Today the kids and I will hang lime green streamers around the house, remnants of a Ninja Turtle party last month that- with a little luck- will declare our love and adoration in this one. Today the love of our lives turns 34 and we sang to him this morning, off key and beautiful, all snuggled in the king sized bed with wonky hair and bad breath, Moses joining in about 90 seconds too late.
This is ordinary family, when the days tick by all subtle and stealthy and Lent looks suspiciously like Ordinary Time.
I nestled in to that familiar space on his chest, the one my head has near daily found for 10 years, standing in the kitchen and stirring his oatmeal. It was the instant kind, not much of a birthday breakfast, but I had planned to eat it myself so that must count for something. I let my heart feel its love for him, running back upstairs to grab that striped sweater before darting out to catch the bus on the corner.
This is ordinary marriage, when the mountains lay flat and the valleys rise level and Easter looks suspiciously like Ordinary Time.
When we wed I was still a mystery to him, and oh how I liked it that way. Feeling allusive (always somewhat unattainable) I stood straight beside him, sure, but we both knew I pulled more weight on the scale. There's something right about a man's knees going weak for love of a woman. But it's not meant to be forever. And now, a decade in, there is nothing of my imperfection he has not seen.
There was a time when husbands awaited the birth of their child in the hallway, nervously fingering cigars that waited to be opened. They didn't need to see it, people thought. Maybe the wife wanted to retain the illusion that she was a precious thing. Maybe she didn't want to give up her last slice of mystery. I can't say that I don't understand.
But he's seen my body, bloated and full, red and screaming, push something he created into light. He cut the bloody cord, he kissed my sweaty forehead, and he will never unsee what he witnessed that night. The breathtaking glory and the intensely ugly, intertwined forever in his brain's limbic system. I have nothing this man hasn't seen.
And long before he gave testament to my body ripped open, he watched it happen to my heart. He tugged me out of the house when depression wanted me in it, when I didn't want to go out in the world if my child couldn't leave an orphanage. Then we brought that baby home and he saw me break: every capability that we both thought I had, shattered and sharp on the floor of that apartment. Mystery peeled back; only I, exposed.
He's seen me on the floor after a panic attack, two kids safely strapped in car seats 8 feet away. He's wrapped his arms around my desperate body, hearing me confess that I can't do this and not telling me I'm wrong, not telling me how to feel. Just the holding. Always the holding.
There are days that are woven in our memories, days that put heavy thumbs to our clay and mold clear form to our being. Today will not likely be one of them. Today will be another birthday, sweet and sincere but utterly forgettable: pitchy singing, tacky streamers, instant oatmeal, and maybe a cupcake or two. It's not changing the world; it's too ordinary.
But the ordinary is what is changing me, and the ordinary is what is changing him, and the ordinary is what is weaving a marriage that will last 'til death do us part. Love is not something that we found and decided to marry upon; love is what we choose as we stack these ordinary days, one atop the next.
Today is his birthday and we are a family and we belong to each other. We belong to each other.
(photos by our friend Emily Curran at the boys' baptism in 2014)