Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Happy Birthday

Dear Nate,

(Sigh!) We hashed it out last night; you were there. Holidays are pressure-packed and expectation-laden almost to the point of becoming unenjoyable. Does everyone feel this way, or are we uniquely curmudgeonous and unimaginative? I'm not sure, but May really packs the pressure-punch -- between Mother's Day, your birthday and our anniversary, we can hardly keep up with the imposed expectations for pomp -- the perfect meal, the perfect gift, the perfectly penned letter of affection. It's all very demanding.

And I know I'm probably looking at it entirely wrong, but it's a little deflating to sit down and think about how to make your day special and end up feeling like I don't know you very well. After all these years! For example, I'd be hard pressed to name your favorite candy; do you even like candy? Favorite meal? I was shocked when you said you'd enjoy a "really good salad" for your birthday dinner. (Especially after you'd chosen oatmeal for your birthday breakfast,) I could've sat and guessed for a hundred years and I never would have come up with salad for your preferred celebratory meal. And gifts? Even if I could posit correctly about your birthday desires, the fact those desires are sold at places like "Play It Again Sports" and Vanguard Financial (is that where one would go to purchase an I-Bond?) is so intimidating to me that I'd rather just send you out with some spending money and time to browse.

All this, dearest, is to say that there is a lot that I feel unsure of when it comes to celebrations and special days. A lot that I'm lousy at. And a lot that I don't know. But on every other day, I am absolutely certain about some things. Important things.

I'm certain that you're going to wake up to the alarm you've set, and while I slumber away in the dimness of dawn, you're going to shower, shave, dress, make yourself some breakfast, eat, read, gather your lunch of leftovers (which are hopefully sitting in very plain sight on the top shelf of the refrigerator.) And then you're going to return to our less-dim room and, (time permitting,) lean over the edge of our bed and give my left cheek a few gentle strokes and ask how I'm feeling, before you kiss my lips with yours freshly-shaven, and bid me farewell for the day. And I'm going to try really hard to be a gracious recipient of those strokes and kisses, (resisting the instinct to respond grumpily, as I'm often prone to do in the first minutes of the morning,) because even though I may not be overly demonstrative about how much I love that part of the day, I really, really do (love it.) And I wake up just a little hollow and confused on time-crunched days when I realize that you've had to hurry out the door without that tender exchange.

I'm also certain that, (barring any unforeseen tragedy or extreme Texas weather,) you're going to come home to us every night. And that I won't have to wonder anxiously over your where-abouts because, if you'll forgive the hash metaphors, we're like sharp cheese and crisp apples, bright stars and night's pitch, innumerable sand and the ever-rolling sea -- we go together.

I know that you're going to call on your way home to tell me that you're coming, because I've trained you well. And because you know that I like to know when to start dinner.

And that the next time we fight, you're going to be ready to bury the hatchet like nine hours before I am because you're better about that kind of thing than I am.

And I know that the next time I read you something I've written, you're going to tell me it's "one of the best things you've ever heard" and that you think I'm a "phenomenal" (or some other, overly-generous adjective) writer.

I know that my heart and all of my secrets will always be safe with you.

I know that Henry has a steady, refined, gentle example of manhood and fatherhood in you.

And that when we have this little girl, you're going to be there. And love me. And love her. And that even if that post-partom time is the hardest, most relationship-neglectful time we'll ever face in our marriage, we're going to come through it. And love each other. 'Cause we did last time.

And that even if we drop the ball on Mother's Day and miss the mark on birthdays and underwhelm each other every year on our anniversary, it's okay. Because our regular days are steady and good (mostly,) and there's no fundamental daily lack that needs to be compensated for with pompous fuss on a few culturally/calendarly-dictated dates. (All that's not to say that our celebratory ways couldn't stand a little improvement. They could. And we should try.)

But there's one last thing that I'm unequivocally certain of, that I hope will, in part, make up for the fact that you bought your own gift this year and didn't wake up to balloons and crepe paper this morning...

I love you.

I know that my paradise will always be where you are.

Thank you for making it so,


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