An Ordinary Romance

Time is a strange, bewitching beast.

Days go by, minutes slide, celebrations mark like flames our lives. A newborn’s cry pierces hearts and forever alters them, a haze slips down – tasks performed in faithful repetition, dishes clink in soapy sink, the repetitive hum of clothes swirling rhythmically, the crisp start of the engine ferrying from here to there.

And suddenly you look up and realise thirteen years have gone by.

We are living in the future, the ‘one day’ dreamed of in our youths. It looks suspiciously like the yesterday we just left behind.

Change happens incrementally. Bodies lengthen, soften. Words develop, habits alter. We dance to the invisible hum that is the culture we have created. ‘No dessert unless you eat all* your dinner’, ‘Wash your hands’, ‘No screen time until you have done your reader’, ‘Be kind to your sister’. 

*This Michael McIntyre clip pretty much sums it up. 

When Dave and I chose each other all those years ago, we had little idea what we were truly promising. ‘For better, for worse’ seemed poetic and aloof, the heaviness of ‘sickness‘ instead of health not realised in its hollow gravity. We pledged with passion and danced into the sunset, hoping upon naive hope that we could make it work.

For the most part we have been incredibly lucky.

Our personalities (or Enneagram Types for the initiated) mesh well together. Dave is the Captain, the venturer into unknown worlds. I’m more than happy to go along for the ride, refashioning myself to fill the gaps – taking pride in needs met, bellies filled, celebrations kept. I have a blazing temper (and a very narrowed vocabulary) that bursts forth from time to time, Dave struggles to muster a truly angry voice or curse with any sense of conviction. We both like to ‘get things done’, entertain, live efficiently.

We clash periodically – a verbal sparring back and forth of contradicting values, of tasks unequally distributed. Then there is the race to be the most magnanimous, the one who can forgive and forget with the most ease. (We both secretly pat ourselves on the back for this title).

Getting away grants you hidden perspectives.

Perhaps it was the series on love with the lilting voice of Pete Rollins that we listened to on the way to the Peninsula, or maybe it was the heavenly couples massage (an exceedingly generous gift from some very thoughtful friends) that drew each of us away from technology for an entire hour and forced us to reckon with our own thoughts. Maybe it was the undulating countryside that swept past The Cups Estate, or the eclectic mix of vintage signs at The Blue Mini. It could have been the welcome hum that surrounded us as we dined on hearty Italian cuisine at the Manhattan.

A big part of it was – we both suspect – the delightful encounter with our Airbnb hosts, who presented to us a picture of healthy, whole parents of four (now grown). Situated on a stunning rural property ten minutes from Mornington, they have created an oasis complete with a cosy sun room and spa that we were truly able to soak up calm in. Their sense of zen, unbeatable hospitality and vulnerable reminiscing about their own journey gave us the resolve we needed to return to the craziness and chaos of our lives. It was like peering into a glowing future, a possibility that exists after the showing up and battling that encompasses a fair proportion of raising young kids.

For adults whose day to day existence is dictated to by nap times and waning energy cycles, you would think we would be raring to bust out of the box and live life to the full. The decidedly less glamorous reality involved a lot of reading (completely uninterrupted!), delicious soaks in the hot springs and spa and a dinner reservation for after 8pm. We live on the wild side, I know.

The next day dawned and with it the shadow of a strange melancholy that I couldn’t quite place at first. ‘Why do I feel dissatisfied, wistful, not quite whole?’ On one level it could be deduced that I missed the kids, which was true. And yet, there was something else entangled within that yearning – the human condition of never quite being satisfied with where we are. My desire for a getaway had been granted… but the bestowing of our desires never quite completes us, does it? Pete Rollins’ take on the mechanics of desire and love was exceedingly pertinent as we made our way home later that afternoon.

After a quick pause at Commonfolk Coffee, we relished the opportunity to stroll down the main street of Mornington at our own pace, ducking into shops of our choice, though I couldn’t quite tear myself away from browsing the children’s clothing racks at the op shops, picturing the glow on their faces if we came back bearing gifts. We spent an interminable amount of time considering which cheeses, antipasti and cured meats to weave into a delicious picnic lunch at D.O.C Mornington. It was so strange not having to spend the entirety of our time at playgrounds or calling out insistent commands to stay near the pram. Running into some old friends in the most unlikely of places, we appreciated the marked difference of being able to chat without pausing mid-sentence to remonstrate energetic children.

Returning into the chaos involved some level of culture shock. Exhausted children who had used up all their ‘good’ at grandparents’ houses were certainly ready for a solid sleep in their own beds. Later, tiptoeing into silent rooms, covertly smiling at flung limbs and the peaceful rise and fall of tiny chests – we were struck again by the richness of our existence. It may be unpredictable, stressful at times, packed to the brim with activities and tasks but I sure know which life I prefer.

We bare our ordinary, flawed selves to each other. It isn’t particularly cinematic or poetic in the offering, and yet the magic springs, hidden, in the act. Enabling us to be more, to accept our own weaknesses and thorns and to move beyond a life lived for two.

If I were to travel back to the moment when vows were made, when promises were uttered upon hopeful lips, I would choose with undeniably more fervour the man I sit across from every day. Time may have mellowed us, made us a little less zealous in our pursuits and dreams, but it has not changed who we are underneath it all.

It is true love. At once sublime and ordinary.

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  1. Wonderful writing Emma -⎌one of your best for me. I do enjoy your blog and resonate with much of what you share. By way of encouraging you two, we celebrated 44 years together this week, and still have special outings and make cards for one another! The ordinary parts of marriage weave together into a wonderful pattern over time and become something that is yours alone.

    1. That sure is an encouragement, Jeanette! We both feel so privileged to learn from those who have gone before us and soak up the wisdom of lessons learned 🙂 I love how you describe the richness of marriage – utterly beautiful.

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