My husband and I, we had one of those long good talks that spans hours and days. It started in a corner booth in the middle of the lunch rush, him sipping lemonade, me stealing his pickle when he wasn’t looking. He pretends not to see. It had been ages since we’d really seen one another, sat across from each other, completed whole sentences without pause or interruption. We kept talking in stilted syncopation for at least half an hour until the realization that the children would not be interrupting truly settled in.
We wandered into our favorite art museum, a bit of an anniversary tradition- we usually search one out wherever we are. We tend to stay in the Medieval and Renaissance sections, but we’ll eventually wander to the Modern Art, turn our heads perplexed, laugh embarrassed at our inability to understand. We have our favorites. We both were a bit disappointed with the National Gallery last year, the amateur art critics that we are. It was so hot, so crowded, the galleries half empty from loans, the Degas and Monet barely visible for the tourists crowded about, taking selfies.
We are so different, the two of us. He is quiet and circumspect. He prefers the winding, sunlit dirt road, the gentle curve of a mountain’s back. I am the rushing creek, the waterfall, always getting ahead of myself, the roar in my ears. He gives roots to my wings. I give him flying lessons.
I don’t know how art museums became our thing on anniversaries, but it has. Neither of us know a whole lot about it, which I guess is part of why we picked it, although now we both can speak with some education about the difference between a Seurat and a Renoir, or identify and contemplate the biblical symbolism in medieval works. But somehow, this little tradition of ours gives us space to dream. I guess you can’t help it, looking at soaring cathedrals and beautiful landscapes, the impressive curve of millenia-old marble; you lay eyes on someone else’s life work and the niggling mosquitoes of bill paying and diaper changing definitely fade.
I guess you can’t look at saints, either, and feel your life so difficult in the end. We are not dying at the stake. We may suffer, but not like that, we think. We stand long before La Hyre’s Job Restored to Prosperity. It’s not the riches laid out before him, the celebration on the faces of the crowd about him. It’s Job. His face. The layers of exhaustion that radiate from him, slumped in his chair, his hand supporting his head. We understand in some small way how it feels; we pray for his steadfastness of faith.
We talk about Job, the saints, the landscapes, the Song of the Lark. The dreams we once had. The hopes we hold. C.S. Lewis says that “Friendship is born at that moment when one man says to another: ‘What! You too? I thought that no one but myself . . .’” How interesting it is to me to note that my husband and I can go months without voicing the thoughts inside our heads, only to sit across a table from one another and find we’re of one mind on something without ever saying a word before this.
And so here we are, under the summer moon, with the chance to begin again, rejoicing in the place where we are set.