My husband and I spent our thirteenth wedding anniversary in separate beds in the same house.
I look at this picture of us in St. Mark’s Square, in Venice, right before our second anniversary. We look so young, so happy and so hopeful (and like we’d had too much pasta, prosecco, and gelato for too many days)! This was back when I was staying home with our first child who wasn’t quite a year old at the time. Before the four-year fight vs. secondary infertility, the multiple job changes, and loss of grandparents. Before I went back to work. Before three more babies (finally and fortunately) came.
This “unlucky” thirteenth anniversary was on a Monday night (of course). And it was a $&*# show of a night. All four children were crying at the same time. One in the throes of anxiety over a new camp the next day, the second worn out from a new camp he’d started that morning, and the other two because they’re twin toddlers, and toddlers always cry at 5:30 p.m. My husband was stressed about work, and I was worn out after an unexpected and long drive (instead of flight) back to town. The evening was one of those that starts down the slippery slope to chaos and doesn’t recover until everyone is finally asleep and you’re sobbing over a bowl of ice cream over all your life choices.
How appropriate. Our thirteenth anniversary was spent just like 90 percent of all the other days of our lives together — complete with exhaustion, stress, crying children, and household chores to do — as in, not Venice. This is real life. Those first years of marriage can be such a honeymoon, when you have one or no children yet, when you have some extra income for trips, when you can do and go where you like when you like without tiny people’s schedules to accommodate. Where laundry, recycling bins, tween drama, lunches, dishes, and doctor’s appointments don’t follow, and where you have just one another to love and care for, and still have time for yourself, working out, and maybe even a book and a hobby. Those first years of marriage are special, precious years — and in my case, the easy years.
Finally, finally, all four of them were asleep. We rallied for an anniversary dinner as best we could. We lit a small candle, sat at the dining room table, and ate more pasta and had more prosecco, and took out a carton of ice cream to share. (The dining room, with the kids’ shoes and backpacks, crayons, and toy cars was no Venice, but at least it was quiet.) The flowers he had brought me were pretty and bright in their vase, and we each gave each other a card. We had 20 minutes together before I heard the crack of a bedroom door and padding of little toddler feet.
“MAMA, mama, WHERE ARE YOU?!”
Number four was up and wanted breakfast. At 9:45 p.m.
The ice cream melted, forgotten, on the counter. My husband did the dishes, and I sat with our youngest twin until he fell asleep.
Then I made lunches, switched the laundry, brushed my teeth and got in bed.
“MAMA, mama, WHERE ARE YOU?! I want breakfast!”
I hear my son’s twin sister start crying upon being woken up.
I fell asleep the night of my thirteenth anniversary night in my bed, soothing a toddler who wouldn’t stop asking for breakfast.
My husband, who sat patiently with our twin daughter until she stopped crying, ended up falling asleep next to her on her toddler bed, using a stuffed unicorn as a pillow.
Oh, wait… I love you.
Even after all the years of nights like these. Real life, real marriage.