Our very first date was a trip to the casinos in Atlantic City. It was a classic mid-August evening at the shore–still warm, but with a hint of freshness in the air.
I watched Casey play Black Jack, drank Baileys on the rocks, dropped some coins into a slot machine–and walked arm in arm with him along the boardwalk where I strolled as a child.
There in the ocean breeze, we passed a classmate from our Alma Mater. “Hey, you two look like you’re in love,” Dan said, making us blush. He offered to take our photo.
“It’s our first date,” we countered, waving away the camera.
“I know what I see,” he said, smiling as he continued off toward work.
Though we both dismissed Dan’s comment, he spoke to something stirring beneath the casual surface of this night. Months of flirting at the restaurant where we both worked had preceded this scale-tipping outing as a couple.
But then again–it was summer–and we were young–and feelings like these were easy to come by. In fact, I had another date slated with an old flame that following weekend.
I canceled it.
As a follow up to Atlantic City, Casey invited me to “the jetty,” and I was intrigued. It wasn’t a bar, or a restaurant, or any place I’d already been invited.
“Want to take a ride up to Anglesea to the jetty after work?” he asked, with a tray of cocktails balancing above his shoulder.
For some strange reason, I did.
On our way there, we stopped at my apartment–and never made it anywhere else. Ever.
The next night at work, Casey asked if I wanted to go the jetty again–and when several consecutive invitations never made it past my apartment, his invitations to “the jetty” became our “code.”
24 years later, this man still sleeps beside me, and in all these years, we’ve never once made it to “the jetty.”
We did, however, rename our first “bed” after it. Actually, it wasn’t really a bed, but two love seats pushed together to create a frame for two–a crib more like it–that we affectionately dubbed “the jetty.”
Later we found a double mattress to put on the floor to more comfortably accommodate us, but “the jetty” held a soft spot in our hearts (and other places) that continues to this day.
Which is why it probably it comes to mind now as we approach our first vacation as a couple since becoming parents. We’ve done a handful of overnights–and a few treasured weekends –but this is monumental: 5 nights, 6 days–just us.
To my surprise, Casey’s launched into extensive research to find things we’d like to do. He’s even planned a day just for me–no doubt including an art museum and a cafe. He checks the forecast every day.
He once witnessed a similar quickening in me when I ushered the family to a hotel for a last-minute getaway. “Wow, you really needed this,” he said, as I visibly softened.
It was a powerful moment of being “seen.” And I look forward to “seeing” more of him again too. And to seeing more of “us.”
“I’m worried,” Casey tells me, as the day to our departure grows closer. “I’m worried that I’ll ruin it.”
Casey’s had a “interesting” time of it during the past year as he takes on the hero’s journey of mid-life. Our relationship has taken some hits, and I’ve bruised too easily, and then withdrawn–in my own pattern of protection.
“Just let go of expectations,” I suggest. “Let’s let this be whatever it is.”
At a recent couples retreat, we learn that anything is fair game in a relationship. Even if a bad memory comes up while you’re making love, it’s part of the deal. It’s part of the love.
“No matter what happens, we’ll let it be a part of our time together.” I say, hoping that this can is true.
Wanting to soften both our expectations for our upcoming adventure, I email him at work–“Why don’t we let this week be our jetty.”
And then I look up the word , wondering what it means–and how it came to be the symbol of our love so many years ago:
noun ( pl. -ties)
• a breakwater constructed to protect or defend a harbor, stretch of coast, or riverbank.
We’d walk out on the jetty at low tide to look for starfish.
This makes total sense. Our love was—and is–a stretch of coast that harbors us from the turbulent waters of life–and leads us to the discovery of new points of light and growth.
No matter what this vacation together brings, I know it will fortify our jetty of love.
(To read more about our journey of intimacy in this, our 20th anniversary year, click here.)
What buffers your love in this world? What gifts does it bring you?