Gifts in padlocked boxes notwithstanding, we’ve never paid much attention to Valentine’s Day around here, so when we had the opportunity to see friends from out of town on February 14th, it was an easy decision.
We had a not-in-the-least romantic but thoroughly enjoyable evening of conversation and toddler wrangling. After a few minutes of getting-to-know-you awkwardness, our kids took to each other like old friends.
There was little to mark the holiday. No hearts, no chocolate, no candlelit dinners.
But there were, unexpectedly, flowers.
Jonathan swung by the store to pick up a few things for dinner. He came home with a grocery bag in one hand and sunflowers in the other.
“Everyone was buying chocolate and flowers. It felt weird to be in line without them.”
After reading my last post, Jonathan told me that he always sounds like “some wise sage” on my blog.
I squinted at him. “Do you want me to make you out to be a doofus?”
He shrugged. “I’m just saying I maybe come across better than I deserve.”
So: no wise sage, no doofus, just the honest truth.
When compared to what is typically portrayed as romantic in our culture today, both of us fall woefully short.
(To promote a stereotype that is, perhaps, somewhat justified: we are both engineers, after all.)
Did you know that Merriam-Webster doesn’t list the hearts-and-flowers meaning of romantic until entry number five?
- consisting of or resembling a romance
- having no basis in fact; imaginary
- impractical in conception or plan; visionary
- marked by the imaginative or emotional appeal of what is heroic, adventurous, remote, mysterious, or idealized
- of, relating to, or having the characteristics of romanticism
- of or relating to music of the 19th century characterized by an emphasis on subjective emotional qualities and freedom of form
- having an inclination for romance: responsive to the appeal of what is idealized, heroic, or adventurous
- marked by expressions of love or affection
- conducive to or suitable for lovemaking
- of, relating to, or constituting the part of the hero especially in a light comedy
(I suppose you could argue that the first entry captures the idea. But you’d hardly say that a person is “consisting of or resembling a romance,” so I’ll stick with my initial claim.)
During a recent bible study, we were discussing the things that cause us to doubt, the things that distract us from being amazed and awed by the story of Jesus.
“For me, I think it’s the mundane reality of day-to-day life,” I said. “I forget to look for God’s presence in my ordinary everyday activities.”
Jonathan responded before anyone else could.
“So my main takeaway from that is that you think life with me is mundane.”
- of, relating to, or characteristic of the world.
- characterized by the practical, transitory, and ordinary; commonplace
the mundane concerns of day-to-day life
During our not-romantic (and, perhaps, mundane? but only in the most positive sense of the word!) dinner with friends on Monday evening, our conversation included legalism, purity culture, and the challenges of raising kids to know and, more importantly, appreciate healthy boundaries in today’s world.
We talked about wanting our kids to be free from anxiety and shame, about wanting them to be able to have healthy friendships with people of the opposite gender, about wanting them to get the big picture. To know not just the “rules,” but to see and understand the beauty behind them.
“Really what I want,” she said as the conversation was winding down, “is for them to have what we have some day.”
What is it that we have?
Laughter and deep conversations and spontaneity. Comfort. Security. Meaningful looks over the kids’ heads. Support and encouragement. Moments of absolute joy and others of pure frustration. Hands clasped at the dinner table. Kisses good morning and kisses goodbye and kisses good night. Movie dates on the couch after the kids are in bed. Apologies and humility, trust and respect. A shared bank account. A shared faith. A shared life.
It doesn’t sound mysterious or visionary or idealized or heroic or adventurous. It isn’t marked by flowers or chocolate. It’s ordinary. Commonplace.
Some might even consider it mundane.
It’s a normal weekday afternoon. Jonathan’s sunflowers fill a tall vase on the counter, next to the last few swallows of my morning coffee that I never quite managed to finish. Emmeline is asleep in the baby carrier, her head nestled against my chest. I’m standing at the kitchen counter. (Standing, not sitting, because, as every baby knows, it’s impossible to sleep if the person holding you is comfortable in a chair). I’m scrambling to put the finishing touches on a blog post before I’m needed elsewhere. The big girls are rummaging in the pantry for a snack while Miles enjoys his in the breakfast nook, upside-down, his feet on the windowsill.
In a few hours, Jonathan will come home. The kids will see his headlights in the driveway and rush to greet him in the garage. With a flurry of small feet and twirling dresses, they’ll accompany him back to the kitchen, where I’ll be finishing dinner preparations. He’ll set the mail on the counter, kiss my cheek, and rally the troops to set the table. We’ll sit down, hold hands, pray. And then we’ll eat, conversation about our day mingled with admonitions to use a fork, to sit still in a chair, to take a break from talking and take a bite instead.
There might be crying or fighting or fussing. One kid might stomp off to her room in a huff while the other makes faces at us over her plate. One or another or both of us adults might lose our cool.
But in the midst of it all, we’ll share a look. A smile, or maybe a grimace, depending on the tenor of the meal. He’ll reach for my hand and give it a squeeze. Our fingers will rest there on the table between us, intertwined, as we handle whatever the evening holds. Together.