Not long after all the kids had left home, there was an evening when the husband and I were coming home from dinner, he was unlocking the door and I was standing close and we kissed. We both chuckled because it was like being 17 and on a first date. But it wasn’t a first date, it was just a couple who hadn’t had an extended pause together in a very long time.
The silence of an empty house takes you back to when you first met and all the things that have happened between then and now. You realized you never looked this far into the future. You never really imagined what it would be like when it was just the two of you again. Who was he anyway? An even better question, who was I?
“We’ve turned into the Bickersons,” a friend lamented after her last one left home. Five years later they were divorced.
Much of a mother’s work vanishes with the kids. A big part of her is packed into cardboard boxes and tossed in the back of a car. And now it’s just you and Mr. Conversationalist over there who hasn’t spoken a word in 50 minutes. Had we ever thought this far ahead, as to what life would be like once it was the two of us again? Did we know we’d be so all-consumed by jobs, work and everyday demands, that the tender bond that first united us could grow a brittle crust?
We were hiking around Jordan Pond in Acadia National Park on a short getaway as I was thinking precisely such grumpy thoughts. We had the trail and the pond to ourselves. The husband was alternately lagging behind and dashing ahead, framing photos, making pictures. It was spring and small green shoots were pushing up through the remains of winter. Hibernation season was over and life was awakening. The trail that circled Jordan Pond alternately broke into the sunshine and wound through the dark covering of the forest. It was a long, quiet, desolate hike.
A rutting sound bounced off the hillside. I grabbed a long stick. It was a pitiful excuse for a weapon, but at least I might be able to poke the beast’s eye with it or at least tickle a funny bone. The husband caught up with me and heard the sound, too. Something large was on the hillside.
“Do you plan to fight a bear with that stick?” the husband asked, smirking.
“If I have to,” I said indignantly. “What do you propose? If something comes charging out of the woods, what is your plan?”
“You take off running.”
“Why would I take off running?” I ask.
“You’d run for help.”
“And what would you do?”
“I’d stay with the bear so you had time to get away.”
An accumulation of tiny resentments and petty grudges brought about by the busyness of family life suddenly melted away. Life is different now, but I am still loved by the one I chose to love all those years ago.
Excerpted from Lori Borgman’s new book “My Memory is Shot; All I Retain Now is Water.” Contact the author at firstname.lastname@example.org.