After the workday, the commute, the must- dos and the left- undones…. we finally settled beneath the fluff and down of cozy blankets, needing respite, our bodies stilled.

Eyes drowsy, my thoughts drifted.  Your breath was steady, even, warm across my ear; the weight of your calf, its tickling hairs upon my ankle, your arm resting heavy on top of the quilts, protectively holding me close ….even in your sleep.

A quiet whisper, you murmured contented words, “This is the best time of my day….right now, right here, lying down beside you.”

My heart sang.   

It was a few months ago that we reluctantly replaced the mattress.  It had been oh, so comfortable, yet, it was sagging, slumping too much right in the center of it; not two separate indentions resulting from solo slumbering, but instead, one valley hollowed out over time.

A smile appeared on my lips, unseen in the dark…but formed by renewed awareness:  that discarded mattress was tribute to a lifetime of shared experience that secured us together, from then leading us to now.

Back then, what began as youthful hopes with little more than two beating hearts and hands held tight, we took on this world as partners.    You, with your curious, spontaneous, and gregarious nature joining with my cautious, pragmatic, and introverted temperament, somehow we’ve managed to merge, each of us stretching and learning and growing because of those differences, while all the ways we are the same united us with steel threads of common strength.

You and I with our separate selves continue to return and entwine into one middle place; whether days have left us weary from challenges or happy with success, worried over sorrows or exhausted from excitement, we welcome each other back again and again as each day folds into silence, breathing in our closeness, offering up our most vulnerable selves, reaching out to one another in moonlit, homecoming embrace.

You and I have built our very REAL life together, this love of ours sustaining us, centering us.

Now, lying so near you in this big bed, your body heat imprints your familiar heartbeat into the curve of my shoulders, so close that only the love fits between us, here in the middle.

Happy Birthday my husband, my love.  May God be smiling upon you as your photo is taken today.

“What is REAL?” asked the Rabbit one day, when they were lying side by side near the nursery fender, before Nana came to tidy the room. “Does it mean having things that buzz inside you and a stick-out handle?”

“REAL isn’t how you are made,” said the Skin Horse. “It’s a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become REAL.”

“Does it hurt?” asked the Rabbit.

“Sometimes,” said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. “When you are REAL  you don’t mind being hurt.”

“Does it happen all at once, like being wound up,” he asked, “or bit by bit?”

“It doesn’t happen all at once,” said the Skin Horse. “You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are REAL, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are REAL you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.” 

-Margery Williams, The Velveteen Rabbit  –