The kids were back at school after a long summer, and we both had the morning off. After the last bus pulled away we were faced with an almost otherworldly quiet; even the pets seemed to know it was an unusual morning and called a truce to their usual sleep-fueled quest for world domination. My husband and I were drinking our coffee in our usual spots, me in my office and he in his reading chair in the family room.
But it was dead quiet. As the morning progressed, we moved about the kitchen like ghosts, not quite running into each other but not quite acknowledging each other either. There was no tension or anything; there was just . . . quiet.
When I finally spoke, it was as though I were shouting. "Hi," I said. It actually echoed.
"Hi," he replied.
"Um . . . I'm Maggie," I said, putting out my hand.
He shook my hand and replied, "Darn nice to meet you."
"Want to go shopping or something before your afternoon meeting?" I asked.
He was thoughtful for a moment and then said, "That's a good idea. We need to do something together. It seems that we just go from one thing to the next with the kids, and don't make any time for us anymore."
It was true. I silently went over the layout of our weeks for the last several months: Mondays and Wednesdays were the girl's karate nights, Tuesdays and Fridays were the boy's workout nights, Thursdays were my teaching nights. By the time Saturday nights rolled around, about the last thing we wanted to do was go out.
And so we rarely, if ever, spent time alone together. Even at nighttime, after the kids go to bed, our conversation is limited by our own different bedtimes; I have found that he's infinitely more agreeable when he's sleeping, but I guess that doesn't really count as conversation. I mean, by definition, it's supposed to go two ways, right?
I think this may partly explain why, that morning, the house was so quiet. It seems we're not used to talking to each other anymore unless it is around the children or about the children or with the children.
We may have actually communicated more when the kids were younger, because we each appreciated the adult conversation the other provided. Now that the kids are providing what is frighteningly close to adult conversation (the occasional "stupid hair" soliloquies of the girl notwithstanding), we have gotten lazy in our efforts with each other. All of our promises to continue dating after the kids were born, to continue celebrating ourselves as a couple, faded away with the business of our children's lives.
When we faced each other across the Kitchen of Echoes, we knew it was time to make a change. So I asked my husband out to dinner, for which I may even wear something other than sweats, and we'll get a babysitter and stay out late like we used to. And then, in a couple weeks we'll do it again – maybe even sooner. Depends on how good a time I have. (Ha! Kidding, honey.)
We are so lucky we had that morning off together, because who knows how much longer this would have continued without our even noticing? We could have woken up to a quiet house ten years from now, when the kids are off in college, and realized then that the conversation was gone – and then it may have been too late. Relationships, I continue to learn, are tricky; if you don't work at them, then poof! Someday they could disappear. So don't mind us, kids. Mom and Dad are going to start dating again.
Nothing personal, but we need to make our own noise.
This I've learned: Relationships are a journey, not a destination. Find that person you once couldn't stand to be without and tell him about your day, or ask her about her day, or go shopping together for new dishes. Don't go quietly into that good night!