True Love Is Staying Awake

Like most moms, I have no problem falling asleep the second my head hits the pillow at the end of the day. Kids, work, life, family and friends, the grocery store, dropping off and picking up at various summer camps, ordering supplies for an upcoming birthday party—no, I don’t struggle with insomnia. Other things, yes; inability to nod off, no.

One evening this week, Stanton was telling me a story from his day. My eyelids kept drooping down, but every now and then, I said, “Hmm.” Then I yawned.

We’ve known each other long enough that the yawn didn’t offend my husband. “It’s OK, I know it’s not that interesting,” he said.

“Please tell me the rest,” I said. I blinked my eyes open. “I promise I’ll stay awake.”

I was promising to not fall asleep. Not to listen, exactly, or ask follow-up questions. But simply to be awake, to be there.

A couple of nights before, Stanton had gotten up twice to comfort Grace, who was sick. She had called out, and he had heard instantly and sprinted up the steps to her room. At one point, I remember squinting through the darkness at the clock on the desk in our room: 3:02 a.m.

Grace will be 7 soon, in just a few days. Talk about blinking—the past seven years have gone by in a blink.

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I remember one night before Grace was born. It was the middle of the night, past midnight probably. I was hugely, uncomfortably pregnant and couldn’t sleep (one of the last times in my life this happened). My tossing and turning in our bed woke Stanton; we decided to take a nocturnal walk.

We were living in San Antonio then. Even at dusk, the August temperature was hot, and we held hands loosely, our skin sticky. We shuffled through our neighborhood, winding our way around cul-de-sacs and under live oak trees.

I don’t remember what we said as we walked. But we did walk, together. Stanton stayed awake.

True love is staying awake.

We may not realize this. Not if we rely on pop culture for wisdom regarding true love, or social media for inspiration of what devotion looks like.

The girls and I were just in a local bookstore, I Love Books. We wandered through the aisles, our flip flops gently slapping against the light-blue wooden floorboards. Then on a shelf of coloring books, I noticed one, “Harry and Meghan: A Love Story.”

I couldn’t help myself, friends—I flipped through it. (Doesn’t every girl who grew up in the ’90s have a soft spot in her heart for the fun-loving royal ginger?) The coloring book proclaimed, “Their love captivated the world!” and featured drawings of Meghan’s engagement ring, flutes of Champagne, and Buckingham Palace.

I wish any couple only the best, including the newly married Duke and Duchess of Sussex. I wish them all the good things: joy, adventure, the comfort of each other. A problem with so many pop-culture depictions of love, though, is that they don’t show what happens next.

What happens after the last bit of bubbly has been sipped.

After the honeymoon wraps up…when real life begins. There are no coloring books glamorizing “[Insert Names Here]: Our Long Road to Parenthood.” Or “When [Name] Lost Her Job,” or “The Year [Name’s] Dad Was Diagnosed With [Fill in the Blank].”

“Harry and Meghan: Middle Age”—no, I can’t see that one flying off the bookshelves.

A problem with so many pop-culture depictions of love…is that they don’t show what happens next.

It’s important to show what happens next so that our visions of love and romance are rooted in reality. So that we don’t grow up, couple up, and then come face to face with hardship…and have no idea how to handle it or stick together.

The last gasp of a wedding day…the final montage of a romantic comedy…the curtains closing at a Broadway show or high-school production of “Beauty and the Beast.” These are all moving moments. Emotional highs. We leave feeling satiated…exhausted.

And then it’s the middle of the night, and someone we love needs us. We’d rather be sleeping, but we go. We stay awake.

Publishers may not immortalize that response with a coloring book. We ourselves probably wouldn’t post an update to our Twitter feed. “Up at 3 a.m.?” It’s not quite as ❤ -able as “Date night!” or “Class of ’05 reunion!” or “Impromptu house party!”

It’s not quite as ❤ -able (on Twitter, anyway), but sometimes, it means everything in real life.

Sometimes, true love is staying awake.

Photo credit: Pixabay

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Like what you just read? Then check out Melissa Leddy’s newest short story, “Backtrack.” An engaging read that’s can’t-put-it-down good.