When I was a kid, I remember going to the annual 4th of July celebration at Sugarhouse Park. In my nostalgic childhood memory, it looked a lot like the scene on Sandlot with tables of potluck salads, barbecue hot dogs and cakes ten feet tall. That probably wasn't really the case. I do remember each group spread out a blanket and leaned back on their elbows as the fireworks exploded in the sky. Occasionally, I risked a glance at some of the blankets around me. Couples cuddled together, kissing under the flashing lights, completely ignorant of the crowd of people. I wanted that. Even then. I wanted to be so in love, even explosions that tore across the skyline, lighting my blanket on fire couldn't force my eyes away from my sweetheart.
When I was a young girl, my parents always held fabulous New Year's Eve game nights. With endless soda and Doritos, I looked forward to it every year. It didn't matter if the adults were wrapped up in Trivial Pursuit, charades, or Candy Land. When the clock struck midnight, the room paused. Right in front of the kids and the bowl of salsa, husbands and wives wrapped their arms around each other and kissed. Eyes closed. I wanted a man to kiss me like that. They didn't care about the blaring New York Times Square broadcast, or the New Kids on the Block album pounding from the boom box in the bedroom. They dropped everything long enough to smooch and embarrass the kiddos. So romantic!
By the time I was a teenager, I knew that kisses were something special. I saved mine. Yep, I wasn't going to pucker up for just anyone who looked my direction. Being the tomboy that I was -- that wasn't a problem at all. I easily skated through high school, still a well known virgin lips. My legend proceeded me to a country wedding. After swirling under the stars to Garth Brooks' The Dance with a handsome ranch hand, he asked if he could kiss me. I could have. I almost did. But another tipsy cowboy peeing behind a nearby pickup was enough to break the charm of the moment. I refused. Still wasn't the right time.
Maybe the perfectionist in me pictured an unattainable, unforgettable scene. Not everything is perfect. I get it. Still, the point was, I didn't want just a kiss, I wanted real love. Someone who could REALLY love ME.
Let's get something completely clear here. I am a fiercely independent woman, completely capable of doing almost everything myself. I have never needed a relationship to be okay with who I am. However, when I met my husband, Keith, I met a man who oozed respect for me, for womanhood, and for my independence. My grit attracted him. My tenacity didn't scare him away. Out of respect, he opens doors for me. He carries the bulky, neon swim bag and the 40 pack of water bottles from Costco. He reaches the pasta bowl on the highest shelf and loosens the lid on the pickle jar.
We could stare at each other under a fireworks sky.
We could kiss because the clock struck midnight. But that's not all.
How do I know REAL love when I see it? I try to pay attention:
When a little one wanders into our room, whimpering in the middle of the night, Keith grabs a blanket and pillow off the bed and lets me sleep while he gets things back on track. He knows how hard it is for me to fall asleep once I've already been awake.
When meetings keep him out well past my bedtime, I stay up. Even if it's only for a little bit, I sit and talk with him, asking about his day and if he recorded a video of his latest prank at work.
He puts up with 80's monster ballads when I clean the bathrooms and I let him rock out to Rock Lobster even though I can't stand that annoying second half of the song.
I surprise him with ice cream, just to see his eyes light up.
He'll agree to my favorite Thai place, even though he can't seem to find a dish that wows him there.
We can spend a whole evening, walking hand in hand at the park, and not run out of things to talk about.
He prays for me. I pray for him.
I never see him more upset than when he finds out his sons did something disrespectful to me.
I want to be a better person, simply because I know him.
He looks into my puffy, no makeup face, after a loooong day - and still tells me I'm beautiful.
I randomly fill up his car with gasoline - it's always empty.
All these - and a ba-jillion other things...
What do you do to show REAL love? How do you know you're REALLY LOVED?
It could be that the socks magically matched themselves. Or that you let him spend the evening doing his fantasy football picks. Maybe her tone seemed shrill tonight, but you let it go. She hasn't slept well for the last three nights. I hope you pulled your sweetheart extra close, even if they just finished exercising.
Yeah, spread out a blanket at Sugarhouse and stare at each other until the crowds dissipate.
Or, embarrass the kids on New Years.
(Keith, we can even turn on Garth right now. Guaranteed, someone in the next room will run in and pee in our bathroom.)
I'm no longer waiting for PERFECT moment romance. Hallmark moments. Almost-never moments. I don't even know if I would fit the scene of a PERFECT moment. I'd probably trip over a shoelace or have cilantro stuck in my teeth. Guaranteed - I'll chuckle at a corny line.
No, we're not perfect, but we have REAL love. We work on it every day. We fight for it. We lean on each other. We lift each other up.
Happy 21 years together (a little late). Buggy, you're my favorite. Thanks for being you.