There is no title I can give this that doesn't invoke Sonny and Cher
This is my favorite photograph of us from the old days. It was taken in the spring of 1997. We were tanned from a string of Sunday afternoons when we would crawl out of bed, load a cooler with beer and head out to the country to meet up with our pals at a spot on the river. We'd all lounge around in bikinis and cut offs the rest of the day, laughing over our antics the night before. It was one of those blissful, always-too-short interludes where life hands you a pass and says, here, take a few weeks off from the tough stuff. Kick back.
A year later the same time, we would be shell-shocked by the sudden deaths of several friends and a terminal diagnosis for Patrick's mother. I think we conceived our first child out of response to those losses (Patrick would tell you it was out of a slightly different response, but it all boils down to the instinct for survival, doesn't it?).
It wasn't like our life together had been carefree up to that point. As I have written before, it seems like we got bumped up a challenge level when our idle internet wanderings brought us within sight of each other. When I say in my profile section that I am married to my soulmate, I mean that from the first time this man blipped across my consciousness, I knew that we were connected at a very deep level, and that there was something Large to be worked out between us, something that might take a lifetime or more. But it's not like we rode off into the sunset, happily ever after, the end. Life is a beautiful thing. It's also freaking hard sometimes.
Right now is one of those times. For reasons I won't go into, we are under a lot of stress at the moment. It is external, and it will pass, and we will be okay. I am grateful that we have a ten year history together to serve as a reference point. We've weathered tougher storms.
Some things slip away with the years. There's no getting around it. There will never be another first kiss. Our eyes don't quite devour each other in passing. In the trenches of childrearing, there aren't enough relaxed, uncluttered hours where we can just bask in each other's presence. There is compensation, in that shared history we've acquired, in the deeper familiarity, in the way our outer layers have worn down from rubbing against each other. I don't want to trade any of that back. But I love this photograph because it shows us when we were still dazzled.
I gave up on sleep at about five o'clock this morning, and came downstairs to find Patrick already at his desk. He looked up and smiled wearily. I leaned against the doorway and smiled back. We may not be the tanned, sleek couple we were ten springs ago. There weren't any stars in our tired eyes. But something shone through. And I think if you had stood there with this snapshot in your hand, you would have recognized us, all the same.