There’s an old photo on our desk of the two of us when we first started dating. Our kids found it at the bottom of a drawer a few weeks ago, and like so many other things in our house, it just keeps getting moved from one place to the next with no real home.
In the photo, my arms are wrapped tightly around your neck, pulling you close, with a smile that stretches my face, thanks to love and a few strong cocktails. You’re smiling a boyish grin and don’t seem to mind that I’ve nearly put you in a headlock with my loving embrace. We are carefree and giddy, a little wild, and absolutely crazy in love.
It isn’t a particularly great photo, not something we would frame and proudly display, but for some reason, I can’t bring myself to hide it away in a photo album either. And something tells me you can’t either. So that decades-old photo moves from kitchen counter, to bedroom nightstand, to a stack of papers on the desk in our shared office.
In many ways, this photo exemplifies the current state of our relationship. It wanders and occasionally gets lost in the shuffle and messiness of life with young kids. The photo gets forgotten and neglected sometimes; it falls to the bottom of the pile. But eventually it’s found again. The photo of those giddy youngsters emerges, and there we are — with a few more creases and faded corners, but still crazy in love. Because even though things have changed in the 18 years (holy shit, has it really been almost two decades?!) since that photo was taken, you’re still The One.
Like that photo, we have a few more creases (the literal and figurative kind). There are faded edges, and maybe even a few scratches here and there. We’ve hurt each other. We’ve said things we immediately wished we could take back. We’ve cried with each other, and because of each other.
But we’re softer too. We’ve learned that the real meaning of forgiveness means forgetting a little bit, or at least letting go of the hurt. We’ve learned how to be more patient and compassionate with each other and ourselves. We’re learning the art of shutting the hell up and listening.
Unintentionally, our relationship falls to the bottom of the pile sometimes, like that lost and misplaced photo. We get consumed with baseball practice and parent-teacher conferences, with church board meetings and out-of-town work obligations. Our weekends are filled with Little League games and volunteering and futile attempts to catch up on sleep. We might wait too long to plan a date night or fall asleep in the middle of the movie we downloaded from Amazon Prime. Our conversations might focus on schedules and logistics and debates over whose turn it is to clean up the dog puke in the living room.
But through it all, we are both still here. Still in love. Still going strong.
We’re not quite as carefree or impetuous as before, thanks to pesky things like the mortgage, electric bill, and expensive-as-hell youth sports. We’re a little less wild (thank god!) and a lot more tired. But we’re still here. We’re stronger and wiser. Our love isn’t just infused with passion and possibility anymore, but with respect, appreciation, and deep loyalty.
You’re still The One, babe.
Those two smiling kids in the photo (and we really were kids back then) couldn’t have imagined the joys we would feel together as we watched our children learn to walk, start kindergarten, and score the game-winning shot in a basketball game. Just like we couldn’t have imagined the wilderness we’d walk through together as we navigated things like miscarriages, depression, and a parent with Alzheimer’s disease.
Back then, being The One meant dreaming of a future together. Sure, we knew that there would be ups and downs involved in building a life together, but those theoretical ups and downs were hazy and hypothetical. Back then, being The One was like buying a ticket for some unknown destination of wild adventures together; these days, being The One means actually walking across the rugged terrain and soft-sand beaches of life together. It’s a hard and amazing and beautiful journey, and there’s no one I’d rather be walking with than you.
A lot might have changed over the years, but some things are still the same. We’re still crazy in love. I still adore you. You’re still The One.