Yep. This. This is spot on.
Twelve years and one day ago, everything I owned had been thrown in boxes to save it from the rainwater that flooded my Yonkers apartment. My waterlogged furniture had been hauled out to the curb for the garbage men to collect. And Stevie and I drove out to Long Island for our own private wedding in Pastor Schenkel’s office, before heading to the Candlelight Inn to celebrate with hot wings and beer.
In some ways, that chaos seems to have set the tone for our lives together. I can’t say there’s ever been a dull moment since. Ups. Downs. Twists. Turns. Moments when all we could really do was just hold onto each other and wait for the hits to stop coming (life has a way of throwing some real sucker punches, you know). And in the midst of it all, there have been a whole lot of really beautiful moments too.
And you know what? I wouldn’t want it any other way.
Twelve years and a day of marriage, and this August we’re coming up on 21 years since we first met. I tell ya, it’s getting harder and harder to remember what my life was like without Stevie Romano in it. And I think that’s pretty awesome.
Can’t wait to see where we go from here.
I’ve gotten to a stage in my life where I don’t feel like a liar saying I’m an open book. Ask me anything and I’ll tell you what I think, even if it’s not a popular opinion, even if it’s uncomfortable. I think I’ve just gotten to a point where it’s far too exhausting not to speak my truth or own my opinions. I’d much rather people know what I’m thinking or where I stand than to come across as “hard-to-read” or ambivalent.
On the flip side, I appreciate matter of factness. I sometimes think living nine years in New York had something to do with it. I’ll go to my grave arguing that New Yorkers get a bad rap. They’re stereotyped as being mean, overly aggressive, loud, obnoxious, any number of adjectives that basically translates to people generally believing all New Yorkers go out of their way to be assholes.
(Okay, so maybe I can’t really argue that New Yorkers aren’t loud, but come on, in a city with that many people and that much traffic and that much noise, they’ve simply evolved to have a baseline volume that’s closer to rock concert than bedtime lullaby. We really can’t fault them for that, now can we?)
In my experience, New Yorkers are some of the kindest, most attentive, and most delightfully down-to-earth people I’ve met. That being said, they’re busy people, and they have a low tolerance for bullshit. They’re going to tell you exactly what they think. Direct. To the point. And then move on. Call it aggressive or abrasive if you want, but I’d choose that simple blunt honesty over an intricately choreographed dance to soften the truth any day.
We’ve got such a limited amount of time to spend on this planet–why waste it trying to be something or someone we’re not?
One of my friends texted me this week, not exactly seeking advice, but I could tell she had things weighing on her mind and that always spurs me to speak. She’s at that point in her life where she’s married, progressing well in her career, just bought her first home, and she’s thinking about kids. She understands what a monumental decision it is to bring a new little life into this world. She knows that a baby changes the course of everything.
Her text opened a vein of thoughts, so I took a few moments to type a reply.
**Disclaimer to anyone who ever decides to text me–While I use and greatly appreciate emojis, GIFs, and a well-placed meme, you will never get a short, cursory LOL, TTYL, or OMG-filled response from me. If full sentences and paragraphs via text bother you, it’s best not to engage. You’ve been warned.
The kids are in bed. I’ve got some Empyrean Carpe Brewem Peanut Butter Porter (which is officially my new favorite beer), a Gilmore Girls binge happening on the TV, and I’m about to get some writing done. The only thing that could make this Friday night better is if Stevie were home, but let’s face it, I made him sit through Gilmore Girls once, I doubt he’d indulge a second marathon. I mean, he loves me, but even our friends-for-five-years-before-dating, married-twice, we-have-a-no-return-to-the-dating-pool-clause relationship must have its limits, and that might just be it.
Nine years ago there was a massive rainstorm, a flooded apartment, a frenzied move, and an impromptu wedding in Pastor Schenkel’s office on Long Island. Stevie wore shorts and his blue flame Converse. I wore jeans and my flowered Doc Martens. We celebrated at the Candlelight Inn with hot wings and beer.
Just before 1:00 a.m., a crowd of nurses burst into the room and turned on the lights. My eyes were glued to the monitor, as the numbers jumped and fell erratically with each contraction. Somehow, I thought if I stopped looking, even for a moment, I might lose her.
“Okay, dear, we’re here to get you prepped for surgery,” one of the nurses said, matter-of-factly. “The baby has had enough. It’s time to get her out of there.”
Steven sat up on the couch and listened as the nurses talked us through the procedure, letting us know what to expect. It was a flurry of activity. The next thing I knew, I was being wheeled out of the room, leaving Steven to change. He would have to wait in the hallway outside the operating room until after the anesthesiologist administered my spinal.
The operating room was so bright and white that I had to close my eyes for a moment. Sitting on the table, the anesthesiologist told me to lean forward and hug the pillow in my lap. There was a small pricking sensation in the middle of my back, and then what felt like a sudden jolt of electricity running down my spine and into my legs. The doctors told me to lie back on the table, and stretch my arms out straight from my sides, where they were secured to the table with straps.
By the time Steven entered the room, the lower half of my body was completely numb. Steven pulled his stool up near my head, after the doctors explained that was the best place to sit if he wasn’t interested in seeing what was going on behind the curtain during the surgery.
Everything seemed to happen all at once. Steven and I gave each other nervous smiles as we listened to the doctors talking on the other side of the curtain. The spinal medication had done its job. I wasn’t feeling much of anything at all, except perhaps the slightest sensation of pressure in my abdomen.
“This is it,” the anesthesiologist said suddenly, tapping Steven on the shoulder. “Stand up if you want, and you’ll see your daughter being born.”
From the moment we first got the positive pregnancy test, Steven adamantly insisted that he wanted to see absolutely nothing in the delivery room. Hell, just watching the videos in the childbirth class we’d taken had traumatized him so much that to this day, he still shudders just thinking about it, so I was shocked when he actually stood up and peered over the curtain.
“Uh-oh,” the doctor said loudly, and Steven sat right back down again, his eyes wide. I watched as the color drained from his face.
“You okay?” I asked. He nodded, but didn’t speak.
I gasped as there was suddenly an enormous amount of pressure on my chest. It felt as though one of the doctors had climbed up and was sitting on my ribcage. I couldn’t breathe, and I was being rocked back and forth on the table. Steven squeezed my hand.
“You okay?” He asked. I gasped and nodded.
“Nothing to worry about,” the doctor said from behind the curtain. “Looks like the reason Baby Girl was delayed was because her head was stuck, but she’s comin’ now.”
Suddenly, there was a short cry, and a flurry of activity.
“Here’s your baby girl!” the doctor said, holding her up just high enough for me to see her for one short minute before a nurse whisked her away. “Congratulations Mom and Dad!”
“You want me to go?” Steven asked. I nodded, and he took the camera over to where the nurses were cleaning and weighing our daughter.
“Oh my God!” Steven exclaimed, as he snapped photo after photo. “She looks just like Beau! And she’s got a ton of black hair!”
I craned my neck and could just see her tiny red feet waving as she cried. The nurses swaddled her snugly and handed her to Steven. I almost laughed at loud at how gingerly he held her as he walked over to me.
I stared in awe at her tiny, perfect face.
“Hi Cadence,” I whispered, kissed her soft white cheek. “Hi my baby. We’ve been waiting for you.”
Steven and I smiled at each other, and at our tiny daughter. Then it was time for the nurses to take her and Steven to the nursery while the doctors finished my surgery. Lying on the table, staring up at the bright white ceiling, I smiled to myself as I tried to imagine what our lives would be like now that Cadence was part of them.
Sitting here now, five whole years later, all I can say is that life has gotten infinitely better.
First, there was a year of firsts for all of us. There were first steps, first words, a first tooth, a first bloody boo-boo. Steven and I were pooped on for the first time, puked on for the first time, and got sick as a family for the first time. We slept through the night for the first time, heard that infectious baby laughter for the first time, and have gotten so frustrated we had to put Cadence down and let her cry for the first time. We took our first road trip vacation, traveled on our first airplane, and mastered walking in a first pair of shoes. We saw the first of many unique dance moves, tried dozens of first foods, and wished our beautiful baby girl Happy Birthday for the very first time.
And since that first birthday party in 2011, life has only gotten more interesting. Our tiny baby has grown into a sweet, sassy preschooler who wakes every morning, singing and bouncing to get up and go conquer the world…or at least start the day with a concert, blasting her favorite songs on the iPad and singing along. And the favorites these days are The Wire by Haim, Shake it Off by Taylor Swift, and Cherry Bomb by The Runaways.
Girl has a style all her own, and we love it.
We noticed early on that Cadence is a force to be reckoned with. She has some strong opinions and she’s not afraid to make them known. She’s strong-willed, and sometimes stubborn, yet she often does it in a way that is so matter-of-fact and polite that it’s impossible to be angry with her for challenging us. She has a mind all her own, and even if I sometimes lose my temper in the midst of a battle of wills, I can’t help but burst with pride knowing that my little spitfire is already the sort of girl who refuses to let anything stand in the way of what she really wants.
Yet even if she has a stubborn streak 10 miles long, Cadence is one of the sweetest, kindest, most genuine souls I have ever had the pleasure of knowing. She loves to see people happy and has a way of making friends wherever she goes–at the park, in line at the doughnut shop, even at the garage sale we had this summer. She is always happy to share (even when chocolate is involved). If she sees a child sitting alone or feeling lonely, she drops whatever she’s doing to go over and play. And she will do just about anything to lighten a mood and make people laugh. In a world that can sometimes be so hard and cruel, it thrills me to see the light in her soul shining so brightly.
Last week, we attended her Pre-K parent/teacher conferences and received another glowing report. Steven and I sat smiling so hard our faces hurt as we listened to Cadence’s teacher talking about the amazing little person she’s becoming. She’s smart as a whip, rocking her assessment test by reciting all of her colors, shapes, numbers all the way up 100, upper and lowercase letters of the alphabet, writing her name, and spelling words. She love to sing in the classroom and music class, and loves to exercise in gym. She loves school and learning and is so excited to head to Kindergarten next year, even if her Daddy and I can’t believe it’s already time!
She’s part-tomboy, part-princess–the sort of girl who likes to dig in the dirt with her freshly painted glitter nail polish. She loves sports and snuggling, movies and music. Her imagination knows no boundaries. She spends hours each day drawing and coloring and creating. She fills drawing pads and notebooks faster than we can buy them, and heads to school each day with drawings for her friends and teachers.
She has a wicked sense of humor and a flair for the dramatic, acting out favorite scenes from her favorite movies and TV shows until she gets it just right. She loves the Ninja Turtles and My Little Ponies and she’s constantly cracking us up when she shouts “Number 44 ladies! That’s right! Gonna get me some cold cuts today!” from the Ickey Woods commercial, or when she busts out singing, “Ah! Push it! Pu-push it real good!” like Salt ‘N Pepa every time we get in an elevator.
Yeah, that’s our girl. 🙂
She knows the words to more songs than I can count, and she often gets to stand in the front row of her concerts at school because she’s one of the few children who know all the words and actions to all the songs. She loves to goof off and laugh and play, but schoolwork and performing are always serious business. Cadence loves snuggling on the couch and watching movies and cartoons. She loves jumping on beds, off the couch, and into mud puddles. She loves school and reading and going out to eat in restaurants. Her favorite is Runza. She loves ordering the corndog and french fry meal, and then going up to the counter all by herself when she finishes her dinner to redeem her coupon for a small ice cream cone.
And every single day, I feel infinitely blessed that I get to be her mother.
It’s been five years of craziness filled with laughter, tears, frustrations, surprises (both good and bad), sleepless nights, early mornings, trial and errors, bumps, bruises, triumphs, failures, new beginnings, changes, road trips, lazy days at home, a whole lot of memories, and a whole lot of fun. And as we welcome 2015 and get ready to move into a new house and welcome a new baby boy into our family, we’re looking forward to many, many more!
Happy 5th Birthday, Cadence LaRue!