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A Life in Three Views

about me family husband motherhood partnership relationships
family, father and two daughters,

Do I have everything? A glance at the clock told me to pick up the pace. Apron, pens, wine key, oh- “I’ll be right back. I forgot something in the car” I said, and moved briskly past them to the front door of our house. Pop “Damn” I muttered, knowing this meant the latch hadn’t caught. Irritation rippled through me as I turned, grabbing for the doorknob. As the door swung into place, I jiggled the handle still sputtering under my frustrated breath about old houses and faulty latches - then I froze.  My eyes fell on the scene inside and time suspended. Despite the below freezing temperature, I stood motionless watching the scene unfold before me as love wrapped a thick blanket around my coatless, shivering figure.

He sat in a large, heavy coconut wood chair slightly bent at the waist, readying to put on his shoes. Nearly in unison, two small girls approached from either side, one slightly taller than the other.

Instinctively, his arms opened like sails on a large ship to welcome them. Through the tight fabric of his Carrhart shirt, I saw the sails close in -his muscles tighten, bringing them close for a brief squeeze, then lifting their four and six year old bodies simultaneously onto opposing legs. His arms united, creating a triangular connection.

They looked up into his face, turning their own to meet his eyes. His fickle eyes, which – depending on the day - oscillated between tender blue and greenish hues, turned to look into the deep baby blues of his children. His face, so recently filled with purpose - softened, clearly forgetting the shoes still waiting by the feet of the chair. Ripples appeared at the corner of his smiling eyes.

Involuntarily, I shivered as I drank in the scene through the frosted glass pane, a quick and bitter wind whipping through the porch. But neither cold nor wind could drag me away. I was entranced. They looked so easy with each other, a perfect fit.   

This is a portrait I never thought I would see. Oh – thank you – thank you.

Tears stung my face as a mixture of comprehension and memory swam through me; transported me.

***

I sat on a fold out chair, drinking punch, watching the bride and groom dance. My eyes scanned the room taking in so many people from high school. It seemed a lifetime ago that we had navigated the waters of social transition through the green and gold halls. And yet, only six years had passed while I further navigated collage then grad school and he – the Marine Core. 

My gaze repeatedly landed on him, the best man. I found it difficult to visualize the boy from the track and field team who always moved with such purpose. That boy whose daily attire consisted of Carrhart pants, t-shirts, and if the temperature dropped below 30 degrees, a sweatshirt. He had sported large, square, thick ironic glasses that simultaneously allowed him to see the world, yet seemed to prevent others from really seeing him. Six years later, looking shockingly handsome in a three piece tux, I watched him move with the same calm purpose, gather at the head table and smile for, yet another, picture.  I saw him through new lenses and he, me. 

The speed of our falling seemed to throw us both. Me, for its authenticity. I had never known anything more true in all my days and struggled to believe that love could happen contrary to the popular – nearly mandated - timeline. And he, for its sudden appearance. At twenty-three years old life was presenting him with a barrage of firsts, holding nothing back: first girlfriend, first deep connection, first love, first physical relationship. 

It was a heady time for both of us. We basked in the aura of togetherness. We shut out the world. We shooed away perspectives, timelines and judgments like a series of annoying black flies, flicking them one by one. You cannot squash our happiness! And yet, reality found us within the topic of future children.

We were only three months into our whirlwind romance when we stumbled into that conversation. “Ooooh” I gushed, “I just love children.” I flushed red with the good memories, smiling broadly at the idea of babies in general. I rambled, “I really wanted a brother or a sister, but when that didn’t happen I took on as many families as I could and became their ‘go to’ babysitter, a real member of their family – kind of. I mean, they bought me Christmas presents and I them. I would even take their kids overnight sometimes.” 

Maternal blood pumped through my veins from an early age.

By my early twenties – it was painfully obvious that becoming a mother was always destined to be one of my greatest joys. 

His expression changed, becoming serious, contemplative as he muttered “Really?” He looked very unsure whether he truly wanted to ask the burning question we both knew was hanging on his tongue. Why risk bursting the protective love bubble we existed within? But the words were choking him, demanding to be spoken. “So,” he said softly, “having children is really important to you, isn’t it?” 

All the color drained from my face, not because I feared answering him, no – this man could handle any truth - but because I sensed this was a defining moment. It deserved my full attention and honesty. A strange calmness settled between us.  I love you with all my heart. I know you are my one. I trust you with my truths. “Yes” I whispered, “extremely”. And then, with a soft smile I added one word for our mutual benefit – “someday”. 

He didn’t respond immediately. But when he spoke it was with equal honesty and purpose. His voice echoed the words he had said in high school when such ideas were wildly futuristic, to his buddies in the Marines who chided him for never having been with a woman, to his parents when they asked of his future plans, and now – to me.

“I’ve always known I’d have a good life, but I thought it would be on my own. I’ve never thought of my myself as the marrying kind…” and after a quick breath, knowing what it might do to me – to us – he added, “or the fathering.” 

***

The wind brought me back to my front porch and frosted window, while tears of contented joy formed and froze in my eyes. I drank them in. A father and the daughters he never thought he’d have. His eyes reflecting sheer contentment to be together in their moment, deepening their bond by looking and feeling. 

And then, I saw the shift.  The devilish look appeared instantly. They saw it too, but too late.  His hand and arms moved quickly, simultaneously locking them within the gates formed by his strong, crossed legs. “Noooooo” they feigned, clearly reveling in their father’s love. He groped at their bellies, their armpits and the soft backs of their knees, fingers searching and finding individual tickle spots. 

Two heads fell backwards laughing in spite of their mock protests. A full mane of dark straight hair waved back and forth, her chest heaving with laughter. A smaller head of lighter, wavier hues mouthed his name, Daddy, Daaaaddy. And still, they wanted more.

As I stood, nose practically pressed to a foggy windowpane, I saw tangible proof that intense love can derail our best laid plans, instead filling our lives with unintended, but none-the-less overwhelmingly fulfilling emotion. 

Unable to control my own: a mixture of bittersweet memory and contented joy at the surreal scene playing out before me, my tears fell in earnest. I am so lucky to have this man. Time and loss changed everything – his beliefs, his desires, his definitions of what makes him feel satisfied to the core. Thank you my love – thank you.

In the next second, like a character in a scripted scene, he seemed to know he was being watched. And even as our girls still wriggled under his strong, loving arms – he raised his head. Our eyes met – his still smiling.

I imagined him scrolling through his memories of our family building process, our journey ,our life – it seemed - had finally found its unbalanced center. 

We are a family and our family is complete.  

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