The click of the front door and unexpected footsteps in the entrance hall. The ecstatic screams of your daughters as they barrel across the house to fling themselves into your arms, tripping over each other and their own feet. The sound of your laughter mingling with theirs as they knock you to the ground, pitch-perfect. You’ve come home early to be with us. Is this what bliss feels like?

There are giggles, splashing and “shushing” sounds coming from upstairs. You’ve let them put bubbles in the jacuzzi bath again and white froth has spilled over the bathroom floor like the magic porridge pot that wouldn’t stop cooking. Their little faces are suspended somewhere between apology and unbridled delight as I pop my head around the door. Is this what euphoria looks like?

Pajamas are hurriedly pulled on (backwards), and a spirited game of hide and seek gets underway upstairs. I stir the supper on the stove as little feet pound along the passageway above my head, and little voices squeal “Found you!” because you hid just where you knew they’d look. Is this what thrill sounds like?

A pile of exhausted bodies on the bed as you read Pinkalicious for the 687th time, doing all the voices as though it’s the first, not even a little bit put off by the smallest sitting on your head as you read. Is this what true love looks like?

I met a boy all those years ago and he made me laugh. I married him and he made me happy. And then we started a family and found our own parts to play in this little domestic symphony of ours and—oh!—this is what joy looks like.

It’s not the big I love yous or the grand gestures. It’s not always pretty, it’s not always (or ever?) glamorous, it’s not like in the movies. This love is quiet. It’s unobtrusive. It’s utterly, perfectly, ordinary.

After seven years of marriage, on a day of no particular significance, it seems as good a time as any to tell you what happiness feels like.

It feels like you cooking grilled cheese sandwiches on the BBQ—even though they’re tricky to turn and easy to burn—because you know they’re my favourite.

It’s you taking a passing interest in the difference between a Paso Doble and a Rumba on Dancing With the Stars, because you know I love it.

It’s you coming downstairs with sparkly pink clips in your hair and stickers on your face, because our daughter was playing “make-up”.

Happiness is you giving me your socks to wear on an overnight flight because I forgot mine and you know I hate the scratchy ones the airline gives out, and giving me your extra milk sachet because the baby knocked mine over.

Happiness is you going to speak to the neighbor when their dog was barking constantly because you knew if I went I’d lose my cool and make things uncomfortable for all of us.

It’s your unshakable calm on the other end of the phone when my reaction to something is too emotional to be helpful. It’s you spending your lunch hour on hold to the bank so I don’t have to spend the baby’s nap time doing it.

Happiness is the smell of pizza cooking on a Friday night as your fix me a G&T (why doesn’t it taste as good when I make it myself?).

It’s you on the beach following two small girls into the water with a bucket in each hand.

Happiness is the quiet way you love me and the noisy way you love our daughters. It’s the way the volume in our home goes up a decibel or two when you walk through the door. It’s the splash in the pool as you throw ecstatic little bodies into the water and it’s in the sound of your name as it spills from the lips of our firstborn in the dark of the night.

It’s in the ordinary moments that make up this ordinary life of ours. It’s this perfectly ordinary love.

Originally publushed on the author’s blog

Catherine Dietrich

Catherine Dietrich is a freelance writer and mom to two girls. A former women’s magazine journalist, she now writes for various online publications as well as celebrating the ordinary moments of motherhood on her blog, Littles, Love and Sunshine. Catherine is a British South African, currently living in the Bahamas with her husband and two small daughters.