I tap the fridge door closed with my right foot while completing a 92-degree turn to pour and place apple juice into a sippy cup and onto a table. My husband swivels precisely to my left, avoiding a collision, plate of mac’n’cheese balanced atop bowl of grapes. Three steps back he takes. Two-and-a-half forward for me. I pinch a napkin between his two free fingers which he then hands off to our toddler, just as the kid threatens his automatic “Can I have a napkin or I’m gonna wipe this all over my pants” in the standard “Am I being raised by wolves here?” tone. Forever on cue is what we are. And as we settle into our normal seats at our normal dinner time I would like to answer my young son this: Wolves? No. Just very kid-whipped robots.
There are a million other razor-sharp routines these old Mom & Pop robots do. From the first tag team coffee-while-making-breakfast-while-flipping-on-cartoons-while-taking-out-the-trash operation at sunrise to the dynamic dual-effort of bathe/read/bed under the moonlight, my husband and I are the steadfast nuts and bolts of a miraculously well-oiled machine. And so we chug along. We get life done. Task completed. We power off around 8:30 pm to fully recharge the battery. Flip a switch and initiate operations full-throttle to keep up with a wide-eyed 4-year-old at the crack of dawn. We are happy because we love each other. We love our kid, our home, our comfortable and predictable way of the days. This is a beautiful order. This is a very sweet system. This works.
I half-listened to my husband as I kept one laser-eye on the boy (“Stop licking the table”), another eye on the dog (“Also stop licking the table”). Tom was talking about some bar. Beer & hot wings, I think he said, late nights of unpredictability. All I could think of was that in two minutes I will wash the pots and pans and he will load the dishwasher. When I tuned in I nodded attentively and added “Fun, fun, fun. Yes. Glory days. Which frat brother was this with again?”. “You,” he cocked his head to the side, humored. I scrunched my face. That can’t possibly be right.
If I squint and think real hard, I remember once that we dated. I think this dating even led to this baby, led to this home, to this routine, to this order, this system. Maybe (though it seems so cutting-edge, so outlandish!) we could still date. We could still partake in the beer and the hot wings. We could see Midnight. We could…and this is crazy… buck the system.
At my mother’s house, I wandered around antsy as I prepared to drop off the kid and rage against the machine. It is rage against the machine without the rage and with much flirty eyes. I told the boy bye, that he wasn’t the boss of me, and just like that there it was: a heart-beat. A pulse. This is some real, random, breathing living we are about to do! This. Is. A. Date.
And this is where we learn that there is also beauty in the chaos. That we can live a little more alive, a little less methodical, mechanical. We skip-walked to the car and within minutes I sprouted an expression that can only be described as Shock & Awesome. We made our way downtown, a stroll through a twinkly Nashville night. I ate my dinner too quickly, a survival habit formed while out to eat with a toddler so that one may finish entrée before tantrum or other malfunction. I have to re-wire. Things were not planned, and things were delightful. I couldn’t believe it yet was thrilled with this baffling discovery.
I would wear this face throughout the night, continually surprised.
Look at us holding hands!
Look at us Jaywalking!
Look at us drinking moonshine!
Look at us awake past 8 o’clock!
Look at us listening to live music!
Look at us even bobbing our heads & clapping to said music!
Look at us not talking about parenting (that much)!
Look at that lady wearing leggings like they’re pants! Ridiculous!
Look at us seeing Midnight!
Look at us acting like humans with heartbeats!
The next day, we are home and routinely doing the routine. Three steps back he takes. Two-and-a-half forward for me. I drop the napkin and am slow to pick it up, pinch it between his two free fingers. So much time spent perfecting this machine, and we didn’t think to take into account a hangover. These are the same steps, maybe a little tired and slower tonight, but we take them knowing now what we didn’t before. I let the boy wipe mac’n’cheese on his pants like he’s raised by wolves so I can take an extra step, spare a minute to tell my husband “Hey, guy. I love you. A lot”.
There is a saying that “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”. I appreciate this saying as I, too, speak Hick. I don’t believe it, though. Not truly. I have a husband that I actually enjoy outside of his standard operating procedures! We’ve got actual purpose outside of practical functions. Plenty of things simply work. If it ain’t broke, still tinker. But it could always be better.
Happy Valentine’s Day, Robots.
Hope your day is heartfelt & oh-so-human!