Six years – to the day – after we get married, I wake up with a nasal strip on my nose, smelling faintly of Vicks VapoRub. Terry comes into our room. “Breakfast is ready,” he says.
I pull on a bathrobe and stumble to the kitchen, my head pounding. It abates slightly as I walk around a bit, but the congestion in my sinuses barely took note of the nasal strip through the night, and I find myself reaching for the tissues on the kitchen table as I sit down. I swallow experimentally. The tickle in my throat is still there, but a bit better than yesterday.
Terry has made breakfast, like he does every morning (=jackpot). ??? This morning it’s fried eggs and hash browns, with a side of anniversary presents. “Happy anniversary,” I tell Terry. He gives me a kiss, wishes me a happy anniversary back, and sits down to join me for breakfast. Sander chooses that moment to awaken. I go get him from his crib, anxious to see his first smile of the day. He’s never been one to hold back smiles, and this morning is no exception, although his face is covered in both dried and fresh snot. I’ve had the worst of it at least, so he hasn’t been too bad, but I won’t be sorry to see this cold leave us both for good.
Terry and I eat breakfast while Sander plays. I open the present Terry got for me. Inside are shoes, and inside the shoes are tickets to the ballet next month. I’ve already told him his own present is that we’re going shopping for dress shoes for him later. It’s a perfect Saturday morning. Then, like every Saturday morning, Terry leaves for work. I spend a few hours trying, mostly without success, to convince Sander to nap so I can nap too. The morning bleeds into afternoon and neither of us are very happy with the other. Terry gets home around one, and is carrying an enormous bouquet of flowers and a bar of chocolate. My hero. ?
The afternoon’s much better with Terry around. We spend a few hours shopping for shoes and end up buying the first pair Terry tried on in the first store. Sander’s a hit with everyone at the mall – that little cheese-ball really knows how to smile – and makes shoe shopping way more fun for me than it usually is.
We head home for just long enough to change Sander’s diaper – he’s already in pajamas since I never found it in myself to put him in real clothes – and grab the travel crib and diaper bag. We also grab our swimsuits, some towels, and flip flops. I spritz on a bit of the perfume I bought on our trip to Paris and off we go. It only takes a few minutes to drive over to our friends Pete and Chrizelle’s house. We set up Sander’s crib in their extra bedroom and leave him with them. He doesn’t even notice when we go.
Dinner is supposed to be at a romantic Italian restaurant we’ve gone to for our past two anniversaries, but when we arrive we find it’s been turned into a Vietnamese joint. Of course. Because nothing says China like change. We head instead to a bar/diner, because nothing says romance like sharing a chocolate milkshake with green bendy straws. ?✊ The food’s good, the conversation is fun, and the air is smoky. Chrizelle texts to say Sander is fast asleep and to take our time. She adds that they’ve put a key under the mat and we can just let ourselves in if we come after they’re asleep.
The next part of our evening is a new adventure for us. Neither of us are quite sure how it’s supposed to work, or if we’ll like it, but we wanted to do something out of the ordinary to celebrate the occasion. Our first choice was the new trampoline park, but I’m barely keeping the snot in my nose without adding jumping to the equation?, so we head instead to the Roman baths. That’s not their real name, but it’s what all of our friends call the place, probably in an attempt to make it feel fancier than it actually is. We know better than to expect that it’s fancy, but we’re hopeful it’ll still be fun.
We get inside and ask at the desk for two tickets. They babble at us in Chinese. Terry’s better at understanding than I am, but it still takes us a minute to figure out they’re asking us if we’ve brought our own swimsuits. Yes, we have. How about swim caps? Nope, can we buy them here? We pay an absurdly small fee for the purchase of two caps, and then take the two locker keys they give us and head towards the back. They stop us. “Upstairs,” they point. Oh. Gotcha.
We head into the changing rooms and change into our swimsuits. And swim caps. We meet back in the locker room and ask the nervous questions you’ll never truly understand unless you live somewhere you don’t speak the language. Which way do you think we go? Are we supposed to take our towels? Those were women that just walked out of the men’s changing room, right? Could we be misunderstanding the signs for which one is mens and which one is ladies? Did I put this swim cap on right? Are we supposed to wear shoes? We laugh at ourselves and head back through our respective changing rooms to the locker room on the other side, which leads to the baths.
We come up with a compromise. We’ll leave our shoes up at the top, and bring our towels down with us. We head down the stairs, trying to look like we know what’s going on. Terry was a little reluctant because of the speedos, but quickly forgets about that when everyone else is wearing the same thing. Some Chinese woman in a uniform tells us something we don’t understand, but with the gestures, we’re pretty sure she’s telling us we have to shower off between each bath. We nod and put our towels on an empty bench. She points to some hooks. Do we have to put our towels there? Or can we leave them on the bench? We laugh again at how ridiculous this whole thing is, how we’d never be quite this lost in a country where we could communicate. But we’re here now, and we came to try these baths.
They’re not so much baths as giant hot tubs. Only instead of being filled with water, they’re filled with steaming-hot tea. We climb into the first one and sink slowly into the heat. Everyone’s watching us, but we’re well used to that by now, and there aren’t too many people here. This feels like a throwback to our college days, back when we were dating, when we’d go hot-tubbing all the time. The muscles in my neck and shoulders that have been aching all week start to relax and we’re talking and laughing as if we’re the only ones there. It’s one of my favorite things about being in a place where no one speaks my language. As annoying as it often is, it also means my conversations are pretty private, even if they’re taking place in public.
After a few minutes, we get brave enough to go try specialized showers. It reminds me of the chapter in Harry Potter when Harry gets to use the prefects’ bathroom, and the faucets all shoot out some sort of special water, or they shoot out in some dramatic way. (Except this is obviously way less cool and there isn’t any magic. Unfortunately.) Each faucet here is different. You hit the button for the one you want and water comes jetting out with the force of a small firehose. They’re all shaped differently, so they hit you different ways. One pours out right on top of your head. Another has one faucet on each side, so you’re surrounded by water shooting right at your middle. Another comes at an angle like a waterfall. This one’s my favorite. I can bend at the waist and slowly move forward and back so the water pressure massages my sore shoulders. I’m amazed at how strong the water is and wonder if I’ll have bruises from it tomorrow. An older man a few faucets down is standing under a stream of water that’s slowly pulling his speedo down. It’s about halfway down his butt-cheeks by now?, but he doesn’t seem overly concerned about it. Terry and I giggle.
We head back for another tea bath, this one in a darker, more earthy-smelling tea. We’ve been at the baths for about an hour now and I’m feeling surprisingly rejuvenated by this time. We decide we’re done and grab our towels and head back upstairs, feeling a bit more confident now. We change and meet back at the locker room. We collect the change from the deposit we’d paid – neither of us were sure how much it would be, but the whole experience was about 12 dollars for the two of us.
We head back to Chrizelle’s place, slip the key into the lock, and let ourselves in. Sander startles awake when I pick him up but calms down as soon as he sees it’s us. He still smells like my perfume. Terry breaks down the crib while I take Sander into the living room to wait. The Christmas tree is lit up, the white lights silently shifting. Sander lays his head against my chest and lets me snuggle him. I rest my cheek against his soft baby hair and wish the moment would never end. Terry finishes up and we let ourselves out. Sander stays awake for the drive home but is asleep again moments after I lay him in his crib.
Terry is anxious to go to sleep for once, since he’s planning on waking up at 4am to watch the BYU football game. So we head to bed, and just like every night, I snuggle into Terry and we fall asleep.
Six years isn’t such a long time. But it’s longer than I’ve been around the same group of friends, perhaps ever. I’m used to moving frequently, and saying goodbye to friends and growing apart is a natural part of that. I’m glad Terry’s not going anywhere. I’m glad, this day six years after we made our forever vows, for the everyday. For days like today. Days when we face sickness, days when we work, days when we can barely keep our eyes open long enough to take care of the baby. Days when we have fun, when we discover something new, when we feel uncertain and nervous, when we feel peace and love. Days when we look back at the things we’ve faced together and think “hey, we’ve really grown,” and days when we realize we still have a lot more growing left to do. Days when things don’t go as planned, days when everything is somehow right, even if it’s not perfect. Days when breakfast gets made, and babies refuse to nap, and friends invite us in, and shopping needs to be done, and Sander is smiling, and Terry is laughing, and there’s something to look forward to in the coming weeks, and there are years to reflect back on.
Today, I’m glad for today. And many more days like it.