In a long-term committed relationship or marriage, we inevitably experience ebbs and flows of shared happiness with our partners, balanced with shared detachment. Weeks will go by that I can’t seem to connect with my husband no matter how I try; other times, the connection comes so naturally and genuine and I’m not even sure what we’re doing differently. I try not to question that sweetness, and leave it alone to run it’s course, enjoying the most of that easy love while it’ll last. The gentle love keeps me going; the type of feeling that isn’t immediately at the forefront of my mind until I’m experiencing it in real time…
Last Thursday, Adam packed up our luggage, beach towels, and snack cooler full of drinks and set us free on the open road. Shore and I took the scenic route to South Carolina with the ol’ Honda, while, due to work, Adam planned to fly down the following Saturday night.
The two extra days at the beach were worth it. Both days I got a great parking spot, lugged our beach chairs, towels, Shore’s bucket and shovel, some snacks, and my kindle out to the perfect spot. Shore tore his shirt off and I slathered his warm skin in sunblock from head to toe, and before I was in my chair, he’d sped off to the water, kicking sand in his wake. I put on my own sunblock, and settled into my chair. My brand new, name-embroidered Land’s End beach towel was flapping in the breeze off the back of my seat, and I was then faced with what I considered might become the biggest predicament of my vacation, asking myself ‘which book do I want to start first’? Every now and again I reapplied sunblock to myself and to Shore, and watched him with delight as he jumped over waves and talked to the other beach dwellers with a glimmer in his eye. He was so happy! I was so happy. Feeling the hot sun on my skin and digging my toes in the wet sand, I felt like I was home. Alas, wishing my husband was here to feel this with me, to experience this joy that I was experiencing.
I was perfectly content reading my book, when the fleeting thought occurred to me that I really wanted to get in the ocean. Just jump in next to Shore, let the waves break over your head, feel the salt on you face and let it bake into your skin under the sun. Come on, Rachel, it’ll feel great. As quickly as the thought came, the reasons why it wasn’t a good idea started playing tug-of-war in my mind. But you’ll be uncomfortable. Your hair is freshly washed. Just think of all of the sand that will get in your bathing suit. Don’t do it, stay here and read your book. And I did. I walked to the edge of the water and felt the relief of the cold ocean wash the tops of my feet. I breathed in the sea and let the breeze pick my clean hair up in her hands and swish it around my head. She wanted me to play, but I closed the door on her face.
On Sunday morning I was thrilled! My husband had come in the evening before, and after a late night of adjusting to our accommodations together, eating some food, and getting comfortable, I was excited to show him the happiness that he’d been missing the past couple of days. We woke up slowly and on the way to the beach we stopped for ice, beer, and some peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. I carried the beach stuff down the familiar path and settled my chair in the dry sand, untouched by the tide. The same place I’d sat every day so far. My husband said we had to move closer so we could be nearer to our son, and while I couldn’t argue with that I thought to myself, “what do you know? I know how to experience this happiness. I’ve been perfectly happy, right here in this spot. I was trying to show you. But I’ll follow you, I guess.”
We plopped our chairs among the water at the tippy top of the tide; a desire that had come over me on the first day, but I shook off because I didn’t want to get my chair wet. I sat down with my cold drink, sunglasses, and kindle, and begrudgingly thought, “Ok, I like this spot.“
I was doing what I was “supposed” to do on family vacation. I’m mom. I’m ignoring all responsibilities within reason and reading my book in absolute clean-hair-sitting-beneath-my-umbrella-comfort-bliss. (And if I weren’t pregnant, I’d be drinking a beer, too.) This day was different, though, because I had my husband next to me, enjoying the weightlessness of no commitments, no to-do list, no errands to run, no apartments to clean, no lunches to pack. Much the same as the past two days, but with Adam next to me, it was much more enjoyable and much less lonely.
A short time later, out of the corner of my eye, I see my husband get up from his chair and head toward the water where our son was playing. I watched, with love in my eyes, as he approached and affectionately engaged Shore, showing him the attention that five-year-old’s are desperate for. He takes our son in his arms and carries him deeper and deeper into the ocean. In that short moment, I was overwhelmed by the desire to join them and without another second of consideration, I strip my accessories and beeline for my boys.
I feel instant relief in my soul as my feet are submerged in the salt water, then my ankles, my knees, my thighs; until I’m faced with the moment of true adjustment as I reach waist deep in the cool water. I impulsively dove underneath the wave coming toward me, threatening to crash over my head. I broke the surface of the water right behind my husband, lunging upward to wrap my arms around his shoulders and I come nose-to-nose with my son whose arms are wrapped around Adam’s neck. We stay like this, anchored to our human-buoy dad with my head resting in the nook of his neck and I wonder why I’ve been at the beach for three days and this is the first time I’ve felt the childish joy of swimming in the ocean, when it occurred to me. The reason I’m here, floating beside my family, is because my husband brings a beauty and appeal to most all situations. There are few things that I truly enjoy to the fullest without my husband around, and although those things are sacred to me, I live in a reality where the simplest experiences are so much more when I can share them with Adam… like diving in the ocean.