A few weekends ago we had a couple of our single friends visiting us. Lauren, our former babysitter, tore herself away from her fabulous life as a cool tech chick at Discover in Chicago (I'm not exactly sure what she does, but she has a "team" and they've gone on boating expeditions so it must be super-cool). Annika was so happy to see her again and reminisce about those wonderful days of wandering around the university cafeteria, inviting herself to join the football players' table (Annika did, not Lauren, although I don't think Lauren minded). Frankie and Annika had a great time competing to see who got to spend the most time in Lauren's lap.
The following day our friend, Nicole, came for a visit. Also tearing herself away from a fabulous life in Chicago as a cool, single woman. Nicole has decided to enter the world of politics (in a supporting role, although I think she would have great appeal as a candidate herself) and meanwhile is using her amazing knowledge of all things food and wine at some of Chicago's amazing restaurants. Our own culinary tastes have fallen far since the birth of our two little ones, and I was slightly hesitant to reveal the contents of our kitchen cabinets to her. Case in point: I opened the base cabinet to find the bottle of olive oil that I had to stash away when Anni discovered that most things could be pounded on our tile kitchen floor to make "music." I completely forgot about our little epicurean embarrassment hidden away there until Nicole exclaimed, "Holy Marshmallow Stash, Batman!" Yes, we had 4 huge bags of marshmallows down there. What can I say? Annika loves those things. There's not much I can't get her to do with the promise of just one little sweet, soft, heavenly cloud marshmallow. Also, there was a little miscommunication concerning bag sizes on the shopping list with Joerg when I was making all that Christmas fudge.
In any case, Nicole seemed to have a good time, even with Annika doing her usual conversation dominatrix act. The main problem with Annika's conversational style is that when she runs out of things to say, she just enters this surreal stream-of-consciousness monologue that is really only meant to make sure that she still has the floor in case something that she really does want to say
ever enters her head. After several episodes listening to mumblings about some sort of present for Christmas that had to do with carrots and party hats, giving her the full attention and respect that we have been trying to teach her to give when someone else is speaking, we finally had to draw the line. Luckily, our kids have early bedtimes (between 6:30 and 7), so we still had lots of opportunity to chat without Annika's amusing interjections. Really, though, I think my girls are pretty charming, and Nicole charmed them right back.
After the girls went to bed, we had the kind of great conversation that only happens when you realize that it's not all about your kids all the time. I was so happy (relieved) to discover that I could still converse on political and current events (thank you New Yorker and Atlantic Monthly). Eventually, we also wound around to the topic of relationships, marriage, and all that stuff that Joerg and I have completely started to take for granted. Nicole asked us how we knew that we were "it" for each other, that this relationship was the one worth betting on. Joerg and I looked at one another, shrugged our shoulders, and agreed that we couldn't remember anymore.
And that sounds so terrible now. And I think it sounded terrible then, too. But it's the God's Honest Truth. The fact of the matter is that when you've been married for a while and you're in a marriage that is working, you don't give much thought anymore to how it started, to what else could have been, to what keeps it going. And that's not always a good thing. Case in point: A few days after Nicole left, we had a huge fight after the girls went to bed. We both knew that it was a fight over the most petty and stupid thing in the world, which is why we both thought that our mutual stubborness was a harbinger of some major rift, pointing to deeper problems that were completely inconsistent with harmonious coexistence. We talked and talked and talked some more, and then came to a sort of solution that left neither of us completely happy, but here we are a few weeks later and we find that a few exchanges of responsibilities has left us both feeling much better. So I suppose it's really not a good idea to take it all for granted, or you might find yourself consulting lawyers regarding the placement of a few trash bags.
In the end, then, I guess you know you've got "it" when you can talk to that person even when you really really don't feel like talking; when you just know that what you're about to say will make you sound like a terrible, evil, self-centered person and you can say it anyway. That's as close as my unromantic little heart can get to a summary of working companionship. That, and knowing when you're spending too much time on the computer.