Just a few months shy of fifteen years ago, I came home from Marquette for Thanksgiving break. An old friend told me she wanted to set me up with someone, and I was adamantly against it. No blind date. No long distance relationship. No new boy. Just no.
She told me we were going out to a restaurant/bar and that I should make sure to look nice. I knew my protestations against the setup were in vain, but I tried to believe her that it would just be a few friends. No new people.
Of course I was wrong. I got there and along with my friend and her guy was another gentleman. He was wearing a plaid shirt and khakis. He had facial hair. He seemed nice enough, but I was incredibly uncomfortable, so I did what I knew to do. I ignored him.
I tried not to blatantly ignore him. I wasn’t trying to be rude. I honestly did’t know how to react. He seemed nice enough and he was cute. But in an effort to not come across too strong, I would always come off as distant and cold. I was shy.
Halfway through the evening, my friend took me to the bathroom, and she told me how TJ had been nervous all day. She said he had called her many times trying to decide what to wear. She said he had remembered me as a passing acquaintance from months before and he had wanted to meet me. My cold facade started to melt. After all, that was really cute.
So we got back to the table, and I managed to figure out a way to open up, and we ended up spending most of that weekend together. And then we spent most of the weekends over the next few months together. And then I graduated, moved back home, and we have pretty much spent every day together since.
At that time, I was a city girl through and through. I lived in Milwaukee and had plans to move to Chicago. I never imagined myself ever ending up in a suburb. I thought it was important to be sophisticated. So I smoked cigarettes and I dressed in black. I always had on the black healed boots that were the staple of the late nineties. I was studying advertising because I wanted to be a creative executive in a big city. I laughed constantly, I loved Thursday night $3 vodka and lemonades, and I absolutely adored sleeping in.
TJ for his part was rather silly as well. I won’t spill all of his humorous idiosyncrasies, but typical of a young man his age, his ego was way too big for his already large head, and he spent most of his time playing Dungeons and Dragons. That is when he wasn’t driving up to Milwaukee to see me.
Yea. Back then we were young, carefree, and we desperately wanted to spread our wings and fly and see where this world would take us. I think as all people do in the back of their minds, we believed we were special, and we had great things ahead of us.
I hadn’t thought of those years in a long time. But this evening, TJ was out back grilling and the girls were running around, chasing each other outside as I watched all of this from our kitchen window. As I was washing down our counters, the song, “Cowboy Take Me Away” by the Dixie Chicks came on. And all those years ago, that was our song. We heard it constantly while dating, and it was the last song played at our wedding. Then I heard TJ scream to me from the grill, asking me to turn it up.
And it was a strange juxtaposition, basking in the memories that song evokes while watching our very real present running around outside giggling as they fall down.
And I realized what had been created over the last fifteen years.
There was a point when I looked at TJ and I saw the promise of freedom and the hope of excitement. It was all butterflies in the stomach and huge hugs and held hands. It was exciting and fresh and new and everything that I had hoped romance would be.
At that time, I would look at TJ, and I would belt out, “Cowboy take me away,” but in the end, what he really did was take me right back home. And I thank God for that.
I had vague glimpses of what I imagined my sophisticated life would look like, but really I had no idea of what I really wanted. But I sit here now, on our couch, and I listen to him making sound effects up stairs to the stories he is telling the girls as he puts them to bed, and I realize that my cowboy has taken me away and has taken me right back home. He has created with me a home and a life and a family and a future. It’s where I came from and it’s where I want to spend my life. But what I wouldn’t have known back then was that this was the greatest adventure he could have ever taken me on. After all, what greater adventure is there than creating a life?
TJ wouldn’t make a very good cowboy. I can’t imagine him ever wanting to ride a horse, and he prides himself on how little manual labor he can get away with. He wouldn’t make it long in the old West. But then again, neither would I. I need my air conditioning too much.
When you wake up and go to bed with the same person every day for over a decade, and when you share chores and responsibilities and a home, when you clean their dirty socks and watch them vomit while sick, it can be hard to see the relationship for what it is. It just becomes life. Our normal.
But it’s more than that. It the tedious every day, in the chores and the bedtimes and the meal making and the cleaning up, there’s a home and a life being made, and there is only one person in the entire world that I get to share that with.
So for better or worse, in messy and clean, during stress and during peace, I will be forever glad that my cowboy has chosen me. And I’ll always be grateful to by his side whether he is taking me away to lands unseen or taking me right back home where I belong. As long as we go together, I know I’ll always be where I am meant to be.