By my calculation, I am in the parenting eye of the hurricane. My decade of non-stop diaper changing is almost behind me and I have about a year before I launch into almost two decades of parenting teenagers. While that last fact makes me want to run out and start stocking the pantry with hard liquor, I am actually trying to stay in the moment and enjoy this in between stage. One of the best things about this stage is that all of my boys still think girls have cooties and have a knee jerk aversion to anything mushy. The lengths to which they will go to avoid seeing a hug or a kiss on the movie screen is laughable (and comforting).
If you are like this and have any qualms about witnessing mushiness, you are going to want to look away now because I am about to tell you a love story. This story involves a paint brush, a band hall, and two teenagers. It’s not a particularly romantic setting, I admit, but the facts are sometimes unsuitable for the story they belong to. It was the summer before I entered high school and I was 13. That summer, the band geeks and their parents got together to try to remodel the band hall into something a little less…depressing. I was tasked with the job of standing at the bottom of the ladder to recharge the paintbrush for the person painting at the top of the ladder. The person at the top of the ladder was my husband in 17 year old senior form. Oh, my heart.
For hours, I stood at the bottom and he sat at the top and we worked as a team to complete that interminable task. I can’t recall if what we said to one another during those hours, but it is likely that our conversation was punctuated with jabs and banter like that of pulling pigtails and chasing each other on the playground. Whatever was said, our stars had crossed and there was no going back.
Of course, our young love was not without trial. There was the age difference, me a freshman in high school and him, a senior getting ready to head off to college. And then there was the expectation that things like love at first sight, or long distance relationships, or high school sweethearts were merely fairy tales and legends, not reality.
But, the reality was that we were soul mates and being teenagers didn’t change that. If we had been in our twenties when we met, we would have married within months, but as getting married while still in high school is generally frowned upon, we instead began the grand and glorious process of growing up together as we grew to love each other more. Practically the minute I graduated from high school it seemed un-scandalous enough that he proposed with such story book romance flair that completely makes up for that paltry paint bucket beginning.
All the adults around us did their duty to be sure we knew what we were doing at such a young age, and as such we found ourselves in premarital counseling. The counselor was skeptical, as most adults were, so he had us complete a compatibility study to make sure we really knew what we were doing. The results were shocking. Well, they were shocking to him, but not to us. Through the charts and graphs spit out by the automated test process, we learned that we were as different as two people could possibly be. He was as steady and straight as an arrow, while I was prone to more, ummm…. extremes. What was shocking to the counselor is that we had each other pegged (as if after six years, we didn’t know each other, warts and all.) I knew he wasn’t likely to ever be overly excited and he knew that overly excited was my standard operating procedure.
He told the counselor that he was like a rock and I was like a helium balloon-I kept him from staying in one place and he kept me from flying off into certain destruction. The counselor said we obviously knew what we were getting into, even though we seemed completely incompatible, and certified us marriageable. And marry we did, as soon as one of us was out of college and had a job.
When you marry a self described “rock,” you have to anticipate what is going to come along with that package. A rock is typically reliable and steady, but not terribly romantic or demonstrative, which to a helium balloon can seem like a life without the proper amount of passion. However, it has been through travel (and I am not just saying that because this is a travel blog) that we have been able to find that passion that I crave together.
The first time I noticed this was in our first year of marriage. The Mister was working on a contract in San Francisco and I had used his frequent flyer miles to join him for the weekend. Although, I was excited to be in the city, I was mostly looking forward to fulfilling a dream of touring Alcatraz. When we arrived to purchase our tickets, we learned that all the tickets for the day were sold out. Scalped tickets were available, but as newlyweds, we had a very limited budget and that was just out of our price range-or so I thought. Before I knew it, the Mister had purchased the scalped tickets, thinking not at all of the cost, but only that he knew that he was helping to feed my passion to see and experience the world.
Recently, I talked about our passion to take a trip around the country with our family. Although, I used words like ‘we’ and ‘us’ and ‘our’, the truth is, the passion is mostly mine. I am the visionary-the dreamer. And while I spout lofty words about zeal and enthusiasm, he is the one who has to put together the practical pieces to make someone else’s dreams come true. This trip has a high personal cost for him. He is the one who has to find a way to work while traveling with his family. He is the one who has to make sure we have the means, both financially and physically to arrive safely.
But, with no consideration at all for the cost, he has daily found a way to make this passion-my passion-a reality. He unselfishly sees the fire in my eyes and finds a way to fan that flame. That is the kind of love, my friends, that starts at 13 and keeps on going until you are 103.