This is a photograph of my grandparents taken early in their life together.
The picture drips with young romantic love, with growing desire, with budding intimacy. And it thrills me, every time I look at it. In my grandmother’s loving gaze I can see the beginning of everything: my grandparents’ marriage, my mother’s birth, the tiny stitches that knit my life starting to come together.
The world makes movies and writes books about falling in love like this and we eat it up. With a spoon. The flirting, the passion, the excitement, it’s all so romantic. And I’ll be the first to admit that I love me some good romance.
But if you ask me, better than romance, better than falling in love is the actual state of being in love.
Being in love is not glamorous. They don’t make films with beautiful actors about simply being in love. Whereas falling in love is candle-lit dinners for two filled with violin music and roses, being in love is messy grilled cheese sandwiches for five and a sink full of dirty dishes in the background.
But it’s still my favorite.
Being in love means folding the whites that have sat in the laundry basket for days because your wife hates doing it. Being in love means buying things at the grocery store you’d never eat in a million years, simply because your husband likes them.
Being in love means wearing yoga pants or burping loudly at the table when you need to, because you can be yourself with each other. There’s no pretending to be perfect.
Being in love is knowing each other so well you can communicate with a raised eyebrow or folded arms or a frown. Words aren’t needed (although sometimes you yell them anyway.) Then, after the anger and the shouting, being in love means someone will whisper, “I’m sorry” and the other person will answer, “Me too.” Being in love means sometimes sharing the blame, even if it’s technically not your fault.
Being in love means feeling closer than ever even when three wiggly children sit between you on a couch. It means reaching past old mistakes, through hard times, and towards an uncertain future to grab the other person’s hand and hold on tight.
Being in love means never letting go of each other at the same time.
Happy Valentine’s Day, Gentle Reader. May you enjoy the fun of falling in love and the hard work of staying in love.