Dear Lily June,
Recently, your father and I celebrated our sixth year of marriage to each other. It was a hard anniversary for a number of reasons, not the least of which is how our work and home situations see us separated so often, catching only glimpses of each other in the couple of evening hours right before we all go to bed as a family. It puts a lot of added pressure, then, on a day where your father and I are supposed to focus solely on each other. To put it plainly, we’re out of practice.
This, Lily June, is the truth of relationships: The most passionately connected of lovers and the closest of friends can feel, sometimes, as though they are gazing into each other’s eyes from the opposite sides of a window. The difficult but worthy work of a marriage (where the lovers and friends are the same people) is not in denying the window exists, or even in breaking the glass. It is in working together to make sure the window stays open.
Eventually, your father and I will make it back–literally and figuratively–to being in the exact same place at the exact same time. After all, we always have, and we swore earnestly, by marrying one another, that we always would. Someday, we will gaze together through the window at the view it overlooks of our intertwined pasts. There is no anniversary present better, Lily June, than a lifetime of memories together, the ones that make you laugh, but also, maybe most importantly, the ones you wish you could pull the curtains to.
The reason we have curtains to begin with comes from one of those memories, and is, now, one of the reasons I so deeply love your father. I’ve told you this story a million times before, Lily, but perhaps not in this way: Once upon a time, your dad and I lived in a place they called The Druid City, at the end of a cul-de-sac in a duplex surrounded everywhere by lush, beautiful, ancient trees. The trees themselves were like curtains pulled over the Alabama heat, and I relished, from the safety of my air-conditioned apartment, looking out at the green mosaic the sunlight made through their leaves.
The gorgeous view was one of the reasons I had wanted to live there in the first place, and living there with your father made the place paradise. Until, of course, in the first year of our marriage, our street–our entire city–was hit by a devastating tornado. That night, before we’d ever celebrated our first wedding anniversary, we ate our cold cake topper directly from the freezer (the one we’d been saving for that first celebration) because, with the power out, we knew it wouldn’t make it.
For days, Lily June, I looked out our windows and, morose as this sounds, it was like looking into a yard of corpses. The twisted and mangled branches of trees reached out to me, and just like the literal lost, there was nothing I could do for them. Your parents spent the summer after with family, and I naively believed when we returned to our home, the damage would be cleared away. It was disheartening to find that though much of the rubble was gone, the voids left behind glaringly remained.
The view from our window was hideous and horrifying: For one thing, the particularly large and beautiful tree that had rested in our yard was gone, leaving behind nothing but a stump. For another, we had an exterminator spray that stump one day because we’d seen a little movement by it. When he sprayed, the hundreds of roaches who’d been displaced by the storm’s damage came running right out.
Our yard, for minutes that haunted me for years afterwards, became a sprawling sea of skittering bodies. They poured and poured from that stump, not leaving a glimpse of ground, and the sight was a kind of last straw for me. I felt, everywhere, dirty. I started literally scrubbing and scrubbing our apartment walls, Lily, and I became obsessed with scouring the apartment of the memories. But memories can’t be wiped clean.
Your father, in his infinite kindness, wanted to help when he saw me struggling. (He’d, been across the city, on the safer side, when the storm had hit. He hadn’t, like me, been caught in the thick of it, resting in a bathtub inside of the apartment that now felt less like a love nest, and more like the cell of a prison to me).
It was such a simple idea, but it meant everything: One day, your father brought home curtains to cover what had been, up to that point, our bare windows. He knew I couldn’t stand what I was seeing. He literally changed the view for me.
The pattern, ironically, was of limbs and leaves, but they closed out what I could no longer bear to see. They kept me focused internally, and eventually, I’d have to confront the fact that my fears about the storm, my loss of a sense of safety, weren’t outside in the world or its weather, but inside of me. I would have to do the work of renovating my spirit, but it began with the ability to shut the world out for a minute, to hear my own internal quiet.
Your father, of the many gifts he’s given me over the years, Lily, gave me that: a first glimpse of eventual peace. We still own those same curtains–the only ones (other than shower) I’ve ever had as an adult. We moved them to a different state (literally and figuratively) and even purchased our bedspread here partially to match them. They stand over the windows of our bedroom as a symbol of the little details that make up a marriage. Your father and I have hung them together, Lily.
Your father took the pictures of the curtains in this post from home and sent them to me so that I could write this letter to you while I’m away from you both yet again, stuck out of reach at work.
You need to know that no matter what, Lily, there is a window open between each of us, reminding me that we will get through this time. We will collect all the little moments that build to the bigger picture. And ours will be an extraordinary view for the entire family.
My gratitude for this post goes to Jennifer Nichole Wells’ One Word Photo Challenge prompt, which inspired the writing, and to my husband, who was the unwitting photographer who shared our curtains for the world to see.
My gratitude for this life goes to Ryan Moore, whom I love more than any words can say. Thank you for the past six years married, the past eight together, and for giving me our daughter, Lily June. You are still my miracle, Ryan. Even in the glimpses of you I catch through the window, I love you more every day.