Sixteen years ago today, my oldest niece Freya was born on the Ides of March, which means soon she will getting her learner's permit and taking to the roads. Happy Birthday Freya--we love you!
The phone call I got announcing her arrival sixteen years ago makes it easy for me to remember that the same night, J and I had our first date, by which I mean to say, engaged in some drunken dance floor moves at Rumheads Nightclub. I remember Coolio's "1-2-3-4" was played more than once.
I'm not sure which is scarier--to think of my niece all grown up at the wheel, or that J and I made a connection that set the course of our future in the bar underneath the World Gym on the Caribbean island of Grand Cayman when we both barely old enough to drink in the United States. Sixteen years ago!
What a long strange trip it has been. In my essay, A Wedding Planner Hangs Up Her Headset, I wrote about the practical applications of our relationship, what love has come to mean to me as an adult and what I wish new brides could know from a vantage point a little farther down the road.
In some ways, we were musing in the shower this morning, it seems like we have always been together, and in others, like sixteen years have flown by. How did we get this far? I made a list of a few things that have made this relationship, which is also a deep friendship, feel easy.
1) we both consider ourselves equally lucky to have each other--by this I mean to say, there is no quiet one-upmanship. Which is not to say that I don't think how damn lucky he is when I tote the garbage and recycling cans back and forth to the curb twice a week, a stereotypically male job. But I also acknowledge how fortunate I am to have a guy who can fix almost anything, who gets up in the frozen pre-dawn stillness on Saturday mornings all winter long to coach the boys' hockey teams, who never lets a day go by without telling me I am loved and desired.
2) we take turns holding each other up. And we take turns falling apart. You can let life's knocks break you, or shape you.
(You can read more about this in the essay about the birth of our son Hayden and our baptism by fire into parenthood)
3) we adopt a teamwork approach. This applies to everything from parenting to yard maintenance to hockey weekends to shaving the dog, which you may see more of in a photo essay called "Shearing Season" in an upcoming dog blog.
4) he makes me laugh Usually by saying all those things I think but might not say. He tries to whisper them, but he's not a very good whisperer. It runs in the family. Did I mention he also makes both the best coffee and mojitos I have ever tasted?
5) we try to shower and/or have coffee together daily to catch-up. This has been important in keeping us connected during the busier stages of our lives. Sometimes I drive him nuts by bringing notebooks and day planners and agendas to these get togethers. Well, not in the shower.
6) we have a commitment to being each other's port in the storm. We make our home a place where people build each other up and expect this of the kids as well.
7) we travel separately. This doesn't mean I am turning down opportunities for us to go away as a couple in favor of spa weekends with the girls. (Although, wait, that sounds really great right now.) But with three little kids and an enormous, slobbery dog, there are few people willing to take on our brood for extended periods of time. This means that when we need to recharge, we drop each other off at the airport and look forward to hearing via Skype about how it was kiteboarding in the Bahamas or visiting with friends and family in the Caribbean or the Rockies, and checking in on the chaos that ensues when one of us is single parenting at the Hoffstead.
8) he is willing to be married to a writer. This comes up all the time when I am a guest author at book clubs--how does your husband handle your writing? Or let's be honest, people want to know: how does he feel about the character of Dan in CHOSEN?
The writer and blogger extraordinaire Julianna Baggott has a standard question in her writerly half-dozen interview about advice for those seeking a long-term relationship with a writer. The answers are painfully, honestly hilarious. Actually, pretty much all of her stuff is great. You should check it out.
For the long answer, you have to invite me to your book club. But the short answer is that J handles it beautifully and he lets me post sappy blogs about how much I adore him (sixteen years later!) on the internet. I also include photos of him doing awesome, sporty things, where he looks really hot.
9) we have similar passions. Wanderlust, the ocean, family, sports, reading, words and nameplay, and most importantly, a dedication to the nurturing of all things Hoffspring--be they pink or furry or scaled or feathered. See, I said feathered. Don't get me wrong. Things aren't perfect. I'm still working on him about the chickens.
So there you have them, my off-the-cuff Nine Commandments for 16 Years of Happiness. But I am sure there are more and from those far more seasoned in the game than I am. So I'd love to know: What do you and your partner do to ensure a happy relationship?