Wednesday, September 8, 2010

The Good Old Days (Babble)

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.

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