It happens over pistachios, my new friend sitting at the kitchen counter, splitting shells wide open while rehashing the same conversation as everyone, always, but with different pronouns. Given names slightly altered.
We just weren’t communicating, is what she had said.
I nod, sweep the shells into the trash, understand.
Ken and I will never claim a perfect marriage, but communication is an area we’ve got on lock. Except when we don’t. Except when I’m waking up for the day just as he’s going to sleep for the night and we sometimes overlap around noon to sort out dinner plans and checking accounts and carpool schedules but mostly it’s fairly quiet, a sort of utility chatter is what I suppose it’s called.
And so, when my friend tells me of her communication waltz with her husband, of how they’re slowly learning to stop dancing around each other, of how they’re beginning to offer time and energy to each other, of how they’re no longer prioritizing sleep or work or golf or books, I nod, sweep the shells into the trash, understand.
And then I mark Date Night on the calendar.
You remember the guesthouse, yes? When Ken first designed this space, he’d wanted the room to feel like an extension of the deck, a way of bringing the outdoors in – or in my case, the indoors out.
And so, it was decided: bi-fold doors.
The designer in me hesitated. Bi-fold doors? In the Midwest? In a suburban neighborhood? Aren’t bi-fold doors akin to sequoia coffee tables and gilded sculptures — best left for the coastal edition of Architectural Digest?
But, as in most things (excepting his privative stance on Brussels sprouts), Ken was right.
With our recent bouts of summer weather, we’ve been shooing the littles outside to forage for sticks and rocks, tire swings and tomato plants. They’ll occupy themselves for a rich twenty minutes while we sit in our own little room nearby, bi-folds from Marvin Windows and Doors swung wide open, the two of us hiding in plain view.
We’re there, but not there. Separated by a roof over our heads, fully capable of watching the kids play, listening to their belly laughs and dogged quarrels, yet also basking in the brief recalibration of ourselves. As in, us two. As in, just us two.
It’s a rare thing for parents with young kids to wrangle a date night onto the calendar. There are pricey sitters and midnight feeds and sheer exhaustion. At the end of the night, it often takes every ounce of energy for me to vocally arrange the ABCs.
But if I can tiptoe 20 feet across the deck where a charcuterie board awaits, where the doors are open wide, where the cross breeze is strong enough and crisp enough and it smells a bit like rain’s on the way?
Be there in five.
And so, last week, it was decided: date night in the guest house. We’d hire our neighbor’s daughter to come play with the kids for an hour, two. We’d fancy ourselves up for no reason at all. We’d sneak out to the house beside our house, to the space with no laundry cycling and no dishwasher humming and no dogs underfoot and no distractions except for the warm sunset and the cicada’s song and the one you love.
We’d uncork the champagne and toast to communication: the fine art of talking about everything and nothing, mostly all in the same sentence.
I won’t pretend a mere four walls are creating a stronger foundation for our marriage. But I am learning this: In life and love, pistachios and doors – better to open wide, wide, wider still.
This essay is written for Marvin Windows and Doors, a brand we love and use in our own (guest)home.
Cheers to letting the light in, at home and otherwise.