“Mumma, I frowed up.”
We wake to the pitiful words of a filthy tiny girl who promptly throws up again all over our bedding and my maternity jammies.
It’s 2:07 in the morning.
This is what we do without exchanging a word: I take care of the girl – washing her sturdy small body in warm bath water then finding clean jammies and snuggling while he takes care of her sheets and the carpets, opens windows, starts the laundry. Together we make a warm little bed on the floor next to our bed with the old toddler bed mattress, we switch sides of the bed so I can be closer to the little sickie, and then we are all back asleep, exhausted. It’s our sick kid rhythm, developed over the years, and in particular over this past two weeks of on-again-off-again stomach flu for one tiny.
Nearly sixteen years ago, we built our love on the set times of our togetherness: let’s meet after class, let’s go out for a date tonight I’ll see you at 8 o’clock, okay? We went for long drives and talked about the future together. An unrepentant morning person, I signed up for 7:50 classes and, even though it went against his natural night owl tendencies, he woke up early just to eat breakfast with me: then love looked like 7:20 in the cafeteria, black coffee in hand.
In the hours leading up to curfew, we parked on lonely backroads to kiss until we were too dizzy to drive, listening to the songs on the radio. We were at the mercy of late-night DJs or carefully curated mix tapes. Love felt sexy and a bit wild, purposeful and mysterious. Midnight drew near and we drove frantically back to campus. I was the Head RA skidding into the dorm, barely on time.
We swore we wouldn’t become those tired ones in the middle of their life, living just a regular sort of life. We are meant for more than the ordinary! we bought the lie, hook line and sinker from the evangelical hero complex. Life was meant to be an adventure, filled with risk and romance. Love would look like this for us forever. Like we were somehow above or better than the minivans and mortgages, the tub scrubbing and sheet washing, like our clock would always be made up of bright mornings and late nights.
But here’s the truth: lifelong love is actually most built throughout the hours of the day, all twenty four of them, in the ordinary moments of our humanity. Lifelong love isn’t just for lazy Saturday mornings of coffee and books, it’s not just midnight breathlessness scented with perfume, it’s not just evening dinners with a bottle of wine. Those moments of our lives are lovely and necessary, too, but they’re not the fullness of love either. Love looks like choosing each other, again, in all of the rotations of the clock’s hands, in all of the years we share together, in the seasons and the minutes. It’s glamorous and sexy, and it’s boring and daily.
I have come to believe that lifelong love often looks extraordinary, yes, but it’s because we are faithful to love well in the ordinary minutes of our days.
Because love also looks like 2:07 a.m. with sick kids and it looks like 8:10 a.m. when everyone is running late to school and work. It looks like laying on the couch together at 9:18 p.m. on a Friday and admitting that you both just want to go to sleep already. It’s sneaking into each other’s early morning showers on weekdays. It’s heating up leftovers at 5:37 p.m. on Thursdays, it’s organizing closets on Saturday afternoons at 1:28 p.m. after the morning’s dentist appointments followed by stern lectures about flossing, too. It’s the time when our words are sharp or, worse, disappearing from each other. It’s 2:46 p.m. and 7:15 a.m. and 6:55 a.m., those minutes when our babies safely arrived earthside, breathed our air for the first time, and he wept with relief and I laughed like Sarah of old. It’s kissing under the stars at midnight, yes, and dancing slow in the kitchen-that-still-needs-to-be-cleaned, while tinies do homework at the table and crumbs stick to our feet.
It’s easier to feel love in certain minutes of the day, I know this. And I also know that by 2:42 a.m. when all has been restored and babies are sleeping again and the window is cracked open for a bit of fresh air, when we are back in our bed and quietly groaning at how over-the-puking-thing we both are by now, it’s then, when he reaches out for me and moves the hair back off my neck before resting his calloused hands on the baby still growing within me, when the baby rolls up against his palm, and he whispers, “hey, you” quietly, it’s in that moment that I think the love we make or find or reimagine at the unexpected moments is still the sweetest.
photo of us by Tina Francis Mutungu