By Liz Petrone of lizpetrone.com
This is why they don’t let me write wedding vows.
It’s 3:00 AM, our bedroom, any night, and I hear a noise. “Nick, did you hear that?” I ask my sleeping husband, hoping that the noise was just a remnant of the dream I was having about Brendan Fraser and fried chicken because I would really like to go back to it.
Nick doesn’t answer.
The noise happens again, this time closer. Brendan is gone forever. “NICK.”
“What??” Nick jumps up, ready. It has always amazed me how he can do this, go directly from deep sleep to flight or flight. Not me. There could be a crazed axe murderer standing in the entryway to my bedroom and I would still have to contemplate whether I could press the snooze button one more time before he chopped me into little bits.
Nick is staring at me. “There was a noise,” I offer, a little defensive. “It’s Luca.”
“I’ll move Gabby,” I say, dragging myself up. “You get Luca.”
Gabby, 6 now, fell asleep in our bed hours before, as she does every night because she shares a room with her sister and the two cannot be left alone together at bedtime or they will spend hours saying different variations on the word “butt” to each other and dissolving into fits of giggles instead of actually sleeping. When I pick Gabby up, she starts to murmur, still mostly asleep. “Purple elephant butt,” I hear her say, and for punctuation she blows a long lazy raspberry into my shoulder.
“My thoughts exactly,” I whisper back into her hair, which smells of shampoo and peanut butter. She’s heavier than I remember, and this makes me depressed. I tuck her in and turn off the 14 lights that her older sister and brother insist on leaving on every night. But then it’s too dark, so I turn a couple back on. Just in case.
When I get back to our room, Nick is already asleep (again, how does he do that?) and Luca, just shy of 3, is in my spot. I move him over, which is fruitless because he moves right back, and I squeeze into the ten-inch wide strip of space left, turn onto my side, and pull the covers up. Luca pushes the covers back down and drapes a leg across my leg. At least it’s warm.
We lay like this for a while, until finally I realize that I can’t breathe and shove Luca over to his father’s side. Nick promptly shoves him back.
“I thought you were asleep?” I ask him.
“I was faking,” he offers.
I’m quiet for a second, thinking about how I will never fall back asleep now. “Nick?” I ask.
“I know you’re awake.”
He sighs. “Yes?”
“Do you think the thrill is gone?” I ask.
He snorts in reply and rolls over, offering me his back. I push Luca towards it, and with sleep now officially gone, I get up to see if anyone left any fried chicken in my fridge.
It’s been on my mind a lot lately, this question of lost thrill. Maybe it’s because we haven’t slept alone in our bed since two full children ago, or maybe it’s because we went to a wedding this past weekend and I got weepy.
It was just so beautiful and full of the kind of unbridled optimism that only love and big life changes and an open bar can create. I watched the bride and groom when everyone did that glass-clinking thing that people do at weddings to make the bride and groom kiss, only the bride must have not known about the glass-clinking thing because she held hers up in cheers and took a big gulp from it instead of kissing, like it was a big drinking game and we all just wanted to get her a little buzzed up. I fell in love with her a little then, or maybe it was before then, when they stood in front of each other all doe-eyed and fresh-faced, reciting their vows on the precipice of all of the things that come after.
And maybe it wasn’t love but jealousy, that old-people-at-a-wedding thing that is half “oh, Lord, just wait until they find out” and half “I would give a kidney to be back there again, still.”
Late that night, midway through our nightly dance routine of Luca-catch-and-release, Nick said to me so quiet I almost didn’t hear him: “Is that what you think? That the thrill is gone?”
I was quiet for a while myself then. Not pretending to sleep (who does that??), but thinking.
“No. I don’t.” I said finally, when I had checked in with my gut and my heart and was sure it was the truth. “I think the thrill has seasons.” In my head this sounded profound, but when I said it out loud it fell kind of flat. I knew I had to explain.
“Here’s what I think,” I started, and I know he immediately regretted not feigning sleep. “I think this is hard. I think life is hard and marriage is hard and raising children is so freaking hard and what we do for each other is the most thrilling, intimate thing there is in the whole world.”
“Oh yeah?” he asked. “And what’s that?”
Q. What’s more intimate, really, than walking next to someone through this shitstorm?
A. Only one thing, really, that I can think of. And that’s carrying them through it when they can’t walk themselves.
I thought again of the bride and groom, probably still dancing late into the night. Isn’t that what they pledged to each other up there in front of all of us? Probably in a much more lyrical way and likely without the actual word shitstorm, but that’s what this marriage business is, I’ve decided. It’s weathering the storms as a team.
Everything else is just a season, always changing. This is the sleepless season, the season of little feet on my neck, the season of being needed in the middle of the night.
And our wedding season is over now, which is too bad, because after Nick fell asleep for real I laid awake picturing it: me—in the perfect off-white, forgiving around the waistline, stain-resistant and machine washable dress—gazing lovingly into Nick’s eyes and answering the priest’s question of “Do you, Liz, agree to muddle through the shitstorm with this man?” with a resounding “YES. I DO.”
The crowd erupts into cheers, clinking their glasses with gleeful abandon. I raise my glass, to them, to Nick, to Brendan Fraser, and to all four of our babies.
And I take a really big drink.
This post was originally published on lizpetrone.com.
About the Author
Liz is a mama, yogi, writer, warrior, wanderer, dreamer, doubter, and hot mess. She lives in a creaky old house in Central New York with her ever-patient husband, their four babies, and an excitable dog named Boss. You can read more of her stories on her blog, http://www.lizpetrone.com, and find her on Facebook and Instagram.