Less than six months later, we tied the knot.
Fast forward 19 years.
After a full day at work, I came home tonight and was met at the door by a frazzled husband. He's been trying to wrap up a big report for work, so his typical, well-orchestrated daily schedule has been flipped on it's ear. The kids were working on their homework. Or rather, he was trying to get them to work on their homework but getting second graders to actually do their homework is a lot like herding cats.
Henry was crying because one of his siblings hit him in the head with a book after he jabbed them with a fork. At five, he still hasn't quite mastered the cause and effect relationship. There was a pile of laundry in the hallway that was no less than three feet wide and three feet tall. One of our children has been having an issue with bedwetting and although we bought an alarm several months ago - and that alarm worked great - the alarm recently broke and we've had a relapse and are now back to generating nine cubic feet of laundry a day until our replacement alarm arrives.
Dinner, which had been served to the children an hour earlier, was on a plate in the oven where it was being kept warm for me so I sat down to eat, but the dog needed to go for a walk. The guinea pigs were squeaking and needed to be fed. First, however, their cage needed to be cleaned.
I could tell my husband was anxious and stressed, which is uncommon in Charlie so I knew that timing was of the essence and these kids had to GET TO BED.
While I started to clean up the kitchen, he started to bring the kids in to the bathroom to help them brush their teeth when suddenly I heard him yell, "JEN. I'M OUT." I popped my head around the corner and watched him walk out of the bathroom with his hands in the air like he was surrendering. He'd reached Maximum Saturation. I know that feeling very, very well. Since I'd just arrived home 30 minutes earlier - I was fresh on the scene, so I threw down my dishtowel and shouted, "I'M IN!" before enthusiastically giving him a fist pump and jumping in to the fray.
Tonight, it was my chance to save the day. But last night, it was his. When I came home from a long day and he had a plate of Dove chocolate and Excedrin waiting for me, I fell in love with my Charlie all over again. Doesn't that sound dreamy? It was. But it isn't always so great. We disagree. We argue. We fight.
Why, I've been known to jump up and down like a freak in my ski boots.
And the older the kids grow, the more challenges we seem to face. We don't always agree on the foods that they eat. Or the clothes that they wear. Or the activities that they participate in. Or the chores that they do (or don't do). Or the discipline tactics. Schoolwork. Homework. Friends. The list goes on and on and on - and I'm sure will only grow longer with time. But in reality, each of these issues and each of these phases are so fleeting and I try to remind myself to think of the BIG PICTURE. Our union. Our children. Our family. Hold steadfast to the vows, the promises, that we'd made to each other when we were young. And naive.
I'm reminded of a church service we attended years ago, when our minister told us that children, if given the opportunity, are little sinners that will divide and conquer. I'm also reminded of a church service we attended last weekend where the minister referenced Paul's words in Corinthians wherein he suggested that if you were married - stay married. But if you were not yet married, Don't Do It.
This is a direct quote from the Bible: But those who get married will have many troubles in this life. I want to save you from that. 1 Corinthians 7.
Can you imagine if they read THAT at weddings? Let's take an intimate relationship between two people that can be complicated in and of itself, and now - let's sprinkle in some children that will try you to your core. What fool in their right mind would get married - and then go on to have children?!
Actually, me. Because it's been more awesome than not. And I've come to understand that marriage isn't just about finding the right person - it's about being the right person. When Charlie told me that he'd taken an online quiz the other day that revealed he was desperately in love with his wife, I was humbled but not surprised. His actions, every day, consistently demonstrate his endearing love for me. And as a result, it makes me want to be a better person, for him.
Despite all of the challenges that we've faced and will continue to face, I know that there's no one that I'd rather have in my corner than my Charlie. Nineteen years later ... I'm still so thankful that he asked me and YES, I'M IN. FIST PUMP!!
'Til the seas gang dry my dear ... and the rocks melt wi' the sun.