There are days where your love story is difficult to remember.
You know the days I’m talking about; Under the weight of picking up and dropping off kids, a bulging social calendar, and the steady decay of my brain, it can be tricky to recall that there was a time that all I thought about was the girl that is my wife. It isn’t that I don’t see my wife enough on these days, or that we don’t talk, for we are often crawling in the trenches of parenthood together. It is that the whirlwind of life relentlessly tosses distractions that keep us pursuing everything but each other.
These two days in Oregon were nothing like that.
This was the summer that marked our eleventh year of marriage. When our anniversary rolls around, we make it a point to visit our favorite bed and breakfast in the quirky town of Ashland, Oregon. We usually take in a bit of Shakespeare and more than a bit of great food. After a particularly busy summer with a new child and not near enough date nights we couldn’t pack our anniversary bags soon enough.
At least, we tried to get to Ashland. This year’s trip was delayed by a family emergency which compelled Erica to fly to the other side of the country for a week. She tended to an ailing grandmother and visited family, while I tried (and failed) to be a model single parent. She arrived home exhausted after a red-eye flight — to an exhausted husband with a car full of kids. Had we more money and no conscience, we might have chartered a plane then and there to whisk us away to Ashland, leaving the kids with the loving employees of the Sacramento International Airport. Didn’t happen.
By the following weekend, we were raring to get on our way to Ashland. We had rescheduled our bed and breakfast reservation, cancelled our Shakespeare tickets, and sorted out a new plan with my in-laws to take care of the kids. With the kids in loving hands and the bags packed, we accelerated out of Sacramento with a great Spotify playlist blaring through the speakers. All was well. Until the car lost power a few miles outside of Woodland. We later learned that our transmission had just died. For a split second I wondered if this trip with my bride was not meant to be.
But in that moment of anguish, Erica and I each seemed to resolve together that nothing would stop us from reaching our destination. I sought out the closest car rental shop, and she called the Triple A tow truck. Within an hour we were back on I-5 in a rented Toyota, making up for lost time while our poor car was dragged back to our mechanic. We were impressed with ourselves, and with each other. I was beginning to remember our love story.
My beloved and I braved many hazards on that four-hour drive north. There was that grating, whistling sound coming from the top of our car. Innumerable bugs careened into our windshield while driving through Cottonwood. Forest fire smoke enveloped us like a hearty fog that threatened to throw us off course. And while facing these obstacles, we relished moments of silence. We held hands. We reminisced about past anniversaries, awkward dates in college, and our aborted honeymoon. We talked about how our faith had changed through recent challenges. We were telling our love story to each other.
We reached Ashland a week and a few hours later than expected, and we were grateful to be there at all. We made the most of our time that night and in the two days that followed. A bubble bath, sleeping in, gourmet breakfasts, a long bike ride (with no trailer attached), meandering walks, photography lessons, slow meals, great talks, fresh cookies, daydreams about travels in Spain, a visit to my boyhood house, and dreams about the future. We were continuing our love story.
I snapped this portrait of Erica on our way to dinner at our favorite Thai food spot in Ashland. She had stopped for a minute to glance over the rail at Lithia Creek, babbling noisily as it ran down the hill. It was one of those moments that you can’t slow down to enjoy when kids are in tow, and so it was a moment I didn’t interrupt. When she turned back toward me, I grabbed a photo of her in that evening light, looking as beautiful and contented as I’ve seen her in some time. I realized shortly afterward that this was one of the few photos I’ve taken of her recently since our children, landscapes and wildlife take up so much of my lens time.
She sighed in resignation as she does whenever I take a picture of her. Meanwhile, I cherished this new image.
This photo, and the story that unfolded over the course of the weekend, surprised me yet again at my great fortune. The romance and puppy dog affection of our days of dating seemed as fresh to me as ever. It was like the long-burning embers of our fire were blown back into flame by time out of life. Erica is still my best friend, my dream girl, my wife, my sister in faith, and my lady love. I wouldn’t have it any other way.
And Erica, if you’re reading this, maybe we oughta start planning our next getaway now.
How do you keep love alive in your relationship? Give us your tricks and traditions in the comments below.