A few days before we left town for Christmas, I got together with a friend for coffee. While I sat waiting for her, and sipping a gingersnap latte, a young couple came in and sat at the table next to me. They were, to put it bluntly, all over each other. They sat elbow-to-elbow, hands clasped, whispering sweet nothings over their lattes, and every now and then they kissed in a long and lingering way.
Hmmmm....I thought, maybe TOO much affection for a public place? But it was sweet and touching to see, nonetheless, and hard to be too crotchety about a young couple in love. I thought about how often you see young couples engaged in public displays of affection (PDA, remember?), and so rarely see older married couples doing the same. How refreshing and touching it is when you DO see an older couple snuggling on a couch, or cheek-to-cheek over a hot drink in a Starbucks somewhere, or holding hands (in fact, the most romantic thing I ever saw was at the beach last summer, when I watched a 60-year-old couple emerge from the waves together, hand-in-hand).
Some years ago, when I was just out of college, I went with a friend to his parents' apartment for dinner. He had three other siblings, and it was a loud, noisy apartment, and the kitchen was small and cramped. But everyone cooked together, and made lots of noise, and when my friend's mother bent down to pull out a casserole from the oven, her husband--my friend's father--leaned close to her, whispered something in her ear, and I swear she blushed like a teenager and kissed him back. My friend and his siblings, even though they were all college-age or well past college, seemed to bask in this glow of love between their parents, and the whole room brightened at once. I remember being struck right then and there, even though I was 24 and marriage was oh-so-far-away from my mind, by how displays of love like that, so unpredicted and surprising (you never imagine your parents, or other people's parents, engaged in PDA) are really gifts to your kids. Each kiss, each hug, each silly dance in the kitchen while Van Morrison plays in the background, is like a small but important present you hand down to your children; like a lit candle, or a sudden flash of light, warming everyone it touches.
Sometimes Scott and I are so busy rushing from here to there, trying to hold it all together, trying to get ourselves and the kids through the week, that we're like those proverbial ships passing in the night--sometimes we don't even say goodbye to each other, just "Did you remember L.'s lunchbox?" or "Are you picking T. up?" When you become parents, you lapse into a type of parent-speak, a coded language only you and your partner share. Maybe it even involves grunting and silent looks, eyes rolled a special way, a tired shrug. We know we're okay; we know that at the end of the day we'll have the chance to talk, and we never go to sleep at night without an I love you whispered into the dark. But I think it never hurts to make an effort to slow down a little, to sneak a few kisses in over dinner, and definitely a goodbye kiss each morning. I also know that 20 or 30 years from now I want to be that couple in the waves, the years falling away from us like water.
Maybe it's a good resolution for the New Year? A little more parental PDA, and a little less of those ships passing in the night.