I was gargling with a cheeseburger at a fast food restaurant. These days my life is ruled by three kids, all five years old and under, and gargling is the best way to describe how I eat. If I chew the food I risk getting lost in the flavor, the texture. I risk enjoying a meal and having it abruptly interrupted by someone who needs to potty or spilled their milk or can’t handle the way their brother is looking at them. So my meals end up lodged somewhere in the back of my throat before plummeting into my stomach cavity. Quickly, before someone says “mommy.”
My husband, Tom, sat across from me, cramming his burger in a similar fashion. Our three kids were seated around us picking apart mini corndogs and mandarin oranges. We were more saturated in offspring than our burgers were sopped in unhealthy fats.
Tom always crouches over his food, straddling it with his elbows as if he’s ready to whack anyone with a bony humorous who threatens to get too close. He grew up with four siblings; I believe his food gargling started decades before mine out of pure survival.
Sometimes I snap at him, “Would you quit eating like you’re in a third world country!?”
He pushes a wad of burger to his cheek and nods with his eyes to a white haired couple in the corner behind us. Slowly the couple brings delicate ice cream cones to their lips and leisurely licks a dollop into their mouths. It might be starting to melt as the frozen treat reacts to room temperature air, but the couple seems so far from alarmed. It’s vanilla, glistening white, just as brilliant as the shade on their heads. They aren’t speaking. They aren’t gargling. They are, I think, enjoying.
When I follow Tom’s gaze he says “Look, maybe that will be us someday.”
I crinkle my nose in disgust, “Like, maybe it will or maybe it won’t?” Just what exactly was he trying to imply?
“No, maybe there will be something better than ice cream by then.”
Ok…*enter heart flutter*
Tom and I are different in most every way. The truth is I’ve never been much of a meat eater. But I married a meat and potatoes man, and through the years some things just rub off on you. I grew up turning up a finicky little nose at the monstrous burgers my dad would grill in the summer time. Annoyed, he would enjoy his burger that much more “premium meats and cheeses!” he would say. But it wasn’t just meat.
I was finicky about a lot of things. Like marriage and children. And mortgages. All three things I would nauseatingly roll my eyes at. I was going to go to college on the East coast, because, that is where finicky people become successful. I would not eat meat. I would not get married. I would never stroll to the corner with children to pluck a mortgage statement from the mailbox. Goodness no, I had big dreams brewing in my bones.
So how did I end up here? Gargling with a greasy burger next to my three kids and meat eating, mortgage paying husband? I guess because I fell in love.
I fell in love with a lot of things. In the beginning it was Tom, then our first son, and almost overnight it was mothering. Mothering, and family, and home. It wasn’t what I expected out of life, but what I know now is the life I have is truly the biggest of dreams. Years ago fate brought Tom and I together, diverting my big dreams like the shrill cry of “mommy!’ interrupting a meal with real life. And slowly Tom and I have morphed into a pleasant Venn diagram of hopes, dreams, and kids. Lots of kids. And here I am today, the cheeseburger loving, diaper changing, home owning mother —and loving every minute.
Through the years, some things just rub off on you.
I can’t help but hope a little that by the time Tom and I are resting comfortably with each other in the corner of a restaurant with white, shimmering hair, that there isn’t anything better than ice cream. Not one thing. A quiet corner, a small, slowly melting cone of vanilla. And the two of us, talking slowly about the love of our family while vanilla ice cream quietly dribbles down the skin of our forearm…