Matching Lives

I’m sorting through seasonal clothes in the closet when I linger at the forest green vest my son and daughter-in-law gave me. They bought a matching one for my husband, Frank. I include it along with heavier clothes and bring them all to an upstairs “off-season” closet. As I slide hangers over, I notice a tattered blue chambray shirt, size medium. Frank had an identical one many years ago.

I  purchased the chambray shirts over 35 years ago for Frank and me after reading a romance novel. Chambray was the shirt of choice for the muscular, wild, and rugged Montana cowboy. I’m not sure if I told my husband about the novel or my romantic imaginings, but either way, the gesture was lost on Frank. I shake my head staring at the shirt and vest, two items of matching clothing that we have never worn at the same time.

I notice the frayed collar of the wrinkled chambray shirt. Frank and I will celebrate our 47th anniversary this week. I’d been so naïve when I bought the shirts. I didn’t yet understand that my husband’s and my connectedness wouldn’t come from wearing matching clothes, but from stitching two lives together. We strove to be a coordinated pair while juggling careers with family and chores. One paid the bills and the other did the laundry; one fixed the overflowing toilet, the other stayed on the phone for an hour with the computer technician, one cooked dinner, and the other monitored homework.

By the time our children were older, we had choreographed who slept with one eye open when the kids were sick and who kept track if they made curfew. Frank had the stomach to clean up vomit. I was in charge of dog waste. Not necessarily romantic, but we were in sync.

We knew the importance of being on the same page when disciplining the children and they knew not to ask if the other parent had already said No. We don’t do as well these days with our dog. Josie knows one of us won’t feed her at the table, but the other will “accidentally” spill choice treats, which explains why Josie hangs by Frank’s feet during meals.

Bonding happens as much from surviving the rough times as the good ones. Issues with children, finances, stresses at work, aging friends, illnesses, and loss of loved ones can be overcome with a partner’s support. Who cares about matching outfits when you find a mate who knows just where your stressed muscles need massaging or has just the right words to lift your spirits. Romance isn’t symbolized by his and her shirts, but by a thread-bare, over-stuffed chair meant for one but sometimes used by two—plus a wiggly dog.

I now know the importance of simple romantic gestures: my husband letting me have the last scoop of sweet potato or bringing me home a coffee with one cream, just the way I like it. More involved projects such as rebuilding our deck aren’t necessarily romantic, but they give a feeling of shared accomplishment.

Thrills don’t need to come from camping overnight under the Montana sky. They can come from watching an animated Josie try to contain her excitement when we enter the McDonald’s drive-through, knowing she’ll get the last bit of our ice cream cones. 

I know his signature pickleball moves and he knows to watch my serve. I know he needs time in his man cave with a large-screen TV; he knows I need time in my office and with my writing friends.

We’re a perfect match when we host a fish fry and I pick up potato salad, make the baked beans, and he prepares the bluegills.

Matching shirts can’t compare with standing side by side, smiling as our adult children teach their growing children how to navigate life. 

I close the closet door. Someday we may happen to wear matching clothes. We probably won’t notice. We’ll be too busy completing projects, celebrating with friends, and reveling as grandchildren zigzag away at their dreams and others button-hole their way into our lives and hearts. Identical clothes aren’t needed to stitch a life together.

(Adapted from a column written in 2012.)

2 Replies to “Matching Lives”

Sooooo sweet, Amy! And so true. A lovely testament to your and Frank’s love story. And it’s romantic in the truest sense. Happy Anniversary!!!

Thank you, Gayle. I have learned a lot over the years. 🙂

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