To my bride:
I know you. I’ve seen the fire in your heart that drives you to perfection in everything you set your mind to do. I know your fingers deserve to grace a grand piano in a symphony hall every weekend. I know your mind’s intelligence that could eviscerate an opposing trial lawyer. I know your heart, whose kindness could transform the lives of people who need a counselor. I know your dreams. I’ve seen the longing that would whisk you away to streets filled with the clamor of a language you can’t speak, eating food you’ve never tasted. I know you’d love to bake—creating mountainous confections that delight the tastebuds as much as the eyes.
I know you’d love to draw.
I’ve also seen the touch of sadness in your eyes as your passions and dreams fade underneath the weight of another diaper, the chaos of a toddler-inhabited house, and the hold-me-now whines of an infant. I’ve heard the unspoken question in this stage of life: What happened to me? When did I become ordinary?
I know you don’t deserve to be ordinary. You’re a phenomenal pianist. You could read music before you ever sounded out “cat.”
You finished your master’s degree before I did, and worked full time while doing it. You managed a studio of nearly thirty piano students—often teaching the kids more about life than music.
You taught right up to moment you went into labor with each of our children. And once that labor began, both our daughter and our son showed up four hours later. And, two weeks after they were each born, you hauled one-then-two with you to piano lessons.
You may feel like nothing you do is extraordinary, or even noteworthy. Fingers that should fly on a piano instead change diapers. A mind that could confound the best debtor instead navigates the tantrums of a willful toddler. The compassion that could bring professional peace to the downtrodden instead salves the heart of a husband who screws up more often than he would like.
The house may be a war zone caught in the eternal struggle between order and a two-year-old’s imagination. Just one serving of macaroni-and-cheese produces more dishes than our hobbit-sized kitchen can handle. Unemptied moving boxes stand as silent monuments to projects interrupted. The carpet bears the scars of muddy shoes and fingernail polish.
I know all that.
And now, I want you to know something: you’re extraordinary.
You rule over our ordinariness. You take the doldrums of life and make them into a kingdom. You have the patience to pick up after a toddler who just as quickly empties every refilled toy box. You have the kindness to tolerate a clingy infant who refuses to endure floor time unless you sit right next to him. Even then, he’d still prefer to lounge in your lap.
You make meals for a family that never stops eating, and wash dishes that never stay clean for very long.
You are not wasted, Jocelyn, not even by being ordinary. Your name may not grace the marquee of a concert hall. You may never eat baguettes in Paris. But you are not ordinary. You take life—as cluttered and messy as it so often is—and you shape it into something beautiful.
You use your fingers to smooth away the tears on your children’s—and husband’s—faces. Neighbors stop and listen to the beauty you coax out of the beat-up piano that hulks in our living room. You know what I’ll forget and when I need to remember it. You bring the flavors of far away places to our corelle ware. You turn trips to the park into grand explorations.
You take the ordinary and make it extraordinary for your family.
Just by being you.