Apron Strings by Samantha Gianulis – Cookies and Milk, or Domestic Details

Unloading baseball gear from the car, promising the toddler I wouldn’t forget her in her car seat, asking my daughter to remove her sippy cups from the backseat, I asked my husband, Pete, “How the hell did this happen to us?”

As in, when did these kids get here, how come you’ve stuck with me, and how do we find the gumption to keep going?

CHOCOLATE CHIP BLONDIES
 

1 1/2 cups brown sugar

1/2 cup melted butter
2 eggs, beaten
1 tsp vanilla
1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 350. Melt butter in a big bowl in the microwave. Once melted, add to the bowl the brown sugar, eggs, and vanilla and mix until blended. (I use a hand mixer for this quickie job.) Add baking powder and salt. Mix again. Add flour. Mix yet again. Stir in chocolate chips. Spread into a greased 9×13 pan and bake for 18-20 minutes.

Recipe courtesy Karrie McAllister

My husband and I are pleasantly surprised that we’re still domestically inseparable.

Back in our twenty-somethings when we had a big group of single friends, there was a silent consensus that we were the couple least likely to succeed. We procrastinated maturity like everything else in our lives; studying for exams, declaring a major, moving out of our parents homes. But somehow, we made it, whatever “it” is. We’ve stayed together for eighteen years, been married for twelve of those, though both of us have insisted – more than once that we were ready to pack our shit up and go.

I really don’t know what they key to successful marriage is. I never have. My husband and I watched all of our friends marry and have kids before we dove into legal matrimony without looking. Before we became parents, we were honorable Aunties and Uncles, had thrown several baby showers, and babysat infants. Most of our friends had families while Pete and I had the smell of fresh paint in our new home, and two dogs barking in the backyard.

Then that day came, when we decided it was time for us to try getting pregnant, and see what happened.

Didn’t take long. Like most things on our life, we took parenting on and figured it out while it was happening. And not only did parenthood change us into different people, it introduced us to new ones.

You know, those timely friendships you make in playgroups, at school, or in community organizations. We did play dates, dinner parties, birthday parties, and got to know our peers on Saturdays at ball games. There is an information exchange and genuine sense of unity that is borne from those friendships, if you’re lucky.

 

Luck is a factor in such relationships perhaps, in all relationships.

I realized this as friends started getting divorced. Our number of married friends has now dwindled, and I’m a little freaked about it.

“Your husband is right by your side” my husband said last night during dinner as he told me the news about yet another couple we know who is enduring mediation, their two kids friends with our kids appearing more solemn, and less jovial. Arriving late for practice, missing games.

My heart ached upon hearing this, my stomach contorted. I don’t pretend to understand how people leave each other behind, even when they have valid reasons.

I was feeding the baby noodles when I thought of our marriage as a boat in a harbor, surrounded by sinking ships. I felt like an overconfident wench for drawing such a comparison.

Three of my girlfriends are in the middle of divorces right now. Two girlfriends just closed the books. What heavy circumstances for them, what strange luck we have. Back in our twenty-somethings, we knew some couples would drop off, that a lot of people thought it would be us. In an unexpected way, they were right. Every time I get news of a family split apart, I feel like it’s mine.

I see these families in past tense. “But, everything seemed fine! They smiled a lot. They just enrolled their kids in private school. His business is doing so well,why?” I asked my husband, feeling foolish, knowing what I do about illusions.

Despite those things; the show they put on, the size of the vessel,those ships were abandoned, sprung leaks, capsized,and eventually sunk.

I’m compelled to extend my hands to those – children first – left bobbing up and down in the water in life jackets, with wide “What just happened?” looks in their eyes and forced, toothless smiles.

I want to cook them dinner every night, and in some cases, I have. I share my family’s collective luck for still being together, simultaneously hoping we never know the other end of the spectrum.

I understand why divorce happens. I know it’s better for children to have at least one contented parent than two miserable ones. And often as I see these ships sinking, I can never get used to it.

I pull out the last two chocolate chip blondies from the pantry and pour us a tall, cool glass of milk as I analyze the undoings, followed by the inevitable, uncomfortable talk, beginning with “Have you ever thought of doing that to me?” Not ignoring the questions of our children, “Who isn’t living together anymore, Momma?”

Shoot. “No one, honey.” I don’t want to discuss it anymore. “Everything here is fine.” .

It is fine with us, my husband and I, at least I feel it is, in the same place where the ache for the others occurred. I don’t know about tomorrow, but netted in my own domestic details, I feel safe. Our waters are calm, our anchor is set. We still eat cookies together and share milk from the same glass.

Our friends, they looked like us, talked like us, could be mistaken for us. But Pete and I, our family – somehow, we’re still afloat.

Maybe we are not meant to understand why.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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