There was a time when you wrapped your arms around me as we slept, legs intertwined, beads of sweat building between our bodies until we were slick with sleep and heat. Childless beings, we were consumed by each other, and our nights were spent with hot breath against skin. Now, we are separated by love inbetween. Love, with little hands and little cheeks, made out of ourselves. Now, you reach for me with toes stretched long across the bottom of the bed. We sleep sending love to one another over blankets and pillows, a distance I ache to close, but one I embrace and am content to bear, as it’s our love filling it up anyway.
When I fell in love with you, it was with the full and unapologetic knowledge that you would someday father my children. Listening to Etta James on a car ride, before I’d ever kissed you, I knew. I knew that someday, our babies would be a conduit for us to show our love to each other, as we were forced to forget days past of lounging on couches and kissing in kitchens. And now with another wee one growing in my expanding belly, I am reminded that our love for each other will have to stretch even further across the sheets.
Thank you, my first love. For all the simple things you do to remember how important marriage is, and for remembering that amid all the love we shower onto our children, we must also set the example for how to love the spouses who await them.
I know loving me isn’t easy. I drink all the milk and never stop on the way home to get more, even though I’ll be the first to complain that we don’t have any. I forget to lock my car doors, and misplace my phone and keys all the while claiming to have a photographic memory. I am perpetually desperate to talk about feelings, and am rarely content to let you just be. It’s only because I’m interested in you, love. It’s only because I want everything to be wonderful for you, always.
Thank you for remembering to drop my egg into the pan a few minutes before your own, because somewhere in our 10 years together I decided I wanted mine over-medium instead of over-easy. Thank you for thinking to take my sweater out of the laundry before you switch it to the dryer, even though you shouldn’t have to wash a grown woman’s clothing to begin with. Thank you for reaching your toes across the bed to me in the middle of the night, reminding me that there is a man out there who aches for my touch, and that my life has not been reduced to pouring cow’s milk in 2 ounce servings and remembering which of us have had a chance to visit the bathroom so far today. Thank you for stopping to steal a kiss from me as we cross paths, your hands full of laundry, mine full of toy trains; it can be hard to remember that I’m a woman, not just a mom.
Thank you for planting my mother’s flower in our front yard. I think of both you and her every time I reach to grab a kid cup from the cabinet. Those flowers do more for me than you think they do. I’m reminded of all the millions of things my mother missed, and how I am getting to have them all, and how I should always remember to be thankful. I think of you, kneeling to manipulate the earth with your hands; real manual labor with dirty nails and aching back, just to bring light to my smiles. I love you, and all the gifts you give me. They always hold life. Trees. Flowers. Children.
Thank you for remembering which bills are to be paid and when. Thank you for taking care of the chickens as the weather is so cold in the mornings now, I can barely get pants on our two-year-old and am afraid his toes would fall off on the short trip to collect eggs. Thank you for fixing everything that breaks, car windows, train tunnels, and little hearts. Thank you for asking me if I preferred that you call me “mama” or by my name. I prefer “mama,” but the question was important.
Thank you for understanding everything we are trying to do for our children, and for not blaming any lack of intimacy or time alone on the method we employ for them. Thank you for welcoming our children into our bed for as long as they need to be there, and allowing them to securely attach themselves to me until their need for mother’s milk is gone. Thank you for listening — really listening — when I have a concern about our choices. Thank you for having concerns of your own. Thank you for realizing that the way we parent will likely mean I won’t have my face buried in your chest as we sleep for a number of years yet, and for being okay with that, and for not forgetting how lovely it will be to sink into one another again after our babies have moved on to wanting their space.
You will always be my first love, that is, the one I loved first. And the one I will love at the end of it as well. After all, one day the little ones will move on to their own big lives full of excitement and love and children. One day, they will spend days loving spouses and babies, and we’ll talk to them on the phone once a week if we’re lucky. One day, we’ll lay silent and lonely in our bed at night with no one to call out to us, no one to wait for at curfew, no foreheads to feel for fevers. One day, we’ll need to remember how to curl into each other, and these little things you do…they keep my memory fresh. They remind me of how very right I was one night, long ago, with Etta James crooning over the radio.