My husband likes to tease me that I don’t remember the first time we met.
I was sitting in the break room of the casino buffet where we both worked, reading a book. It was 2002, so it was probably Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. He says I looked up, said ‘hey,’ and returned to reading.
He waited and engaged me again on another day when I wasn’t reading, because he is an excellent human, worthy of love.
I fell too swiftly into love with him within a few dates and thought a lot about how to tell him, and when, and where. I remember still the humidity of his shoulder as I leaned against him in the backseat of a car while a friend was driving, the way my lips felt pressed together to hold the words back. It was physical, restrained. It wasn’t the right time.
Now we have been married for ten years and I tell him that I love him all the time, not just with words, but all the ways I’ve learned he likes. And not like that.
At least, not exclusively.
But what he’s done, what he does still, makes me want to whisper to that girl in the dark car with a boy she assumed was all grown at 22, “you are so lucky.”
In the years before we were married he abided my unwashed state on his couch, playing through Morrowind and KOTOR and Fable; he taught me how to drive and was patient as I refused his help in learning how to cook; he bought me a sewing machine under the mistaken impression that I would develop an interest in darning socks. We watched the cartoons we’re still quoting. We shared our first home. He wore so many costumes because he must love me more than he hates them.
In 2009, we were married in a seven-minute ceremony where we both cried and he crooned the lyrics to a Smashing Pumpkins song into my ear when we danced together for the first time as husband and wife.
In 2010, I wrecked so many cars and he maybe regretted the financial repercussions of our nuptials but we’re still married, so.
In 2011, we lost a pregnancy in the first trimester and he held me while I wrapped my head around the heartache.
In 2012, we two became three and I knew, watching him hang cloth diapers to dry on the line within days of coming home from the hospital, that he was going to be not just a wonderful father but a partner in the hard work of raising a family.
In 2013, our daughter consumed our lives and so much of my sleep but we folded her right into our adventures and couldn’t imagine it any other way.
In 2014, we had daughters, sisters, and more feelings than he can handle every year since.
In 2015, we moved out of the first place we’d ever lived together, the home we’d grown our little family in, and into a place we’re still making our own.
In 2016, he always let me leave the house to write whether I’d remembered to warn him in advance or not. And when my second book launched, he brought my girls to the signing and everyone was smiling.
In 2017, he helped me help myself when my anxiety threatened to unravel everything, when my mother was sick. He was present in a way that no one else could be, and he still is.
In 2018, he showed me love and so much trust.
And now, it is 2019.
I can only hope that I will continue to deserve his love and trust, his patience, his steadiness; that I will have earned hearing one of his three stories over again, or his genuine laugh when I tell one of mine. I started writing this for him, for all he’s done and all I love him for, but I think it’s really for me. That lucky girl swallowing words in a dark car wrote him a song and she sang, “never take me for granted.”
What I also want to tell her? It goes both ways.