I spent Labor Day weekend on a little getaway with my husband to celebrate ten years married and our two birthdays. It was the first time we’ve done anything together since the baby was born. It was the first time I was away from the baby overnight.
We left her in good hands, at home with my mother and father-in-law and two of our nieces who Edie’s attached to and we headed south to the Black Hills of South Dakota, so extremely aware of how we used to take these sort of outings together for granted.
I mean, we only had two bags between us.
There was a moment when I stepped out of the hotel that morning and into the pickup where I felt like I was missing a limb without that baby attached to my hip.
We didn’t do much in particular. We just drove and ate and drank and walked around and visited and made plans for the future like we like to do. Gave each other advice. Laughed at things probably only we would find funny.
And talked about the baby.
We came home on Sunday in time to tuck her in and the next morning my husband turned 34 so I made him breakfast in our kitchen with the cool rain soaking the oak trees outside our windows and our baby crawling around on floor.
We are in this thing now, the both of us. Deep into adulthood and marriage. On the brand new edge of parenting. In the thick of it, as they say.
I doubt we’ve been happier.
And it’s terrifying and surprising and lovely and a wonderful thing to say out loud.
When I turned the more momentous 30 a few years back, I was discouraged at all the advice I was reading in women’s magazines about what it meant to get older. I wondered how many times I could be told what jeans I should wear and what face cream to use.
Coming from a woman who had recently won an Elvis-impersonating contest in front of thousands of people, I really couldn’t argue.
But it wasn’t until lately that I started to believe she might be right about this phase of life. I mean, gone are the days of ramen noodle suppers, paying rent on questionable apartments and wondering who I should be when I grow up.
Because I am grown up. This is me, give or take a few hundred lessons coming down the pipe. Not that I no longer have aspirations and goals, I’m simply saying I’ve lived long enough to know which direction I should steer this truck and what prairie trails to avoid to keep me sane and happy.
The day I turned 30 I sat down and wrote a list titled “30 things I know at 30.” Having found no inspiration from those women’s magazines for what’s ahead besides more face cream, I needed to be reassured that I had acquired some tools for this adulthood thing.
I’m glad I saved it. Because among a few reflections on cleaning, clothing choices and eating carrots straight out of the garden were some good reminders:
• When you’re younger you expect your community to take care of you. I know now that it’s our responsibility to take care of our community.
• Art is a chance to see life through one another’s eyes. If we don’t encourage it, we’re ignoring the part that reassures us that it can be beautiful. Because even the sad parts have colors that move you or a melody that sweeps you up.
• I used to think that love was enough. It turns out love goes a lot better mixed with kindness, respect, laughter, humility and a nice meal together once in awhile. So maybe loving is just the easiest part.
• A girl needs a dog.
• My mom was right. My sister did become my best friend. Just like she said she would when I was slamming my bedroom door.
• There will always be more work, more things to build and more stories to write. When there isn’t we will make it so, because as much as anything, living’s in the work.
• Some people struggle to have what may come easy to you. Think of this when you say your hellos. Compassion is a quality we could use more of.
• Learning to cook does not make you a housewife, a stereotype, or some sort of overly domesticated version of yourself. It makes you capable. Same goes with laundry, lawn mowing and hanging a dang shelf by yourself.
• On Christmas, feed the animals first … and a little extra.
• Always wear proper footwear. And by proper, I mean practical, and sometimes practical means cute. You know what I’m saying.
• You can tell yourself there’s a reason for everything. It helps to ease the heartbreak and suffering. Believe it. It’s likely true. But know that sometimes it’s OK to think that life’s not fair, because sometimes it isn’t.
And here is where I’d like to add perhaps the only profound thing I’ve learned since writing this list, which is you just don’t know what’s really in store for you. All you can do is use the strength of your will, your community, your family and your coffee and try to believe that maybe the best work is yet to be done.