For eleven days every year we are the same age. The rest of the time my husband can claim he married an older woman. But right now we get to be the same age, because we celebrated a birthday around here the other day. We made ice cream with his new ice cream machine. Then later we watched Back to the Future and made popcorn with an old fashioned popcorn popper. It’s the kind where you twirl the handle over the stove and presto chango in about two minutes you have popcorn. We used Amish kernels in the brand new pan that promises to have a black bottom before long. It sounds like a kid’s birthday, but really these were the presents chosen by the kids for their dad, John, the father and husband of this loud liberal ‘gypsies in the country’ parade he leads.
The presents were perfect for the guy whose every act defines him as the family man he is. When I met him we were twenty-four and twenty-five. I had already been married for about fifteen minutes in a famously horribly bad mis-match. From that marriage I toted a wild blond haired two and a half year old savage. He would grow into a strapping six foot three gentle indie music loving artist. But for that moment in time he was a study in motion and noise. When I finally introduced him to this man I had been dating quietly while he slept, or visited his bio dad in those little in between bites of time, I was already in love. I hadn’t wanted him to meet men that I might date only a man that I might marry. This was the one. But how to introduce him to my wild child? I picked a piney forest where he could run free and we would all cut down John’s, (soon to be our Johnny) first ever adult Christmas tree. We dropped by his apartment to pick him up and he took my apprehensive boy into his kitchen for a secret…I peeked around the corner and watched him tell Benjamin to close his eyes while he squirted whipped cream from a can right into his mouth. Their friendship was sealed and I was hooked. A few weeks later he stopped by our house with a loaf of bread he’d baked that day with his grandmother. That settled it and those two guys of mine still share a love of British football, New England beaches, oysters, weird indie pop music, and canned whipped cream.
We lived an urban hip hop life for a while before moving to a small sweet little town that boasted a real root beer stand, and a pond in the middle replete with hungry ducks. Later when we were five instead of just three we moved back to that urban life. This time it was to a three story restored Victorian on an elegant boulevard blocks away from really good Thai and Indian and anything else you might think up to want at ten o’clock at night. Then after a few wonderful years of that we continued this adventure in family up here in Vermont.
At every stop this man has been here coaching the kid’s teams and cheering for them at plays and on the field and court. He always got up first and took whatever baby downstairs so mommy could sleep a little more. For a little while when there were just two he danced one to sleep with Van Morrison while I read to the other. He is the only quiet one in our group and he speaks with a soft irony that cracks up everybody around him while he looks serene and elegant in whatever solemn surroundings. He reads the maps and leads the way through Italy or the lower East side. I can call him from anywhere in the world, lost and bereft and he will have me on my way giggling and on the right road again in under a minute. This newly forty five year old is still the handsomest sexiest man I know. He has brown curly hair touched now with a little gray, and a smile on chiseled cheeks that keeps me warm and safe. He makes me laugh every single day and when invariably I have something to apologize for he graciously accepts and reminds me that the misses are the blips and the hits are the main show around here.
I fell in love with this funny poet who made me cassette tapes, (remember them?) of Van Morrison and Ella Fitzgerald. We went to independent films and listened to a live bluesy duo who toasted us when we walked in with one of our favorite songs. We read to each other and the kids. We share a love of books, politics, travel, and food. He taught me to slow down and brought a calm rhythm to my life that I had never known. Once recently I walked into a coffee shop and he was buying a cappuccino. I thought,” wow who is that gorgeous guy”, and then got that little chill when I realized he was mine.
This is a guy who loves Elvis Costello, Arsenal, loathes the German national team, writes with humor and care, takes his little girl, (shhh, yes she’s in college, but he still thinks she’s twelve), on daddy daughter dates to every single Hugh Grant movie, his twelve year old Tom Sawyer kid to Pennsylvania, (six hours away!) for fireworks with his best pal Timmy, and makes fabulous dinner from whatever comes out of the garden that day. He plays endless games of poker or chess or pinochle with whichever kid wishes for a match, and takes everyone to see Obama, or Hillary or whoever their candidate happens to be. He listens to new music with the oldest one and walks endless miles with Stuart and Eloise and Pippi, the dogs who trail after him with love and devotion. Then he carries Mildred the arthritic chicken into the henhouse at dark every night. He has taught our boys what it means to be men and our daughter how to choose a husband. It isn’t about the size of the paycheck, but rather the size of the heart. He has taught them that it isn’t weak to struggle, only to give up. From time to time this gentlest of men has risen up in a fierce protectiveness for one of us reminding us that quiet strength is the most powerful of all. He has shown them that having a life of the mind and being willing to welcome change will keep you young and vibrant. And they know, as I know, that we are his favorite way to spend a weekend, his best pals, we are where his heart lives.
I cannot believe he’s forty-five. It seems like it all just started a couple of years ago. And I cannot believe my luck either. I am married to a man who wanted to spend his birthday making batches of ice cream until he got his recipe just right. He holds my hand and still looks into my eyes when he kisses me. I hope he has another forty five at least and that I get to be here for every single one.