February can be the longest, shortest month. It drags with it a bit of hope that once we’re through it we’ll be standing in the months that could bring us warmer weather.
My husband’s been spending every spare minute working on the addition to the house that he started before the pandemic. The way the years fly now is different then when we were younger and making plans. But we’re deep in our plans now, and sometimes they suck the days right out of us. If I knew, when we were 27 and back at the ranch that we would be 40 and still under construction on the house we imagined, I wonder what I would have said?
Probably something like, “Sounds about right.”
Because under construction is a theme in our lives that just hangs on. As soon as we’re settled a bit, we find another project to get us back there. Does that say something about us? Something that we should sit with and evaluate?
Is part of middle age wondering how exactly you got here? Is it hearing a song you used to play on repeat in his Thunderbird, driving too fast on gravel roads and being transported back there for a moment, realizing you’ll never be that magically naïve again? Is it music on the Classic Rock station or that song re-imagined acoustically by a teenage TikTok star? Is that 40? Did I spell TikTok right? Does anyone even know how to spell anymore?
Seriously, that was an early morning discussion I had with my husband while ushering the kids out the door for school. How close are we to being out of touch?
The things we said we could do, would do, can we? Did we? Are we?
I’m thinking about this today because I feel like over the course of the last couple years we’ve hit a new phase in our life. Our daughters aren’t babies anymore. Maybe that’s why. I’m finding a minute for my thoughts because they can wash their own hair and dress themselves and ask Alexa to play “The Fart Song.” And just this year three of my good friends lost a parent. And some of the relationships we stood up for, sang for, bought wedding gifts for, have ended now. We’ve moved quietly into the generation that doesn’t understand the latest fashion trends (mom jeans and dad tennis shoes anyone?). And so that means we’re officially adults. I realize that. But are we equipped? To know the rules or change the rules? To take care of things?
This is the part of the fairytale that got skipped. They never let us in on what happens after the kiss at the wedding. But we were kids, so we wouldn’t have listened anyway, about what “Happily Ever After” really looks like: 401Ks and attorneys, debt and funeral arrangements, hospital bills, annual exams and scans and therapy and broken furnaces and dishwashers that need to be replaced and school drop-off and soccer practices and elementary schoolers and teenagers under one roof and what to make for supper night after night after night.
We didn’t see this part when we were kissing in that Thunderbird. If we did, we would have sworn it all would be different for us anyway.
But it isn’t. That’s the big promise we all get. Time catches us.
But lately, when that song comes on, it makes me contemplate the romance of this phase. Disney shouldn’t have ended there, because this is the most interesting part I think. So much more at stake. So heartbreaking.
Thhe most human part is right here, in the middle of it, trying to teach our children right from wrong and good from bad when we’re all so tragically and beautifully flawed ourselves. Showing them the love thing, when maybe, some of us, weren’t really shown ourselves. Saying goodbye to the most important people in our lives. Starting over. Or hanging on and loving one another through it. Despite it. Because of it.
Learning to take care despite the assortment of roadblocks or rules put in place for us before we were old enough to understand.
But we’re old enough now. We are. We’re old enough to understand that in that Thunderbird driving too fast with the windows down, we didn’t truly know yet what love was. Or commitment. Or sacrifice. Or loss. And that all of those things come with it. But we’re in the meat of it now. The heart of it. And it’s messy. And complicated and dramatic and the longest, shortest time, like February, sitting with a hope of a thaw, a kitchen dance party, a night out, a newly tiled bathroom and a bigger closet, a morning kiss goodbye or our favorite meal to help us through.