We used to visit Kalispell every summer. We’d go up to visit one of my closest friends, to eat junk food on the long drive up, to feel the spray of the cold, clear water of Flathead Lake, to walk through Big Fork and eat a nice dinner or watch something live at The Playhouse, to oooohhh and ahhhhh at the best of the best Montana scenery. This August marks four years since we said our vows in front of our friends and family. That summer was the last summer we made it up there. Since then we’ve had to cancel our honeymoon because of my morning sickness with our daughter. We went to Fairmont with the help of my family when she was 17 months old and swore up and down we would NEVER BE THAT STUPID AGAIN. We tried to plan a honeymoon for our 3rd anniversary only to find out your job was ending and just weeks later that we were expecting another baby. We missed the wedding of a family member because I was due the same day with our son. We’ve had one single night out of town, just the two of us, in four years. FOUR YEARS. And thinking of traveling with two kids is enough to make me retreat to a corner crying and shaking uncontrollably.
Yes, we’ve missed countless friend trips, romantic vacations, and out-of-town weddings. I haven’t put on a bikini or felt the cold, clear Flathead waters on my skin in years. Instead I’ve waded in knee deep kiddie pools in tankinis and cover-ups.
This season of our relationship is the furthest thing from glamorous and carefree that I can possibly imagine. There’s lots of fast food instead of gourmet meals. At times I can become a bit bitterly disappointed at all I am leaving behind, all that I have to announce to myself I can no longer do, not right now. We are at the age now where people we love have lost their parents. Where people we love have lost their children. Where each day is both painfully long and yet the years slip by scary fast.
Our day to day is witnessing these little lives we’ve created grow and change. Its bittersweet in sharply recognizable ways. We lose each other, we find each other again. Repeat. Repeat.
It feels like we are running low on everything – sleep, time, sex, money. Each day is a struggle in some way. Our relationship used to be effortless, even the hard stuff was easy. Even with one baby, things between us remained largely unchanged. Now sometimes I just feel so … regular. Like a stereotype of marriage with kids.
Our story as a couple has been riding these huge waves, these huge changes, fucking up on the timing all the time and taking years to get it on the right track. But our magic has been that through it all, we always find our way back to each other. Our magic is a deep, genuine something, something that “love” seems too commercial or trite or average to describe.
Because I know, beyond any shadow of a doubt – I know on a level of sureness that surpasses anything I’ve ever been sure about – that you are the one, the only one, who I want to do this all with.
Last week we went to a concert for the first time since I was pregnant with Gia. We got to have a drink and a conversation that wasn’t interrupted by crying or screams of “STOP TALKING!!” from our 3-year-old and dance together and touch each other and it felt so good. Because it reminded me in this season of life where we have so little time for each other that although it goes without saying that I love you, I also still like you. I really, really like you. Will and Ashley, alone, together, is like coming home.
We ride on the high of a few hours alone together and then reality crashes through when the next day Eli won’t nap and when I look at our bank account I panic and something breaks and Gia is crying about the color bandaid she has for her non-existent owie. Our blood pressure rises and our relaxation disappears into oblivion and suddenly its Monday and I’m guessing our next adult conversation won’t be until the weekend. And some days I want to cry and time machine it back to pre-babies Will and Ashley and just hide out there for a day or 300.
But when I look back at these years, these four blink of the eye years where our whole lives completely changed forever, I think I will remember more than the everyday irritants and mishaps what an honor it was to do it all with you. I think I will remember Eli screaming bloody murder from his infant car seat while Gia repeats her questions ad nauseum over his cries and how we look at each other and you reach for my hand and we either laugh or cry, depending on the day.
I think I will remember the ugliness and beauty of these four years with a sentimental fondness, with the warm glow that you get when looking at old pictures and forgetting that time Gia puked all over me and Eli cried for four hours straight. I think I will forget how tight money was and how little time we had alone and how many days I would go without showering and instead remember how you still wanted to kiss me.
We are riding this wave that feels a lot like drowning at the moment, but I know we will rise again. We will rise with a thousand stories from the trenches of everyday life. We will rise with the satisfaction, the pride that we were right there together through the thick of it. That you still wanted to kiss me on day 4 of no shower and that dancing with you at a concert made me feel 16 and like I was falling in love with you for the first time again.
Happy 4 years of marriage, babe. I love you so, so much.
Year five, let’s do this.