The weather’s cold, so we’ve made that shift to inside people yet again. I look at that enclosed house space with terror. Where will the kids’ energy fit all winter? 

As I shuffle in, putting my coat up on a hook, “Let’s have a game night,” you say.

And we do.

And we do again. And before we know it, it’s a thing. And this fall as we started it up again, I found myself looking at the calendar so excited. 

Game Night Tuesday, my green pen penmanship reminded me. Yoga Wednesday. These little routines just might save me from crazy. Any sort of cyclical thing that reduces my mama cognitive load (that ever-growing list of things that often feels like a big ‘ole zit that needs popping) is most welcome. 

And let’s be real, Taco Tuesday might just save my soul.

After tacos, we sit around our golden-wood table, the middle leaf removed and leaning against the wall. Now little arms can count all the way from corner to corner of the Sorry! board. Four chairs circle round, mirroring four sides of the four-colored square game board. Even though we eat together, this feels closer. 

Every other night of the week after supper, at least one of us has our nose pointed to a screen or at a pile of laundry or at little cars or LEGOs.

But here we are, for once, pointed at each other.

You’re in your comfy sweats, our 6-year-old daughter squirms to my left—her clothes mis-matched—our 4-year-old son bounces in his wooden chair, his tiny knees tucked in so he can straighten up, tall as sis.

Close up like this, I see our little girl’s front tooth missing, her tongue wiggling the other one. I can soak in our son’s freckles and wonder when his facial expressions got so darn animated. 

And you. I see you

You’re not new to me, but in this moment, you are. As I’m reminded that love can get too grown-up sometimes, as we shift from all-night talks about hopes and dreams to quick car convos about who’s got what activity this week and what groceries might go on the list.

In your grin at these tiny humans, in your banter and puffed-out chest each time you gleefully send one of them packing back to home base, I see the guy I fell in love with all those years ago.

Louisa May Alcott has a quote I love, “I am not afraid of storms for I am learning how to sail my ship.”

I see the guy I fell in love with, but there’s so much more to you now. Layers left by the storms we’ve weathered . . . losing your mom, losing that baby that would have pulled one more chair around this game night tale, and some days, just plain losing each other as we swam in our own pools of grief, spilling over on each other.

Some days we’re still swimming, but as we sit at game night, I know we’ve been learning to sail our ship. This version of you—this daddy version—comforts me in ways that are richer, deeper, more sure-footed than I ever could have imagined when I walked down red carpet church aisle.

Robert Frost (and later Pony Boy in The Outsiders) must have known about our game night, must have known about the small-town life we would build when he said simply and beautifully, “Nothing gold can stay.”

So even when you steal glances between turns, your phone full of fantasy football scores drawing you like a magnet, or when you bug me one more time about how much better you wash the dishes than I do, I smile, knowing it’s all part of our golden right now

So, when our son stands up in final defeat, our daughter gloating all the while, I love it when he says, “Hey Dad, I’m gonna’ play with you next time. Next time we’ll win.”

He knows the secret that to be on your team is to win. He knows, and I know, too.

Originally published on the author’s blog

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Evi Wusk

Evi (say it like Chevy) Wusk, Ed.D., is a teacher and mom who writes about gratitude, learning, and life. She lives in Sterling, Nebraska with her two giggly kiddos and bearded husband. Her writing has appeared in Learning and LeadingWord and World(In)Courage, and other publications. Follow her at eviwusk.comFacebookInstagram, and Twitter.