Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Marriage Thoughts IV: Space for Reunion

It had been over nine months since my last visit home to Colorado, so a couple weeks ago I boarded the  plane and sailed from summertime threatening the desert (highs in the 80s and 90s already, in March!) back to winter in the form of snow and single-digit temperatures on the Front Range.

I will make my confession.

I had been eagerly anticipating the visit... the time with my family, the time with good friends, some quality time with my parents' fuzzy couch-potato-dog. But I had also been looking forward to the short time apart from the Pilot.

This is not because I didn't miss him.
It's because I did.
And I knew I would. And I knew he would miss me.

This Air Force life ahead of us will hold many "missing" times. We were challenged with a month-long separation less than three months after we were first married (and, I might add, I was miserable. Not a drown-my-sorrows-in-cookies-and-wine and cry-every-day miserable, but the haunting in my consciousness of a general feeling of deprivation and not-right-ness miserable.) Now that the Pilot is almost finished with training and "real life" on an operational base looms large, so also the reality of deployments, of absences two and three and six months long, begins to loom ominously as well.

How then could I  have possibly looked forward to a week long-separation from him? Of course it was an inevitable by-product of me going to see my family (the Pilot isn't allowed to take any leave during training, so he couldn't have gone with me), but to purposefully anticipate the absence? Even just a year ago my newlywed self would have been aghast, even appalled at the idea.

Here's why I think the short time apart was good for us and our marriage: it gives us space for reunion.

Marriage blends the spice of intimacy with the bland of the mundane, the shifting sand of romance with the bedrock solidarity of ordinary every-day love that manifests itself in going grocery shopping together and balancing the checkbook and taking out the trash. Eight weeks married, I wrote rapturously that "love comes in messy kitchens and boxers on the floor" and a year and a month later I still think that's true. But it's not as easy to remember as it was then. A lot of the time now I just wish the boxers could end up in the laundry hamper. Routines are good and important, but I can cross the line too far into making my marriage a routine. Just because the Pilot and I make a habit of loving each other doesn't mean we want to become so accustomed to each other that we take each other for granted.

So I cooked extra meals (way more than I originally planned, because the closer the trip got to more guilty I felt about leaving my Pilot to fend for himself!) and kissed my husband goodbye and by the second day back in Colorado I was missing him. We called each other every night and texted during the day. We told each other about everything that happened each day. We whispered and giggled. He read me a section of The Hobbit over the phone one night so we wouldn't get too far behind (I've been reading it out loud as our bedtime story.) It felt like we were engaged again. He told me to come home soon, and I counted the days till we'd be reunited.

In marriage, distance can provide a lens that brings the focus to what's really important; pet peeves and minor squabbles blur into the background. I don't love the Pilot more now that I'm back because I never loved him less, but a short time away from him intensifies that truth and brings it forefront in my vision. When I saw my husband in the car as he drove up to pick me up from the airport, I wasn't remembering boxers on the floor (or even paying much attention to the March Mustache) because I knew that this was my lover-friend, my Pilot who woos and wins me, the man who is bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh. These are the things that are the most true, and it was the short time of distance which helped me remember.

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