I dug up the rocks and plopped them in a bucket, leaving digits in our front yard. Churned up over and over by the farmers in the hopes our soil would eventually swallow them, but the stubborn rocks still prevented the football games I’d imagined here. I stretched the kink out of my back, and the ground sprawled out like an endless sea, rock by rock… bucket by bucket. My husband, the builder, wants to take my picture. I pose with my shovel.
“My country girl.” He laughs and shakes his head as he often does when it comes to me, not understanding why I like to play in the dirt. I’m a do-it-yourself kind of gal, while he’s a “we’ll just hire someone to do it” kind of guy, but somehow in our zooming twenty years of marriage, we fit like the soil hardened around those large rocks jutting my yard.
Bella joins me. “It’s like an Easter egg hunt,” I said. She still at an age where work is fun. I often include her. “We might find dinosaur bones in this yard or pirate treasure.”
She’s delighted. “Is this a dinosaur Mommy?” She said.
“It might be, put it in the bucket.” The bucket clangs… Fossil by fossil.
The next day I told Colin Megalodon shark teeth have been found by the river and selling on eBay. “Wanna go look for some?” He’s thirteen, of course, he’s on board. We grab shovels and drive the ATV out by the river. We dig in spots at the edge of the dark water only finding the treasure of each other again.
“Momma, we need to get a metal detector. Imagine the pirate treasure that could’ve washed up here from the ocean,” he said. Several times metal detector comes up as Colin often does when his pubescent mind wants something.
“Colin, you need to learn to live in the moment God puts in front of you, instead of yearning for something better.” I spot a piece of driftwood. “Here, look for driftwood if you’re tired of digging in the sand.”
“But it’s just wood,” Colin said.
“Open your eyes. Look beyond the branch. It’s a piece of art, wood that is shaped and preserved by time drifting in the salty waters.”
We hike along the beach and woods searching for art, spotting large cat tracks, raccoon, deer, wild hog along the way. A wildland recorded as scary to the white settlers, a place the Native American’s hid…a land we love. He’s making me laugh and my heart swells for my youngest son. A twig snaps. We spun around. My middle son Christian snuck up on us in full camouflage.
“You guys need to clear out by 6:30pm,” he said walking toward us. “I’m hunting wild hog tonight.”
I step back knowing he’ll scold me for wearing perfume and leaving a trail along the beach. He walks on without noticing.
“How much time do we have?” I said.
Colin glanced at his phone. “Twenty minutes.”
Our twentieth wedding anniversary snuck up on me this spring break. Earlier, Jay suggested dinner out. It seemed casual. We glanced at our sick Bella on the sofa snuggled with Nick, my eldest son. The Incredibles play on the television for the fiftieth time. The builder wanted time… my time. I agree to go.
He pulls into the Ritz at Amelia Island. “Not the Ritz. Can we go to some small seafood place on the beach? Someplace dark and intimate.”
He knows I worry about being underdressed. “Nope, it’s a special night tonight.”
We sit in the lounge. I’m wearing black pants a little short around the ankles. They were my sister’s. It was too cold for the dress I brought. I’m conscious of this and keep tugging my pants down to touch my ankle boots. Why do I never bring real clothes to the farmhouse? He hands me a glass and we toast, the guitar player begins playing our song. Someone to Watch Over Me. Gershwin’s words bring my late twenties with them. I didn’t think I needed him then. I just wanted him.
The truth is as old-fashioned as it sounds, I’ve needed him to watch over me. Yesterday, I dove off the ATV when it went up on two wheels. He blasted me for it. I knew I scared him as I often do. The girl who rarely thinks of the danger of digging in the dark alligator infested river waters. He’s the one who ensures I take the gun and radio, while I roll my eyes. He tries to build an easier life for me, while I buck him and snatch the shovel.
At the Ritz, he kneels on one knee. His lip quivers. He opens a box. I stare at the contents afraid to touch the too much. “Will you have me another twenty years?” he said. Tears fill his eyes. He’s more nervous than he was asking me the first time. He’s trying to build a perfect moment.
I fall into his arms, before lifting my weathered hand… artist and mother…hands that are washed too much. He slips the ring on my finger, and I see the remnants of our dig still under my nails after all the brushing. I’m embarrassed. “You could have warned me so I could get a manicure.”
“Country girl.” He laughs. Then points to the diamond in the center. “That’s your original diamond, just a new setting. I built it myself.” He’s proud. He did good. I tell him I’m relieved he didn’t trade up my diamond. “I wanted to build on our foundation,” he said.
I glanced at the ring and see my ankles sticking out again. I remember the scolding I gave Colin to enjoy the moment in front of him. I forget my fingernails. Stop tugging my pants. Gratefulness bathes me. I glanced away from my hand and look at my treasure. A treasure I found drifting by when I was picking in the dirt of my career. Over twenty years of marriage, our grass is splendor-filled by continually plucking the rocks that keep the roots from growing deep.
He lowers his glass. “I reserved a room on the ocean, but since Bella’s sick I didn’t think you’d want to stay the night, but we can get room service. Spend some time alone before going back.”
I smile. “That sounds perfect.” My builder thinks of everything. Happy Anniversary to my guy.