All of our mornings begin the same. We wake up as if in mid-panic, frantically racing against the clock to brush our teeth, take a quick shower (or sometimes not—thank you, top-knot, for being on trend at this season in my life), throw on some clothes, and get the kids ready for school. Sometimes we tag team, sometimes one of us has been up way too late with work and one of us takes the morning duties, sometimes we both have been up way too late and we both take the morning duties, or one of us takes one for the team and let’s the other sleep a little longer.
This particular morning, I can’t remember who was up late or if we were both up late, but we both got up in a frenzy, bleary-eyed, hurriedly getting ready for the day ahead. At one point, I remember being half-ready, opening a dresser drawer to grab a shirt as my husband passed by hurriedly pulling his undershirt over his head. I thought about how we have evolved. Six years ago, there would probably have been a pause, a flirty comment about his half-dressed wife, or a playful kiss or hug.
This morning, like every morning, there was a sense of immediacy. There were demands that needed to be met before it was too late, and we were just waking up, mid-rush. Our three kids’ teeth needed to be brushed, they needed help getting this arm in this sleeve or that button buttoned, and our littlest needed her nighttime diaper changed as its bulging bottom taunted us with what would happen if we waited. There was breakfast that needed to be prepped, and hair that needed to be combed and put in braids. There was my husband who needed to be ready to go to work, and my need to at least have my teeth brushed and no remnants of yesterday’s mascara under my eyes when I dropped them off in the morning. It was our morning routine of the race against time.
Yes, today, our day-to-day routine and the way we interact in these routines have changed.
I have a vivid memory of walking with my husband through the middle of campus when we were in college. It was a gorgeous mid-morning spring day. I remember the green ivy that added so much richness and life to the brick walls of those old buildings. He was walking me to chemistry class. I remember realizing that I had forgotten a sweater to pull over my strappy dress because though it was sunny and warm outside, chemistry class was always freezing cold. I remember the gentle, lazy click of my heels on the uneven paver stones.
The thing about this memory is that I was wearing a strappy, floral dress to chemistry class—in heels. And that was who I was when my husband met me. I was this girl who dedicated an hour every morning to blow-drying and curling her hair, to getting ready and wearing little strappy numbers—and heels, always heels. I could do anything in heels. I could do a four-hour experiment in physics lab in heels. I could run the entirety of campus in heels. I realize this is not everyone’s college years, but these were mine. And this is the girl my husband got to know 14 years ago.
And today, that person who my husband met is so far from the person I am today. I truly can’t remember the last time I took an hour to get ready. Maybe my best friend’s wedding over the summer? And wasn’t that because we had to figure out how to iron, pin, and drape our saris? I can’t remember the last time I wore heels for more than a short evening out, which reminds me, I really should get new work sneakers. And dresses? Who can live in dresses? Are you insane? The way I am constantly bending down to pick up one kid or the other or squatting to pick up the trail of Cheerios that follows my toddler through life—how would I do this in dresses? My wardrobe of athletic wear and loungewear run the gamut of colors and seasons and serve me very well on a daily basis—and sometimes a two-day-at-a-time basis. I think back to that person I was and can’t imagine how horrified she would be to see me now.
Putting on jeans for me on a day off is a good day. Blow-drying my hair? Wow. I must have a special event I am going to. It’s not that I don’t take pride in how I present myself; I do try to be healthy, dress appropriately for occasions, and stay fit, but today, there are too many stacked priorities to have time for those things that seemed to fill my college days. While getting ready once was most certainly a priority that floated easily in my top-five essentials, it has quickly been bumped down by school drop-off, grocery and meal preparation, work meetings and obligations, juggling our schedules, picking up toys and mystery bits of dried food from the floor, and days dedicated to my family, laundry, laundry, and laundry. And laundry.
I think about how relationships and marriages grow. They are ever-evolving as our lives change; it fascinates me to think how so many variables can change and one couple still find unity and consistency in each other. I wonder, does my husband ever think about what happened to that girl he met? Does he ever wonder if we will ever be those two people who met a decade and a half ago?
Oh, but I already know the answer. There is so much more to what we have now. Right now, we have a family. We have three children with the most beautiful souls. They are kind. They are empathetic. They are considerate. They are full of smiles and happiness and joy. They are well-fed, well-dressed, and well-loved. They love each other and their family. They are these truly wonderful little people because of us. We have taken the two of us and have nurtured and entwined ourselves in rich, green ivy, and made it so much better.
I may no longer be that girl in a sundress and heels, but I am so much more. I am the reason we have groceries in our fridge. I am the reason we have healthy prepared meals at dinnertime. I am the reason our home is furnished and there is a place for every toy. I am the person who knows where my son left his Batman watch last week. I am the reason that fruit I bought and the leftovers from yesterday will get used in tonight’s meal. I am the reason my daughter will make it to dance class on Thursday on time with her jazz and tap shoes and water bottle. I am the reason my son will start soccer in April. I am the reason our kids have a five-year check-up with their pediatrician tomorrow and the reason their school knows I will be picking them up early to get to that appointment. I am the reason our kids have clothes that fit them and bows that match. I am the reason my kids think women are strong. I do it far from perfectly, but I am the core of our family. I am the strength, the love, the force.
Do I wonder if my husband ever truly wonders what happened to that girl he met 14 years ago? No. Not deep down. Because I am still that girl, but I am so much more. We are so much more. So, if he passes me again tomorrow morning, and there is no coy, flirty comment made, I know that it is not because anything has changed. It is just that life has evolved. Today, we show our affection in different ways. Did I tell you that last week he let me sleep in and took the kids to school and came back with my usual Starbucks drink order before heading to work? The sheer joy and melt-my-heart ode to our love that hot, steamy caffeinated beverage brought me in my five-hours-of-sleep haze just proved that nothing had truly changed. It just looked different.
My husband and I, we are far from being those college kids we were when we met. We have become an unrelenting team under a mound of responsibilities. This is the season of our lives, and we are the right people for the job. Because underneath it all, we are still two people who love each other deeply and are unwavering in our commitment to our family. We can do this, one day at a time, with a couple shortcuts here and there and a couple frantic moments (or daily frantic moments). But we will get by, and we will do it with as much respect and love for each other as ever.
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