It was the sound of their laughter that first attracted my attention. The way they leaned into each other around an oversized book he was holding drew me in. The couple, in their early twenties were standing in front of the pet books, arms interlocked and heads tilted close enough to almost touch as they giggled over a large dog encyclopedia. I observed them long enough to watch them settle down at a table in the Starbucks cafe and flip leisurely through the pages--talking excitedly about the pros and cons of various breeds of dogs.
As I stood in line waiting for my coffee, I wondered what it was about this particular scene that caused such a twinge in my heart. I realized it was the time and space to just sit in a coffee shop together and dream about the future that seemed so far away from my current reality.
We are a couple of decades ahead of those dreamers--in our 40s with five children, in the midst of living many of the things we once merely planned. Ryland & I do intentionally seek out time together as a couple, but increasingly when we manage to squeeze in a date night it feels like we are "on the clock" with a sitter or reactively working through an agenda of "must discuss" items.
I love my life as a mother. There are so many deep, rich, stretching, beautiful elements of this crazy ride. But still, I really wanted to pull a chair up next to this cute couple and tell them to savor these days--the ones where you can finish a conversation without interruptions over perceived emergencies like missing shoes, someone hurting feelings with a mere look or batteries that need recharging. I wanted to tell them to enjoy the lingering and the ability to actually look at each other's faces when you speak. We are so often in divide and conquer mode that I forget to simply make eye contact with the man who holds my heart.
Last Saturday while our oldest four were away at church camp, dear friends hosted our five year old for the night. Ryland & I had exactly 24 hours together at home with no children. We made grand plans to travel to Nashville for an exciting event with one of my favorite authors, but scrapped it so we could just hit pause, stay home and reconnect. We realized we had never spent a night home without our children--we always leave them here and go (run!) away to reconnect.
During our staycation, we ate grown up food, tackled overdue projects, thoroughly cleaned my suburban and most importantly, finished every conversation we started. At one point as we stood among the gravel of our half completed driveway (not exactly the epicenter of romance) and were able to actually talk through the details of the project as opposed to being in constant reactive mode, Ryland released a deep, fulfilled sigh and said "This was exactly what I needed...to just get you back."
Ironically, the 24 hours at home together breathed more life back into our marriage than the anniversary week in St. Barth's we enjoyed in January. It sounds so provincial but it is true. I am a travel lover, but in this season what we needed most was a pause, to reorient ourselves here in our real life. In the end I realized this is a blessing, because while beaches are beautiful, a fancy escape isn't necessary to find each other. It just takes a few less kids and a bit more eye contact to reclaim romance and connection right here where we live.
I read an article recently that encouraged studying our mates and familiarizing ourselves with what they need. I was convicted. What if we spent as much time identifying and attempting to meet the needs of our spouses as we do those of our offspring? For the last twelve years I have made myself an expert on my children. I could tell you with great clarity what they need to thrive. But that is not always the case with my mate--especially in this season of life, full of stressors, busy-ness and distraction.
Summer is full of kids coming and going. (We just dropped two of our big kids at camp today.) Here's to making the most of the times in between-- to linger a little longer with the ones we love, to make eye contact, maybe even to dream...