Every once in a while I have to take the bus to work. I live in the suburbs, but my office is in the city (the city of Hartford, CT). Depending upon our schedules, my husband and I are at times like the proverbial ships in the night, one always coming and one always going. In between us stands a two-and-a-half year old little boy in Snoopy pajamas. A whirlwind of energy, a small but great miracle. On Monday, a bus day, I alone am left to smother butter and honey on his toast and balance a menagerie of stuffed animals down the stairs because he must have them. All of them. Our son is worried about the toy cars that have gone rogue behind the sofa, while I begin to panic that the real car is out of gas. Calculations are made while putting on shoes. Can I get to school and the bus stop by 8:07am? Can I get from the bus stop to the gas station after work? I’m going to wing it. I’m going to have faith that sometimes the stars align.
I had a good plan. Catch the earlier bus home, the 4:18pm. Plenty of time to fill the tank and pick up our son before he becomes the “lone ranger.” You know, the last child to be picked up, the pity case. Back at the park-and-ride I am grateful for simple things like an extra sliver of sunlight left over on this could-be-colder January afternoon. Something is different, though. The car seat was moved. The tank is full and on the dashboard I find two foil-wrapped chocolate hearts. I smile like the Cheshire cat. I feel like the keeper of a secret between the two of us. My husband snuck out at lunchtime to run this errand for me. Left the car in its exact same spot and didn’t say a word about it, just a surprise that caught my breath and made me giddy.
This is love after children. We had our years of flowers and grandiose trips and elegance. We even had Paris. We will have all of that again someday I am sure. But for now, in this moment of honey-sticky hands and picture books, we have small graces. A lovingly folded load of laundry, a meal waiting on the stove, a couple chocolate hearts and a kiss stolen before a door closes. This is romance on valium, loose and lackadaisical and yet always there. When we were dating and eventually engaged, my husband and I used to say in a corny Shakespearean sort of way that our love was written in the stars. It’s a very grandiose statement and while I’m completely intrigued by the magic of cosmos and destiny, deep down I have the utmost appreciation for our quiet, get-me-through-the-insanity love. That is where we are today in 2017. We smile at each other across a table of spilled milk. We take walks holding a stroller bar instead of each other’s hand. But just wait. Years from now when our little boy is a man and I’m no longer rushing to catch a bus, I’ll bring home an armful of blooms for no reason and book that ticket to Charles de Gaulle. The doves will sing again and Puccini will play in our ears. Right now, the music just needs to pause for a bit. The memory of what it sounded like keeps us going.