When I was a child, there was an excitement that preceded Christmas as it approached each year. I am sure that most everyone knows what I mean by that statement; whether you are longing for Christmas, Hanukah, Ramadan, Kwanzaa, or even if you are an atheist that participates in some form of secularized holiday celebration. There is a sense of childhood excitement that surrounds the season; it could be the gifts, the decorations, the music, or a host of other contributing factors.
In a small way, I experience something like that feeling each week of the year; every Wednesday night for the past decade or so, my wife and I have had "Date Night." I do my best to never schedule anything that conflicts with this tradition; and as each Wednesday comes around, I look forward to going out to dinner or a movie with my wife in something of that same good-natured attitude of child-like expectation that I used to have at Christmas.
Date Night is a recent endeavor for us; which is unfortunate, but somewhat unavoidable. Both Kathleen and I went directly from living at home to being young, married, and poor; and soon after that we became parents. We were great friends in High School and our first year of college, but we jumped forward several years almost overnight; and as a result, we went from being children to being parents with barely a chance to discover who the other person really was.
Please don't misunderstand me - parenthood was a mixed blessing of training and teething, schooldays and sporting events, chaos and concerts, happiness and heartaches; and I would not trade a moment of my joys or sorrows as a parent. (Well, maybe I could do without the memories from one of my daughter's first boyfriends - and he knows who he is. ) But that being said, Kathleen and I missed out on the opportunity to explore who we were as a couple all those years ago; which is why I enjoy each week's rediscovery that long before I loved my wife, I actually liked my wife.
There is a wonderful scene in the musical Fiddler on the Roof where the main character, Tevye, asks Golde, his wife of twenty-five years, "Do you love me?" I didn't fully understand this scene when I was younger; I simply thought that it was amusing.
But in recent years, Golde's responses to Tevye's simple questions have impacted me differently.
"For 25 years I've washed your clothes,
Cooked your meals, cleaned your house,
Given you children, milked your cow.
After 25 years, why talk about love right now?
"For 25 years I've lived with him,
Fought him, starved with him.
25 years my bed is his;
If that's not love, what is?"
I truly loved my wife on the day that we exchanged rings and we both said "I do" before our friends and family. The reasons why I loved my wife on that day are still there: she has an odd sense of humor, we complement each other well, and she is my best friend. But the trials and tribulations that we have endured together over the past twenty-seven years have changed the dynamics of that relationship.
In our marriage vows Kathleen and I promised to love each other for richer or poorer, for better or worse, and in sickness or in health; and we have endured each of those seasons in due course over our many years of marriage. It is precisely that collection of experiences that has bonded us together in ways for which a night out every week could never substitute; in much the same way that veterans of a war are bonded together in a way that supersedes the love between the closest of siblings.
Two years ago, on our twenty-fifth anniversary, I gave Kathleen a framed portrait that contains our wedding photos and the following quote from Mark Twain:
"Love seems the swiftest, but it is the slowest of all growths. No man or woman really knows what perfect love is until they have been married a quarter of a century."
In many ways that sums up my feelings: I loved my wife when I was nineteen for as much as I understood that concept at the time; but now that I am somewhat older, and perhaps somewhat wiser, I love my wife in ways that I couldn't possibly have understood back then. I tell Kathleen every day that she is my favorite person; and because of that, every week may not be Christmas, but just the same - I look forward to spending each week with her all the more.