Marriage is about give and take, yin and yang, being flexible and willing to stretch a little to make things work. There’s a lot we have had to stretch that I figured would be part of the deal: a dollar, a car ride to keep the baby asleep, a vacation that we didn’t want to end, etc. etc. etc. What I didn’t anticipate was how much my heart would stretch.
Before kids, I loved my husband, I mean really loved him: The I can’t stand a weekend-away from you kind of love… The you hang up first kind of love… The you are the exhale to my inhale kind of love…the we have a new puppy and this is sealing the deal kind of love. And we both knew it the second we found it. He did, after all, ask me to marry him the very night I met him. What could be more romantic?
So we were lucky enough to find love. His father explained it somehow akin to me stopping a runaway train – and I laughed because I knew he was doing the same by capturing me forever.
We worked and played house and loved every second. We stretched our cooking abilities, our home improvement talents, and our landscaping knowhow as we learned through trial and error. And we laughed a lot. Funny has always been part of the deal for us. Funny works.
I knew I could never love anyone as I loved him. And then we had our first child. And suddenly the guy I loved became a new man in front of my very eyes and I somehow, incredulously, loved him even more than I had before – the impossible became a reality. With every feeding or changing or rocking, I saw my husband become a father and I loved him more. My heart stretched.
As parents we learned about stretching meals with leftovers to save more for diapers and we learned about stretching out days so we could fit time for work and play and keeping up a household that now housed a family.
And then we had a daughter. Again, my full heart seemed it could spare no more love than it already held, but my heart must have stretched by two sizes to fit all the extra love I now felt for this man as he carried the pink diaper bag confidently over his shoulder at a restaurant or snapped her safely into her swing.
A family of four now, we hit plenty of stretches along the way: stretches of firsts (first teeth, first words, first steps, first broken bones, first recitals, first games, first sleepovers, first hurt feelings, etc. etc. etc.), stretches of good times (He’s reading! She’s off with no training wheels! They’re getting along!), stretches of bad times (Will we ever have a date? Will we ever pay all these bills? Will we ever all be healthy at the same time?).
And all along the way, in the ups and the downs- the hugs after scraped knees, the “you’re driving me crazy!”s, the scout campouts, the sleepless nights, the “I would love just 5 minutes of peace!”s, the dance classes, the stresses at work, the “I’ll wash the dishes tonight, I can see you are out of steam” - no matter the stretch, we made it through every time.
When he turned 40 I tried to throw a party, but being in the spotlight is just not his style and he told me he wasn’t having it. I cooked his favorite dinner and the kids made nametags and set the table in the dining room for special. We gave him a book of pictures from over the years showing him the wonderful father and husband that he is. And he got a bit quiet. The corners of his mouth turned up in smiles and then turned down a time or two and the kids asked if he liked it. He said he did, but he couldn’t believe how fast they’d grown, how quickly we arrived here. And he admitted that he missed the days of diapers and late nights and arguments about whose turn it was to do the feedings.
And somehow I loved him even more. Again. When I thought my heart had no more room to grow, still it stretched. Because we are in this together. And we can’t stop time. And our busiest and craziest moments of parenthood are flashes and someday we will miss every stretch; the good, the bad, and the ugly.
I see our future, full of stretches we’ll experience together. One stretch I know will be difficult will be the one when our babies grow up and leave and we will be what’s left of a family that used to take up every nook and cranny of this house that we have made a home. It will be hard, but we will be together through it and we will hold each other’s hands and hang in there. And we’ll probably fight some too and get on each other’s nerves because, hey, we aren’t perfect. And there will be highs and lows just like there are now. And then will come the stretch when our children find love and get married and our hearts will stretch again. And we will dance at the weddings and rock the grandbabies and we will still look at each other the same way we do now. The look that says, “Surely I could never love you more than I do now”…but we will. Our hearts will find a way to stretch as they always have. And I will once again be in disbelief that I was lucky enough to have known a love like this.