In 40 years, Justin and I will sit in matching chairs, reading silently in our own quiet brains. We'll turn pages -- or probably swipe at screens -- and repeat gentle quotes to one another. "Listen to this," I'll say. "'Lately she almost hated Ted for absorbing his grief better than she could absorb hers. What Marion could only guess was that Ted might have hated her for the superiority of her sadness.' Isn't that intricately said?" Because by then, in our mid-seventies, we'll be appreciative of things like intricacy. We'll have plenty of time to do so.
Our floors will shine and our walls will glow. There'll be an aura of warmth about my kitchen -- Grandma's kitchen, they'll call it -- that welcomes one and all with patience and grace. Like it's been dipped in sunshine, and hung out to dry on a cottony summer day. And the laundry, well....it'll be done once a week, and take a morning only. His white t-shirts mixed with my knit cardigans. Kitchen towels washed separately, of course. I'll stream some oldies over the house speakers, something grand and epic from the good old days: Muse, maybe. Justin will putter in our library, reorganizing his History of Religion section and trying to pick a debate with an online buddy he only knows via FaceTime.
Our children, they'll be busy with families and jobs and all the rest, and we'll see them as much as travel and schedules permit, but it won't be perfect. We'll miss them. Skyping with grandkids doesn't permit the fragrance of a scalp or the weight of a little body. Texting with kids doesn't transmit the strength of a hug.
I'll cross my knobby legs at the ankles, fiddle with my cup of hot tea, and gaze out the window at the leaves piling up in our gutters. I'll examine my hands, the way the tendons pull tight under thin skin. I'll look at Justin, his crinkly eyes and dense, peppered hair, his broad shoulders and thickened wrists. I'll say, "Do you remember?"
We'll stare into our history and it will unfold for a minute like a map that can never be followed.
It was a Friday night, and the afternoon had been a bust. There were green crayon tracks on the living room hardwoods, and the stench of remembered cat puke in the hallway. Toddler Landon stood by with his hands behind his back, saying, "But I'm sorry. I'm just sorry..." Dinner was hated by all, and who could blame them? Things burn while three-year-olds cause mischief. Mia, on the cusp of being nine years old, picked superiority fights with six-year-old Lauren. And after they were separated, they suddenly wanted to play. Wild games. Loud games.
Sarah (still softly full from young motherhood -- she was so vibrant, then) scooted the little ones upstairs for pajamas and toothpaste. They were too boisterous for the hour, and Sarah lost it. She threw her hands in the air and yelled to Justin: "You're up! I'm done!" He climbed the stairs and injected some levity into the directives: "Get your PJs on, or I'll make you run around the yard in your underwear for ten minutes. And it's COLD out there." Fits of laughter tumbled down the staircase, but it got the job done.
Sarah sat down and pulled her stocking feet under herself (the flexibility!) to breathe unbothered. After several minutes, Justin fell into the couch beside her. Great sighs. Closed eyes. A few minutes.
"Do you want to put on a movie or something?"
"I was really just thinking about heading to bed. Do you mind?"
"God, no. I was hoping you'd say so."
"Look at us. Friday night. Too tired to move. Will it ever slow down?"
"I know. There's no end in sight, though."
"You're the one who wanted all of these kids..."
"I'll get the doors and lights."
"Okay. I need to go up and say goodnight to Mia and Landon. Sing a song to Lauren."
"I love you."
"Stop it. I love you more."
We'll half-smile and blink away at rogue tears. Oh, yes, we'll think. It'll definitely slow down. I'll look at the calendar on the wall. Friday night, two weeks until Thanksgiving. The house will be loud and full, then, like a landing zone. A dammed river, caught and held momentarily. An offering plate, refilled with the best of our years.