The other night, I sent my husband Joe out to pick up a few things I needed. I'd have gone myself, but I have been laid up at home with kidney stone trouble for a few days and my wonderful hubby is loving (he LOOOOOVES it) that he gets to take extra special care of me. On my list were the usuals, like bread and milk and bottled water, but also, I'd run out of my favorite sunless tanning lotion from last year. I don't use it in winter, because there are times it's just not okay to walk around looking more orange than other people, but as I've recently been to Florida and also have been spending time outside in unseasonably warm weather, I decided I needed to break out the tanner. Only problem? I left the supply grossly low last year (yeah, I'm totally the person who puts the box of cookies back when there's only one left).
Before Joe left, I showed him the bottle, carefully pointing out its identifying color scheme, the brand name, the kind of lotion, etc, to be sure he'd get the right thing. I do this because Joe ALWAYS gets things right when he goes to the store. Of course he does. Always.
Well, it turned out that Wegmans didn't have my special lotion in stock. Joe called me on his cell, and we decided the next best thing would be regular lotion made by the same company who made the tanner. We hung up, Joe finished shopping, and came home after about thirty minutes. We unpacked the bags, put things away, and ate lunch. Later in the day, I felt like trying out the new lotion. I found the bottle in the bathroom, and examined its label. Of all the lotions he could have picked, Joe brought home for his thirty-year-old wife:
ADVANCED ANTI-AGING LOTION
7 EFFECTS IN ONE BOTTLE!
Thank you, honey. You've been looking great, too.
The thing is, Joe and I have definitely been noticing that we don't look the same as when we met anymore. I mean, we met when we were fourteen so I guess that was bound to happen, right? Poor Joe worries about his hairline and his waistline and I've noticed a totally different kind of lines collecting at the edges of my eyes. And just the other day, Joey was commenting on how my hands look "old." He said this with a curl in his lip and one nostril flaring. Isn't it funny how right up until the moment you notice these things have already happened, you assume they won't be happening for a long time? Or maybe not funny at all, as it turns out.
So, it's kind of odd then that I had this moment tonight as we put the boys to bed. I tucked in Noah while Joe said goodnight to Joey in the next room. I'm almost always faster at these things than Joe, because I'm all about no-nonsense. If you give them an inch and all that. Anyway, I closed Noah's door and peeked into Joey's room. My husband was on his knees beside the bed, his elbows resting on the mattress. He was whispering a silly story to Joey, who was giggling. It was probably about farts or poops or burps, or some other stupid boy humor I don't get.
But the moment came when I blinked, and somehow saw my husband objectively. When you've known someone for eighteen years, these moments don't come very often. When they do, they're always startling.
The last bit of daylight came through the bedroom curtains, making Joe's ash blond hair glow. I could only see the back of his head, so evidence of any receding hairline (which is really "all in his head"--haha! get it??) was hidden. In his t-shirt and jeans, the slight widening of his waist that age has brought was erased by shadows and fabric, and the line of his neck and his back reminded me of all the time I spent following him around when we were teenagers. I could have been looking at Joe fifteen years ago.
And it just kind of hit me, as it does when I least expect it. Saying goodnight to our son is the same boy I knew in high school, a boy I swore was positively flawless and who I would love forever. That's Joe Bielecki, and he married me. And that's our son. And somehow, I'm this lucky.