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Levee's in London: Gestures of Love

I must apologize for my longer than planned gap in my writing. Just when I had finally gotten into a creative rhythm, my life went into full on hyper speed. Despite what you may see on the news, lockdown in Great Britain is quickly lifting, and I feel like I can hear an audible, if not very British, sigh of relief. Cheers Mates! Bars and Pub doors are opening, and like teenagers who have had their first taste of adult freedom, we are all stumbling around trying to figure out how to do that kind of stuff again. How quickly we had forgotten how to get ourselves dressed appropriately, manage our time appropriately, and basically, just act appropriately in public. We had also conveniently forgotten how expensive drinks are at the pub, and how much our tolerance has changed since before the days of Covid when we resorted to drinking alone in our kitchen at eleven am. Did anyone else do that a time or two? So when we got the green light to plan a city trip, that just happened to fall on our thirteenth wedding anniversary, off we went.

13 years ago, my favorite picture snapped when we were finally alone

Well.... it wasn't THAT easy.

Can we talk about the prep work that goes into a trip? Because I don't want to be one of those people that never shows you what's really under the hood. Here is what is under the hood....I stress. I stress hard. I went into planning our trip with the knowledge that I would have to have really well-thought out plans in order to enjoy as much of the city as we could in twenty-four hours. To add an extra layer of stress, I knew hotels and bars would be opening that very weekend, so things would book up quickly. This meant, three weeks prior to our trip, I spent hours in front of my computer, searching site after site, of what were the best spots in London. On my list of priorities, I wanted to feed Zac good Italian, his favorite, and find places with romantic views and fancy cocktails for the occasion. After selecting each place to go, I mentally mapped out what our trip would be like, and my plans felt like just enough to be fun, and not exhausting. I poured myself a glass of wine, kicked my heels up, and marveled at all of the reservations I had managed to "eek" out in the city's hot spots. Then, "she" came out. She has no name, but suddenly she appears in times like these. She asks annoying questions like, "what is the weather going to be like?" or "how long will it take to get from Point A to Point B, and should you plan for that." Then finally, "you know, this would be easier if you had a spread sheet that held all of this information." Suddenly, she has taken over my body and I am adjusting margins so that it will all fit on one sheet of paper for Zac. By the time "she" is finished, I have blacked out and wake up with a printed read-ahead while I am laying out Zac's clothes to appropriately match the weather. Zac comes upstairs and immediately knows that it's a case of the OCD body snatchers, and so he lets me spin out until I eventually wear out, and climb in bed to crash. But it's not over, no, no, planning what WE will be doing, that is only half of the mission. Tomorrow, it is all about what I'm leaving behind. The kids.

As a parent, we all know, you never just LEAVE. You believe you are the center of your children's world, and so, you maintain a strong fear they will start to eat the curtains if you don't plan for while you are away. It's irrational when I read it in black-and-white. But it feels very real when you are leaving another in charge of your offspring. We were very lucky, and had friends that offered to stay the night, but in order to keep them as friends I wanted make sure they had a pleasant stay with little, middle and large. Meaning, I had to leave a house so clean you could eat off the floor, a fully stocked pantry, and freshly ironed sheets on our bed. I really like these friends. After a full day of scrubbing toilets, I felt like the house was ready, the kids were ready, Zac was ready, and I was almost ready to go and enjoy a weekend away.

On Saturday, our friends arrived, and the hand-off was much easier than I thought. A little too easy. I pictured a heart-felt, tear inducing struggle to leave, instead I got a "Bye Felicia." My feelings were only a little hurt at how happy they were to see me cart my luggage out to the car to catch the train. We were running behind schedule, so the good-byes were quick, and off we went, hauling ass down the motorway to catch the train. While we will not agree on what caused our less that stellar start: I say it was Zac's questioning of whether I packed my toothbrush, and he contends it was my questioning of shoe options, we can both confirm, we MISSED our train. We pulled up just in time to see her pull away from the station. Bye Train! Zac poked my side and sweetly says, "well baby, was this on the schedule?" Touché husband.

For the next 40 minutes, we waited on a cold bench. This gives me a lot of time to wonder how the kids are doing... I wonder if it has hit them I am gone? I wonder if there were any tears? I have been gone exactly fifteen minutes, but those were usually the hardest for my kids. I do the annoying mom thing, and call. Nope. They are already playing games and eating a crazy amount of snacks. We are officially free to have fun. As I sit there, I realize, not only are we celebrating thirteen years of marriage, we are moving into a different stage of parenting. Our kids, are growing up. Independence is in our future. I reach for Zac's hand without him knowing it's keeping me from tearing up at this revelation.

Missing the train and arriving in the middle of a protest, still didn't dampen our weekend. We had the most magical weekend. I won't bore you with every detail, but it was the perfect way to celebrate an anniversary in London. We wined, we dined, we dined some more and then we wined some more. Before our trip back home, Zac went off the schedule and took me to Regent Street for a little window shopping. I always window shop here because it is mostly stores like Manolo Blahnik and Gucci that I feel silly to even go in. It's easier to pretend I can afford it, if I just stay outside and look unimpressed. On this occasion, we kept floating in front of the antique and estate jewelry windows because if you think vintage jewelry is pretty in America, some of the stuff here is insanely old and even more insanely beautiful. Zac asks me if I want to go in and try anything on. I assume he is really wanting to get an idea of what kind of diamond earrings I would eventually LIKE to get. (Backstory: I have wanted a set of diamond earrings for years, but we have always looked and then stopped looking when some unforeseen financial need has arisen.) The nice lady escorts us in, and offers to pull anything from the glass window. My mouth immediately begins to water and I can hardly push down my inner child from jumping up and down and saying "all of it, please let me play with all of it!" I must be a grown up. I must pretend I belong in this very fancy store. So I coyly say, "I'd love to look at some diamond studs." I point to a few and she brings them round. The first pair are a set of rather large emerald cuts from the 20's. I put them in my ear and she sweetly says, "Those are lovely on you, they are $22,000." Almost immediately my deodorant is working overtime and Zac keeps nervously laughing and gripping my leg. I'm not delusional honey, just silly. I take them off and gently, GENTLY, hand them back. We continue to try on and as we are chatting we discover that our sweet saleslady is married to a gentleman from Louisiana! Tell me that isn't fate! We excitedly talk travel and I stumble upon a lovely set that most likely once belonged in some duchess's tiara. Thats my story at least. They sparkle, and it makes me feel like I'm wearing diamonds with a past, and I am yet another chapter in their long and shiny life. Zac smiles and says, "I love them. Let's get them." Wait, What? Is he delusional or just silly? Oh, well, I don't care. Again, I push down the great desire I have to jump into his arms and scream like a giddy girl. Instead, I take in every detail of his face and store it for a day when he has made a mess of his bedside table and I want to make a snide comment. This is the face of a man who thinks through my shortcomings, my over-planning and sometimes lack of patience, I deserve diamonds. The gift was a large gift, but the gesture was even bigger.

On the tube ride home, I kept a cheeky grin and continuously tugged at my ears to check to make sure it was real. And they were still there! Tracing the little circles with my finger and thinking about the weekend we just had... I realized we have arrived! We are officially in a new season. When you have babies, you remain in a constant state of trying to keep everything going. You are just juggling balls of poopy diapers, doctors appointments and playdates hoping none of them are missed. You do the same things day-in and day-out, and yet, as couple, you try your best to hold on to what you are when it's just the two of you. I think of countless nights Zac and I would sit around the dinning table discussing our expectations, airing our issues and trying to figure out how to do this family life the way we had always wanted to. It's hard. Especially as a military spouse, where there have been so many decisions I have had to make by myself, so many hard days I have had to endure by myself, so many times I have had to fight to keep the resentment out of what is good. Kids are such a gift, but they require so much of your devotion and attention that I have always tried like hell to never make Zac feel like he was a second class citizen in our home. My mother always told me, "don't ever do things in the first year of marriage you don't plan to do for the next fifty..." and so when she came to visit and saw that I was serving daily themed dinners with table scapes and homemade dessert, she said... and this is a direct quote, "you have really screwed yourself honey." My response was, "Mom, I want to try this my way." It was MY gesture of love. I wanted our home to be his safe haven. From that year on, and as we added to our family, our gestures of love became the kind you make when life is pulling you in a million directions. Things like, giving the baby a bottle so I could sleep a little longer, or putting a breakfast in Zac's truck so he would eat on the way to work. It's a mature gesture of love: no candy and roses, but real effort and selflessness. In reality they don't take much, but they mean so much when you are wearing a million hats on one head. Over thirteen years of marriage, this has been an evolution.

This London trip showed the shift. Our kids are older, and life isn't exactly easier, but it's a different kind of hard. Sure, we are getting a full nights sleep, but we are also dealing with a pre-teen. Sure, it's not so hard to load up and go as they are more self sufficient, but they are also forming their own opinions and becoming their own people. We've traded the physical exhaustion, for mental exhaustion, as we transition from carrying them to walking alongside them. I can't believe I am here already. In the same way we fell into a rhythm with little ones, we are finding a new rhythm with older ones. Long gone are the days of rubbing my giant baby belly in wonder, I now have a front row seat to the life I created being lived! There is something to be said about this time... where you aren't at the beginning, or at the end. You're "living it up" somewhere in the middle. But think about it, they put the best stuff in the middle: the cream, the jam, the chocolate, the surprise. It happens here! While are are in the middle, and it is getting easier to cross over the bridge back and forth between Mom and Dad to Baileigh and Zac, we plan to keep peppering the whole thing with laughter, lust and lots of saw dust.

Sometimes, it takes a missed train to make you sit quietly and remember to savor the season you are in...

Wherever you are in your family life, I hope you are finding ways, big or small, to show and be shown that you are so loved. Families are in a constant state of growing and changing... you can't plan for it all, and there is no spread sheet that could make the experience less scary. I am working through that. Sometimes, it takes a missed train to make you sit quietly and remember to savor the season you are in and stop stressing over the future. You are going to get there. It wont be long until I'm adjusting Avah's cap and gown, or helping Arden with algebra homework. I won't pretend to know what I'll be doing with Asher, it could go so many ways. Regardless, I am so grateful for the continual gestures of love: the grande ones, the small ones and the memorable ones.

Cheers to 13 years!

From London,

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