More than fourteen years ago, we went for a walk at midnight. We were on a college snowboarding trip and my husband never fails to remind me that I came to Silverthorne in one man’s car and went back to Tulsa in another man’s car – his old ’88 Monte Carlo. A week was all it took for me to fall head over heels in love with that tall boy from Nebraska. One night, after everyone went to bed, he asked me to walk with him in the midnight. We bundled up in our woolies, me with two long red braids hanging down underneath my wool toque, and we set out mittens in hand. We walked in the darkness and the stars above the trees, and then we stood in an empty cul-de-sac of a soon-coming neighbourhood. He laid me down on a snowbank and kissed me dizzy. After we came back to the rented condo filled with college students, frozen, we knew the night couldn’t end and so we drove to a Village Inn and leaned over a formica table and bitter coffee, talking until dawn. We drove back to the condo and slept for an hour before we woke up to another day of snowboarding on a budget with our friends, broken by our secret grins.
Fourteen years later, we were in a rented Jeep. His parents were looking after our three tinies on the family reunion holiday, and we are still holding hands on the gear shift. We found that ratty condo after a while of driving – it was a different colour, there were a few more houses around, a lot of trees had been cut down. We stood in the parking lot of that condo complex and remembered when were thinner and younger. I said, “Can you believe it’s been nearly 15 years since I snapped that picture of you standing over that worn out Monte Carlo’s engine?” And he said, “We’re as close to being fifty now as we are right now to that day.” And then I nearly fell down dead because somehow we are still twenty years old and kissing in snowbanks at the same time that we’re thirty-four with three tinies and a mortgage, we both have grey hair and a lifetime now.
That cul-de-sac is filled with 15 year old homes, a few even for sale. They were out of our price range. Remember? Remember? Remember? we said as we marvelled. Remember how we were here in the snow just yesterday and now we are older in the rain, and we have all these years, all of the years we spent together. So well spent.
We found that old Village Inn. It was closed – empty and despondent, surrounded by chains and KEEP OUT signs. There were outlet shops everywhere and we felt sad. Everywhere starts to look the same after a while, it’s the rare place that holds its own place in the world. We hopped the chains and stood in the parking lot. The skies opened up and the grey rained down. We kissed on the front step of that old restaurant and then we peered through the opaque windows of time to our old selves.
Could we have imagined? Could we have imagined the life we now live and the choices we’ve made? Could we imagine the places we’ve gone and the tears we have wept together and the babies we’ve lost? Could we have imagined the way we smile at each other in such perfect knowing when our son – our son! – raptures over a plane ride? The way you make our daughters laugh until they shriek over tickles and the way we sleep altogether at night on our family holidays? Could we have imagined even something as simple as family holidays together with your parents and your sisters and their families? We could not. But here we are, nearly fifteen years later , kissing in an old abandoned breakfast restaurant parking lot while the rain falls and we remember?
We drove down a lake dam and stayed by the lake. Secrets are a beautiful part of a marriage. We went out for supper and talked over our life. It’s a funny thing to revisit the old haunts, to see yourselves fifteen years ago burning with passion and Somedays, when you are now older with babies and memories and stories, still somehow dreaming of Someday.
We’ve hit that point, the point when we remember each other back then, and we know now. We are familiar and yet still somehow, kissing in the empty parking lots surrounded by chain link fences and KEEP OUT signs.
He has lines at his eyes and grey at his temples, and I still see that 19 -year-old boy with a grin, coaxing me out for a walk in the midnight. And at the same time, I see our homes and our travels, our tears and our laughter, I see him standing in the room and weeping over tea-towels with never-babies inside, and I see us holding the now-growing-up babies as they learn to walk, and I see him looking at me across our old bed that he built with his own hands and I see us as kids and I see us as lovers and I see us as best friends, and I see us just last night as we staggered through a sleepless night with lanky kids who couldn’t sleep well and I think, God, we grew up together. We grew up and now we are grown up, and now we are growing older. Those lanky kids look like us, both of us, at the same time.
We came back to another rented condo in the gathering of the light. I couldn’t have imagined all those years ago, at the Village Inn with a day-old bagel and terrible coffee at dawn, how he would have loved me so beautifully and fully, so crazily and completely, so ordinarily extraordinary. Look at us, living our lives together. Everything has changed, everything will continue to change, but we will still be here, in a car, kissing like teenagers over a lifetime of stories shared.
Look at us, in the middle of our marriage.