Diary of a Marriage: Reconnecting On Vacation

Em, on her and J.'s porch on their vacation to St. Martin.

A few weeks ago, I sat across from J. at an open-air restaurant overlooking the Caribbean Sea. The air was warm and salty, the bridges of our noses were freckled after a day out in the sun, and we were completely, utterly relaxed. (So relaxed, in fact, that J. wasn’t even fazed by the fact that I was wearing a turban.)

We were discussing our Songs—you know, the ones you and your significant others throughout the years decide completely encapsulate your unique relationship and illustrate your innate couple-ness, usually sometime during high school. J. told me about the girlfriend he once had who called him up one day to tell him she’d decided on their Song, one he didn’t particularly even like. In typical J. fashion, he shrugged it off, not even really understanding why they needed a Song in the first place (“Do we have a song?” he asked Answer: Eh, kinda.). I told him about “Lady In Red,” the fantastically cheesy song my high school boyfriend and I chose to represent us. It was either that or some twangy Shania Twain ballad. Or Billy Joel, come to think of it. I can’t remember.

It was refreshing to laugh with him. Lately, our schedules have been so harried that we’ve hardly had time for proper conversation. I get home late, still chewing my lip about work, and he’s ready for bed, exhausted after eight hours of teaching lessons on a scorching tennis court. Our conversations have been focused on the day-to-day: How was that meeting? Did you make that deadline? How were the kids at tennis? Are you hungry? But since we were on an island—away from everything—we were finally able to talk about things that weren’t immediate or pressing. We could tell the kinds of stories you tell when you’re first dating. The stories that are colorful and interesting, the ones that are such intricate parts of our patchwork lives, the ones that define us so much more than a retelling of the day’s events.

We talked about the time I went to summer camp in seventh grade, and the funny little details about the way he passed his grade-school summers. We talked about the constantly evolving relationship between my mother and I—why we fought so much when I was younger, and how we got to where we are now, best friends who talk about five times a day. We talked about how nervous he was the first time he asked a girl out, the tricks he learned to beat his Nintendo games. We talked about the smelly old lady who lived up the street from my childhood house, and in whose backyard we basically took up residence each summer. (Her yard wound down to the Delaware Canal, and it was mostly a sea of thick green moss, which I dubbed “The Velvet Carpet.” For years, I wanted an ermine cloak to wear while I walked on it. After all, only queens had velvet carpets.)

Our conversation started in one place and then veered and double-backed and swirled until we told all the stories we hadn’t gotten around to telling yet, the ones that got lost in the sagas and problems of everyday life. I even found myself—quite inexplicably—getting butterflies. The whole thing felt so early date-ish (minus the turban). Only it was better, because we weren’t using stories to suss out who the other person was and whether we wanted to know more. We were telling the stories to fill in all the teeny-tiny nooks of our lives before we knew each other. We both had over 23 years of stories piled up before we met, and it was nice to realize that we hadn’t scratched the surface of telling them all.

By the time we looked around, the restaurant had mostly cleared out. The owner had left a bottle of the house-made strawberry banana rum on the table. “On us! Get drunk! Talk! Enjoy!” he said with such feeling we were scared to tell him we’re not big rum drinkers. But we stayed anyway, occasionally forcing down sips, each of us having equally violent reactions to the sweet burning. We didn’t have anywhere to be, and we had plenty of stories to tell.

Do you and your groom every find a way to get back to that getting-to-know-you phase of when you were first together? Vacation? Date night?


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