And the boys, two cousins, pause in their Sunday afternoon game of glorified croquet and sit with me a moment, too, on a park bench, in a patch of unexpected warmth.
"What grade you in now, Caleb?" Andy's eyes are closed, his face turned up, basking in her happy sunshine.
Cale's bent over his club, curling his back under reprieve of heating rays, and I hardly hear him answer. "Eighth. You?"
A blast of dark cold whips. I can't catch my breath, but it's not the wind. "You're in ninth grade, Andy?" I'm fixed on this boy at the other end of the bench.
He grins big, this Dutch boy with white blonde hair and a splash of freckles. "Yep."
I weakly smile, nod, then turn, looking for the face of a Dutch boy I once met in ninth grade.
He's down there with Little One, worn, grease-creased hands wrapped around hers, helping her line up the club to putt the ball. He's tanned dark from a summer of working fields under the sun. I see that smile of his, can hear him laughing, as Little One squeals in delight over the tapped ball rolling.
I glance back at Andy. Really? At fourteen, Farmer Husband looked like this mere child?
I don't remember it like that.
I remember, still feel, this spreading smile of his that made me flush, ignite. This gleam when those dark blue eyes of his glanced my way. That tall, lean Dutch boy with the big farm hands and quiet words and simple dreams and love for Jesus that kindled something inside of me.
The flame still grows higher, hotter.
In the thick of summer heat, a night this past June, that once fourteen year old boy and I celebrated fourteen married years, this gold band ringing me. (When I knead dough, I slip off gold band but a band of white through summer's brown remains. This love's written on my skin, etched into me.)
That anniversary night, we sat at wood's edge, he and I, in the still dusk, and remembered. The blushing awkwardness of fourteen-year-old grade niners, the ardent bliss of twenty-year old newlyweds, the wonder of love that embraced and mingled and birthed six new souls. And now at thirty-five, passing the halfway marker through this life, lacing fingers together in the dark, and feeling the heat of all that's been.
Hundreds of flares lighting up the black, the fireflies flashed and we dared not speak, hushed and awed before these soundless, hallowed fireworks, a celebration of love vows kept.
The night blinks and I think of how love is there too, in the dark spaces, unnoticed, when I fold underwear, and he changes the oil, and I flip the eggs and he gets the next roll of toilet paper and I scrub the grime out of the bathtub and he tucks children under dream covers with whispered prayers. Silent and so often hidden, this romance, stringing through the shadows.
And, now and then, its heat blazes.
Last night, long after the putting clubs were put away, and those teenage cousins waved bye, and Little One has hugged her Daddy's neck one more time before eyes gave way to sleep, I lie in bed, watching stars wink like fireflies.
I reach over and run fingers across the nape of his neck, up through closely-shorn hair, hair thinning, receding.
And I think of how time grows a man and years stoke a fire and how, in the shadows of ordinary days, God braids a three-fold wick, igniting the night.
Lord, today, light these vows ...
Images of her "Dutch" boy working on the tractor after dark and as she puts it, "those hands of his." Images by Ann Voskamp.