Years ago, before running our own business, before graduating from violin making school, before children, before 9/11 and thoughts of deployment, Ian and I used to take walks together on the east side of town. I loved those walks. We could go anywhere and not have to be back in time for anything or anyone. We were poor but not in debt, uninsured but healthy, and we would hold hands and talk as we strolled around Milwaukee.
Talking with Ian has always been interesting. Even after twenty
years our conversations surprise me. I feel on a very basic level Ian
and I agree on important things, and our core philosophy about life and
our place in it is similar, but the details closer to the surface aren’t
the same at all. We are distinctly different people, and even though
we may be able to finish each other’s sentences in regular conversation
and can make decisions for one another with confidence much of the time,
I am still getting to know him. He has degrees in economic geography
and engineering, and I’m Ms Music and project building person. We come
at problems from very different places. His ideas and perspective give
me much to think about when we’re apart. He helps me challenge my own
thoughts and see things from other angles.
I’m often surprised about where each of us falls on certain issues.
When I recount conversations I’ve had about the war in Iraq to him he
usually responds with his own take that is far less diplomatic. When I
encounter people who express discomfort with the whole idea that my
husband is in the Army and tell me they hate the war, I generally tell
them it’s not a conflict I agree with either, but that simply wishing it
away isn’t a solution and that Ian is exactly the kind of soldier we
would want there trying to fix things. Ian’s response is something
closer to, “I don’t think you’re mad enough about it. From what I saw,
it was an even bigger waste than you think.” Ian’s take on things is
always informed and seldom what people expect. I never worry that
talking with Ian will be boring.
On one of those walks a lifetime ago in the mid-1990’s, I remember
him speculating about the economy and saying to me, “Right now, these
are the good old days everyone will look back on later.” That really
stuck with me, and I think of it every time I’m confronted with more
news about the recession. We have been very fortunate that our own
small business is doing fine, but I know we are not typical and that
fortune can turn on a dime and have nothing to do with how hard you are
willing to work or what is fair.
Today when I look back on us holding hands on the east side, it’s a
sweet memory, but empty. I’m in a very glass half full kind of place at
the moment. I’ve never liked the question about the glass being half
full or half empty, because in my mind the answer is entirely dependent
on what came before. If the glass started out empty and now has
something in it, then it’s half full. If you started with a full glass,
and there is only half left, then it’s on it’s way to being empty. Ian
and I alone were a pretty nice glass, but we’ve since added the
experience of building a home together, and I don’t even want to imagine
life without my children. I loved my life back then, but it is so much
fuller now I wouldn’t want to go back.
I am acutely aware that right now, these are the good old days. We
are a family with all its parts in place. We are healthy and busy and
together. I enjoy my work, I love being home, my husband and I are
partners in building this life and there is no one I’d rather do that
with. And all my children are here. When we lie in bed in the morning
and listen to them play together, to the amusing symphony of squeaks and
thumps and clattering noises that are their improvised games, I am
sometimes overwhelmed by the beauty that is this place in time.
The good old days aren’t the big events. They are the fabric of the ordinary. The same way my wedding
was wonderful but not the best day of my marriage, the birth of each of
my children was not the best day of my life with each of them. It was
amazing and life changing, but my best day with Aden or Mona or Quinn is
today, because it includes everything they are. If I get to have
tomorrow with them, that will become the best day. I hope for a certain
amount of adventure still to come in my life, but I am glad the
baseline of what my life is like is all I really need. The waking up
sleepy kids up in the morning, the breakfast dishes, the nagging
everyone about their shoes, the discussions about house projects or
bills, wiping down the counters, the bedtime routine…. Just hearing the
people I love best in the world moving around the house. This is it.
I’m not waiting for something else, I’m enjoying this moment, this time,
this place. This place is magic.
Someday having all of us gathered in our home will take a concerted
effort, but right now it is our natural state, and it’s wonderful. My
glass is completely full. These are the days I will look back on and
know that I was once the luckiest person in the world. It doesn’t get
better than this and I know it.