pew for Mass. it is in the quiet shushes and sweet strokes of those precious little heads. Your love is transforming and growing everyday as you nurture your family♥️ You all are a treasure to behold🥰
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