My young son sat on the log outside waiting for snack. The older kids poured out from the Kindergarten room and I see his eyes follow a little blonde girl. He stands up, runs to her and says, “I’m here, Piper!” The little girl, Piper, doesn’t hear him. She has another friend of ours talking to her and my young son is standing behind her. “Here, Piper, I’m here!” I hear Piper ask where he is and finally she hears him, the third time, and turns around. “Oh! There you are! I missed you!” She sits down and pats the seat next to her. My son sits beside her and wraps his arm around her waist and gives her a snuggle I know well.
A moment flashes and I see a time I’m not my son’s only woman. It is only a moment, as he turns to me, smiles, and says, “I wuv you, Mommy.”
Later that same day my phone rings. I answer the unfamiliar, but local, number. A little girl asks who I am. I hear her dad in the background say, “no no, sweetie, you need to say who YOU are. Ask for LB.” I smile, “Are you looking for LB?” “Yes, is LB there?” I hand my daughter the phone and listen to her squeal to her school friend in delight. They talk about school and petshops. There’s a lot of giggling and a lot of repetition but I smile realizing this is the first of many many phone calls my daughter will be receiving from fellow schoolmates. For now, it is a girl. I see a day, though, when her first boy call comes and smile, shake my head, and remember.
My young husband, 15 at the time, was outside mowing the lawn when the phone rang. His mother answers the phone not knowing who is on the line. It’s a time before caller ID, before call waiting, before google IM and chat. She doesn’t know there’s a girl on the phone, the first phone call from a girl at school she’s never heard of. She doesn’t know I’ve called two other numbers with the same last name to find this one in the phone book and that I just hung up with his Grandma a few minutes before who gave me the correct number.
“Bobby!” I hear her yell, “Bobby! It’s a girl on the phone.”
I hear a long pause and finally he answers breathlessly. It is the first of a million phone calls we’ll share over the next twenty-one years.
Today we celebrate our ninth anniversary. As I sit here watching a very young family, I see them share the children. Dad taking the older one, mom rocking the very tiny newborn. They switch when one gets restless and the other seamlessly takes over in that place rocking or entertaining. They are tired. They are young. They clearly have an unspoken ritual, they’ve done this a thousand times at home, in public, wordlessly working at a team.
I think of all the years, married and unmarried, my husband and I have worked to build that same unspoken communication. We call it our “harmony.” We’ve had times where our harmony was off but we fix it. Built on twenty-one years of phone calls, of late nights, of teary discussions and hours of laughter, we reach another small, but significant milestone in our marriage. Nine years.
It’s a drop in the bucket, we laugh. We’re not even near dead yet. I tell him I’ll run away to England or Holland and he tells me that’s fine, he’ll be on the next plane with the kids. And we laugh about it because it’s so absurd one minute and so real the next, that life flies by and lasts so long in the same moment. We shake our heads at our children growing and ponder their smallness. We do it together: as we have. For nine years. And counting.