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November 12, 2021

The Attic

Our anniversary was Monday. 

We celebrated the last 13 years the Friday before, just the two of us. With the kids at their grandparents' house, we opted for a casual dinner downtown. Conversation ran uninterrupted by toddler giggles and endless requests. We tuned in to each other without distractions of school day stories and preteen social dynamics. We saw each other as husband and wife instead of Daddy and Mama, a difference often overlooked but one always worth remembering.

When you've been with someone as long as we've been with each other, 21 years, there's a lot of ground to cover. When you've seen someone through every phase of life starting with their teenage years, there's a lot to unpack. When there's so much history, so many ups and downs, so many laughs, so many tears, it's easy to tuck them all away as memories and just look forward to tomorrow. When you've said all there is to say, sometimes it's easier not to make withdrawals from the memory bank.

Good thing we're both stubborn.

We spent Monday night, our actual anniversary, celebrating with the kids. A day like every other where we gather around the table for dinner in our unassigned, assigned seats. The meal was filling and the toddler giggles were contagious. The conversation leaned toward recess and YouTube celebrities while Allison and I played hide-and-seek with the wife and husband behind the mother and father. We snuck a few glances, shared a few smiles, and soaked in our children - the love between us personified.

We cleaned up the kitchen, ushered the kids upstairs for their bedtime routines, and listened as they said their prayers. We slowly pulled their doors closed, blowing kisses through the narrowing crack, then we snuck back downstairs to uncork a bottle of champagne. I secretly bought a bottle earlier completely unaware that Allison was doing the same. We grabbed our glasses and quietly climbed the stairs to visit one of our favorite places.

The attic.

It was our first Valentine's Day in the new house when we created a little hangout in the attic. Innocent enough, it was just to get away from our offspring for a few minutes, a last-minute romantic gesture in a season of diapers and lectures. A moment of quiet from the constant commotion of day-to-day life where we could see each other and hear each other. We never dismantled it and, instead, come back to it often.

The Attic Hangout

A few old beach chairs folded out with an even older chest between them. Leftover carpet left behind from the owners before partially rolled out for warmth underneath us, for Charlie mainly. A few strands of string lights, with burned-out bulbs that somehow survived the move, are strung loosely along the studs and the railing. A street sign bearing the name of a backroad between our childhood homes that we drove countless times on the way to see each other, racing to beat the clock from an impending curfew.

It's ours.

We raised our glasses and toasted, to what we had and what we have, what we've been through and what we're building, and we sipped while surrounded by boxes of seasonal decorations and random items the kids have outgrown. The attic, our grown-up version of a treehouse, is where we go to reconnect. It's a routine that developed unintentionally, but one we both look forward to.

It sounds odd, sure, but it's where we're able to see each other without any outside influence shading our view. It's where the conversation never runs dry even when the champagne bottles do. We give each other downloads of our day, we talk about our kids, we discuss our dreams, we note the goals we've checked off the list and those still ahead. We talk about this and that and everything in between.

We talk.

Sometimes for hours. Sometimes for minutes. Sometimes not at all. We turn on a playlist in the background and sing along or listen to the rain on the roof as the thunder vibrates the walls. We laugh. We cry. Sometimes we laugh until we cry. We revisit those kids 21 years ago who thought they knew everything but had no idea. We acknowledge their mistakes. We celebrate their wins. We show them love and grace and understanding and thank God we had each other every step of the way.

Monday night, we climbed the stairs with champagne flutes in hand and drank to the commitment we made to each other 13 years ago. Still young. Still believing we knew everything but still had no idea. We relived our wedding and our honeymoon, noting every detail we would change and those we wouldn't touch at all. We'll climb those stairs again, probably tonight, probably tomorrow night. God-willing, we'll climb them again another 13 years from now, surrounded by a life's worth of souvenirs, to revisit who we are today.

Cheers to that.

Attic Toast

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