Photo Courtesy of Crista Ballard Photography
This article was originally published in the February 2016 edition of 605 Magazine.
Since it’s February. And since it’s negative four degrees out. It’s only right. Let’s talk about romance.
I’m still in what I like to call the Christmas hangover, in fact, my Christmas tree is still up at the time of this writing. (Judge not, dear reader!) But as I’ve been meandering through stores lately, I’ve noticed the sudden bombardment of “romantic” gifts for sale. Thus, I’ve been trying to settle my mind on this concept.
Really, what is romance?
On first pass, you might think romance is simply things related to, for lack of a better term, sexy love. Sultry dates, jazzy music, velvet curtains, candlelight, roses, wooing, kissing in the rain … the works. This seems to fit one of many dictionary meanings that describes romance as “a feeling of excitement and mystery associated with love.” Ooooh, love AND mystery. Who doesn’t love that combo? But then, there is another definition of romance. One that describes romance as “wild exaggeration or picturesque falsehood.” Which also sounds about right; we are looking at you, ABC’s The Bachelor!
Looking at my own life, however, romance has been one of those things that doesn’t quite fit any definition and one that continues to shift over time.
When I was a young school girl, I suppose the height of romance involved my childhood crush writing his name on my book cover. Swoon. As a college coed, ring-by-spring herd mentality left all of us in a perpetual state of romantic fantasy. Post college, romance was defined by long dates over wine and philosophical talks. And finally, today, married with two children, romance reads like a far cry from the stuff of romance novels. Nowadays, a simple coffee date with just the two of us is like winning the romance lottery.
To further illustrate, I want to share a humbling story. It’s a very glamourous story, really. Something very sexy. Don’t be scared. Here it goes:
Hand foot and mouth disease. You read that right. Hand. Foot. And mouth. Disease.
First, let me clarify. There is actually nothing, and I mean nothing, sexy about hand foot and mouth disease. In fact, it is the very opposite. Those of you that have come in contact with this highly contagious virus know; it is awful. So, what does this have to do with romance? Well, everything.
My four-month-old picked up the virus when we took the children in for a routine check-up at the doctor’s office several months ago. I was heartbroken for my baby. Then, in the midst of scrubbing down the house with commercial-grade bleach, I noticed my hands started burning and it hurt to walk on my feet. I suddenly had a fever and I felt like I had been run over by a motorcade. I looked at my husband. “The doctor said adults don’t usually get it, right?” I asked with deep fear in my eyes.
It pains me to admit this, world, because ... gross. And second, because I pride myself on cleanliness and health. But, sure enough, I had contracted the virus and apparently it is ten times worse in adults. Thank you very much, pediatric doctor office germs.
I called the doctor and she nonchalantly stated there was nothing for us to do except ride it out ... for 14 days. Luckily, we didn’t get the sores that usually come with the lovely virus, but we were contagious for two weeks. Two weeks of quarantine.
Two weeks of nothing but kids, kid germs, and unbelievable pain and illness practically felt like a life sentence in my mind at that time. But it was during that same time I encountered the most unlikely romantic gesture from my husband: Service.
He waited on us hand and foot (pun intended). While I was in a puddle of pain, he cleaned. He organized. His mother and father appeared like angels presenting warm meals. He woke with the children and put them back to bed in the middle of the night. All of this, for days. And when I felt the worst I had ever felt, he looked at me and said, “Wow! You look so amazing!” And somehow, that crazy man, I know he meant it.
While the true definition seems illusive, that couple of weeks of hand foot and mouth misery was, to me, true romance defined. Forget the chocolate, the creepy teddy bears, the jewelry, the long stem roses, and everything else our stores tell us we need to enact romance. The real mystery of romance exists in the loving care of each other at not only our best, but our darkest moments.