Oh, that heart-fluttering, knee-knocking, sweaty-palmed thing of yesteryear’s high school daze when his hand found mine after the basketball game. Sweat beads wet his brow and squished his #15 home uniform tight to his back. Sweetness dripped from my mouth like honey in a sly sideline kiss. I watched him lope across the sneakered and basketball-pounded gymnasium floor toward the locker room.
Oh, that turn-your-head-to-the-side “good morning, I love you” but your-breath-is-killing-me, thing of today found in pre-dawn hours, that is still love. Really, it is. Sleep clings to his mustached face and squints in his eyes as he strains to scratch his back. He is still wearing his work shirt from yesterday and his skinny, white legs stick out from beneath bright red shorts. I pry my mouth-guard out and stuff it into my pillowcase before I hurl myself to the floor. In the bathroom, after his rumpled clothes fall, he disappears into the steam and I toss a towel his direction, just as “Oh, great, hoonnneeey, I forgot a …” rushes from behind the already-wet shower slider.
Wednesday mornings his watch beeps him to some semblance of waking at 3am. No, he is not a farmer–although we both prefer it to be so. No, he is not a newspaper boy, nor is he a milkman. Actually, he is the manager of all things environmental at a pulp and paper mill. Bet you never gave much thought to that corrugated cardboard (the wavy fluting between two flat pieces of thin paper that make cardboard sturdy) or that burger wrapper littering your car floor or that paper you fold into airplanes with your son or that squish-ably soft rolled bathroom necessity that hangs near the toilet.
Yep, my man works in an overlooked industry that supplies a lot of our needs–with all things paper. Whenever he has a meeting with the big-wigs (and I actually have to iron a shirt as he de-lints a pair of slacks), I do my best to remind him not to stress out. And I offer my advice to just saunter in, slap the report on the table, give ’em one of your cute little smiles and say, “It’s just toilet paper, boys. My wife thinks we stress out way too much. Now if we cooked the pulp wrong and the white squares actually gave people splinters, then we would have something to talk about!” Somehow he never manages to slip my paper-industry insight into the flow meter, tank reading, digester, pulp-cooker talk and pulp mill reports.
I digress. Love, not tp, is my topic today.
Bleary-eyed, I set the coffee kettle to boil, feed the dogs, pack the lunch box, pour the vitamins, toast the bread, spread the honey, plunge the coffee, and just as I start to pour the caffeine-laden brew into a thermos, he waltzes into the kitchen with a “good morning beautiful!” and a pair of tube socks in his back pocket. Now, that is love. On both our parts. Occasionally I have passed near a mirror while he’s outside for horse chores and I always gasp at the mess in the mirror.
He taps on the dining room window and I make my way through the box tunnel to find him cuddling Sweet Kitty, our three-legged feline wonder. He points to the plywood box (the one that he fashioned out of plywood and bolted to the air conditioner rack). I open the window and feed the cat. Now, that is love. Both his tenderness that cuddles a cat and his thoughtfulness of making a house for miss Sweets so she can see us and I can feed her from the dining room.
I put his briefcase near his lunch box and hand him a vitamin cocktail as he re-enters with the dogs. Some mornings he actually sits at the misplaced rocking chair in the kitchen and eats breakfast, but not today. It is Wednesday. Some fellas from work meet in an old schoolhouse for praying and Bible-reading at 5am. I wrap his honey-slathered toast in foil as he kisses our son’s sleeping forehead — which he found in our big bed because the little one fell asleep while mommy read aloud. Just after the man of the house dozed off on the couch during the Jesse Tree reading. So, after piling rough woolen blankets on the man, the boy and I continued reading in my bed. Now, that is love. Yes, the forehead-kissing, but also the allowance of a restful night’s sleep for the mamma as the Snore King slept in the living room.
He gathers his lunch box and stuffs man-things (coins, scraps of paper, ear plugs, and a cell phone) into his Wrangler pockets. I hand him his keys and he kisses my forehead then points to his cheek. I pucker my lips and prepare for the inevitable. He closes his eyes and leans that clean-shaven cheek my way. Just as I touch it with my lips, he turns his face, fast. Viola! He steals a kiss with his lips in place of his cheek. Now, that is love. He grins out loud every single time. Distracted with his smooching success, he turns to leave. I wait for him to turn back and with raised eyebrows and I dangle his keys. It’s the routine.
Sometimes he makes it to the galvanized 12-foot long gate before I realize he left his briefcase. Again. I run out, slippers flipping, hold it up high and holler “Hey, you! You forgot your purse!” I run back inside and scrape the gunk of my slippers. Then I peer out the foggy window to watch him leave. Today he came back inside the gate for the ice scraper that was left near the other rigs. I turn on the sink light so he can see me and I wave and blow a kiss. He promptly pretends to drop-trou and mock-moon me in the glow of the motion-sensor light. Now, that is love. He turns and waves and winks. I smile. Then I lean on the sink and pray. For his safety, protections, efficiency at work, my day at home with our son, and God’s guidance for the day.
Twenty years ago yesterday was our first kiss beneath a sky fluttering with snowflakes. Standing in the parking lot, after the stinky diesel fume-blowing bus departed and all other basketball players, friends, and family drove off, he took my hands. And my heart. I stood on tip-toes to reach his brown-eyed face. We kissed.
In that instant, we went from best friends to so much more. Oh yes, our life has not been all trick kisses and warm coffee. In fact, it has been fraught with pain, agony, tears, mean words, sharp sentences, and hurt feelings. But most importantly, it also has been blessed by God’s mighty gift of salvation. Now, that is love. How we stayed together until we came to know the Lord in unison, is beyond me.
I do know without a doubt that we both yearned for what neither of us saw while growing up–a man and a woman loving each other, through thick and thin. When dating and marital waters got rough and tossed us about, sometimes it was out of sheer stubbornness and other times it was ought of sheer fear, that we stayed together. That we stuck it out. But when God saw fit to open our eyes to Him, we quickly learned it is all for love. What we share with our Almighty God. And what we share with one another.
Oh, that heart-fluttering, knee-knocking, sweaty-palmed thing of yesteryear’s high school daze–amid the sweat, stinky sneakers, and sweet kisses, now I know, that was and still is, love too.
I love you honey. I am ever so thankful that you are my man. And as you know, I am even more grateful that God is in our midst while He lives in both of our hearts. And our son’s heart. Thank you for putting up with me as I keep trying to be the woman God wants me to be. And thank you for not losing touch with that tall, skinny, dark-eyed boy who stole my heart in the parking lot…
Love & BFF,
Born in a barn,
Sleeping infancy in a manger,
Underneath the brightest star.
Amid the beasts
And wrapped in beauty.
From crib to cross.
It is all planned.
And etched with
And my zeal for God carries through into politics. Oh yes, we still need to focus on this health (UN)care bill. As we gather family and friends close, point our hearts to the Babe in a manger, and ready our souls to focus on the Gift our Lord gave to the world, politicians are gathering too. As we celebrate a Baby’s birth, a lot of those Washington folks are trying to set a nasty health package under your tree…one that is wrapped in your money that will fund abortions.
So, please, take a few minutes to contact your senators one more time. Go here. And here. Make your voice heard.
Between baking, wrapping, and rejoicing, drop to your knees and pray for this nation and its leaders. Don’t you think it is the least you can do for all the babes?