Luke and I climbed into the front seats, both bitten and bleeding—me by a bunny I’d been holding up to show our special needs daughter, Sadie, and Luke by Sadie. I shut the passenger door.
It was a nice thought, he assured me, popping around the corner to the local nursery for hot dogs and a visit with Santa and a stroll through rows of fragrant Christmas trees. There was even a petting zoo. Who doesn’t love a baby llama?
But it wasn’t Sadie’s day—or ours—and she would have none of it. Maybe she was sleepy or thirsty or cold, or there were too many people there, or llamas smell funny. We chased her in circles for a while until we could finally get her safely back in the car.
During the miniature outing, I spotted a pair of preschool-aged twin girls, all curly heads and matching jackets, smiles and wonder.
“Remember those days?” I said, thinking of our now 16-year-old twin daughters. “When we were all about getting the girls dressed up and taking them around?”
“That,” Luke said quietly, “was a really long time ago.”
I frowned at him. “So what’s your point?” That we’re older? Grayer? Fatter?
Later that night, he told me he meant “a really long time ago” in a metaphysical sense.
“Oh,” I said, turning down the covers on our bed. “You mean back when life was easy and fun?”
“Yep, pretty much.”
Well, there it was, hanging out there. We don’t usually say things like that, allow ourselves to go there. We love Sadie with all our hearts, and then some. She’s a joy—and a mess.
But we’re tired.
My spouse is an optimistic guy, sometimes annoyingly so. His comment came from a place of deep exhaustion, I know. But there’s this: look at us, getting ready for bed and being all calm and on each other’s side.
There might’ve even been a hug.
So what if the photos from a dozen years ago tell a different story, of carefree faces and wide-eyed naivete? We’re not alone—whose faces don’t morph into something a little sadder? If we’re honest, aren’t we all a tiny bit disappointed? Most adults I know are walking around semi-shocked at how upside-down stuff turned out, how hard it is to be human. A lot of us grew up being told we were special and the world was going to be our oyster if we studied hard, worked smart, played by the rules.
We bought the subtle lies and, in our bitterness, forgot about grace.
From what I can tell, us grownups with a little life under our belts complain more, sigh more, drink more. Some of us get harder; some soften—others vacillate between the two. We neglect to say thanks.
But the good news is we can offer each other knowing looks, real laughter, fresh levels of candor. The better news is maybe we’ll learn to lean into the pain and still come out okay.