by Grace Paley
Here I am in the garden laughing
an old woman with heavy breasts
and a nicely mapped face
how did this happen
well that’s who I wanted to be
at last a woman
in the old style sitting
stout thighs apart under
a big skirt grandchild sliding
on off my lap a pleasant
that’s my old man across the yard
he’s talking to the meter reader
he’s telling him the world’s sad story
how electricity is oil or uranium
and so forth I tell my grandsom
run over to your grandpa ask him
to sit beside me for a minute I
am suddenly exhausted by my desire
to kiss his sweet explaining lips
Today is our 14th wedding anniversary. 14 years of growing old together, only we’re not really old. Not yet. Though we’ve three sun-drenched boys with sandy feet and hair all askew running through our house today. And I’m planning his fortieth birthday party. But I just know that I’m gong to blink and suddenly it will have all changed, and so will I.
And we’ll be sitting together on the couch for his eightieth, reminiscing about when we were forty. And maybe we’ll even recall with some clarity the years before, when we were really young.
The first 18 months were euphoric for us. While many newlyweds suffer tremendously in their early days of marriage, we were giddy! As an actress I had auditions and sporadic jobs, but most of my days were spent looking through bon apetite magazines, and coming up with fun menus or new ways to arrange the furniture. I grew an herb garden and made all sorts of flavorful sauces from scratch. When Matt came home he’d find the bbq fired up and his wife swimming naked in the pool.
Which may have had something to do with the babies being born in quick succession. So much blue! Blue onsies and balls and the baby slues that can shake a woman and a marriage. We were over the moon until we were overwhelmed. And we had to learn to love all over again as I cared for my children and he cared for us in other ways… like paying the bills and mowing the yard. But it was all caring, and we were busy and sometimes forgot to talk.
Life got messy at this point. I’m not referring to the spilled milk, or my painful attempts to nurse my newest baby. I’m not talking about the poop that found it’s way out of diapers and onto the furniture… Life got messy because I couldn’t seem to manage it all. The cooking, the laundry, the cleaning, the park dates, sleep deprivation, the trips to the doctor for baby number three… needless to say my sweet man and I ceased spending good time together.
Oh, we have been so blessed to have my mom and his take the children every now and then so that we can get away together, but in our day in and day out existence, we were simply surviving. And I began to miss him. Even as I write those words I sense the miracle of our experience. So many couples “grow apart” during these years with young ones underfoot, but we missed one another. Praise the Lord! Both of us longed for our friendship and the laughter, even when we were too tired or grumpy to delight in one another.
We are not quite out of the woods yet, but I am beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel. One day soon I will have my man again by my side; not running to the left to grab one little hand as I run to the right to catch hold of another. But I don’t want to push past where we are today.
I want to live “Here,” in this moment, rather than wishing the days away. I know that when I get “there” at the end of my children’s growing up years, I will have my man by my side ’til we’re good and old; but I will miss their popsicle kisses, their declarations of love, and their promises to marry me. And so I purpose to live “Here” today, and find as many moments as I can along the way to taste tomorrow in my man’s sweet kisses.