The other day, I had a couple of the girls with me in the car while we ran some errands. A familiar song came on the radio and, without pausing to think, I turned up the volume.
“What is this music?” my 7-year-old asked, wrinkling her nose in disgust.
Oops, I wasn’t alone. I turned down the dial and said, “Oh, just some old stuff I used to listen to.”
Hello. My name is Danielle, and I have a weakness for big-haired, Eighties rock bands. Forgive me. It’s my husband’s fault.
Dan and I met in 1986. It was high school biology class, and an alphabetical seating order spelled out fate for the two of us. I was the front-row geek, and he sat two desks behind me. A hapless, freckle-faced Erik, whose last name also began with “B,” was the only thing that stood between us. Poor kid. He endured all manner of shameless flirtation the whole semester through.
The soundtrack that accompanied this particular high school romance was highlighted with big hair and spandex. Personally, I will admit to being an Olivia Newton John fan, but I won’t embarrass Dan by sharing with you the name of his favorite band — except to say that it started with “Bon” and ended with “Jovi.”
These days, when Eighties songs come on the radio, I sometimes want to turn them up and tell my kids to listen carefully. After all, they have a right to know where they come from.
This is the music, I want to tell them, that played while I sat in the vinyl seats of your father’s maroon, hand-me-down Chevy Celebrity while wearing high-top Reebok sneakers and the finest pair of stonewashed jeans. It’s the music that played as we cruised back roads and talked about the important stuff — like how we can know that God exists and how many kids we might have and whether or not we were ” too cool” to go to the prom. It’s the music that played when we made childish mistakes, fell in love too hard too soon, and wound up fighting and separating but never really giving up the notion that God had a plan for the two of us.
We just didn’t know yet what that plan would be.
Back then, there was no e-mail, I tell my wide-eyed children. Your father used to mail me handwritten letters, and he would draw tiny pencil sketches on the outside of the envelopes. Didn’t you know that your father could draw?
My favorite illustration was that of a young couple sitting outside on a blanket, leaning against the thick trunk of a leafy oak tree. A short way off, in the distance, a small child toddled in the grass. The child was a miniature figure — no more than a tiny triangle with stick legs and outstretched bits of arms, but that tiny figure was a shade of a dream. That small shadow of a child was a representation of something big we felt God was calling us toward — and yet something we knew nothing about.
But we said yes. Because the attractive force of even the vague idea of marriage, of parenthood, of together forever was too unknown and yet too strangely wonderful to refuse.
Recently, Dan sat working at the computer while a throng of children wandered in and out, between rooms and around his legs, in his lap, and on the desk in front of him.
He clicked a familiar song in my iTunes account and announced, “Listen up, kids. This one is dedicated to your mother.”
That’s right, I thought, as the music surrounded me and the undone dishes, the unfolded laundry, and the clingy baby in my arms. Listen up, kids. Because we said “yes.” To you, and to all your brothers and sisters. Without knowing about the colic and the tantrums, the morning sickness and the financial fear, we said “yes.” Without knowing about the 3-a.m. vomit and the heartbreak that comes from loving so hard and yet knowing that it cannot possibly be returned, we said “yes.”
But what we also didn’t know was that that bit of a baby, that tiny toddler who wandered through the sketches of grass so long ago, would come and steal our hearts eight times over. We didn’t know that the child would teach us to love and to give in ways we never before thought possible. We didn’t know how big God was.
But now perhaps we do. Just a little bit, we do.