After being in a relationship for any length of time, you get to know most of the subtleties of your partner. These are all the obvious things like sleep patterns and favorite foods, music, movies and reality-TV shows. You get to know their quirks like leaving every light on in the house. And you can learn which of their buttons to push or not push.
When I started dating Alissa, I had to learn about her from scratch. Just like the beginning of any relationship, there was the discovery period. I met her family and extended family and all the cousins. I learned where she went to school, her likes and dislikes, how she had moved around since her dad was in the Marines, the places she had been and where she’d like to travel. And, as a guy trying to be supportive, I did my best to plan more adventures that included her favorite things.
Early in our relationship there was one day in particular when I got to witness Alissa’s expression of pure joy. We were watching fireworks for the Big Bang on the Bay on July 3, and I happened to look over at Alissa during the show and saw her with the biggest child-like smile as she watched the huge bursts overhead. I enjoyed seeing that look on her face and made note of that moment. Happiness pure and simple.
We have attended many concerts together, and she has had that similar look on her face seeing her favorite band and singing along with every song.
In San Francisco we rented bikes to ride the Golden Gate Bridge. Once across, we just kept riding and riding, exploring fun sites until we finally decided to turn around and make the long way back to the ferry. Along our route Alissa was behind me, and I listened to her narrate the ride through the neighborhoods. She made up scenarios, talked about houses and paint colors, and the smell of fresh laundry.
She laughed most of the way as we kept going on the adventure without knowing where we were headed.
I can digress here a bit and speculate about how great a daughter-in-law she is and how much she enjoys the role. Alissa loves to verbally spar with my dad about all topics and has also become the family Jill-of-All-Trades. She is always thoughtful with gifts and treats for the family and enjoys the weeknights we spend at my dad’s house watching documentaries or movies. She takes pleasure in continuing the family traditions for the holidays and birthdays, especially the annual Red Dinner for Valentine’s Day. And of course there are plenty of times that she laughs with me…or is it at me?
Yes, I thought I knew pretty well the things that made my wife smile and laugh. But it was actually much later into our relationship when I discovered that I hadn’t quite learned everything about her.
It was when Marley Fay was born and Alissa became a mother that I realized that any level of joy I had witnessed from Alissa before hadn’t even scratched the surface of her potential. Marley opened up Alissa to the boundless and infinite love and joy that comes with being a mother.
I came home from work one day and heard laughter coming from the living room. Alissa didn’t know I had walked in yet, so I stopped to watch her playing with Marley. Marley was not quite a year old yet and was smiling and giggling sitting face to face with Alissa. As Alissa talked and goofed around, she kept laughing from deep within. This was a full-body, deep belly laugh, and she had a special tone in her voice I had never heard before. It was truly the purest joy I had ever witnessed. Alissa’s smile was ear to ear, and her eyes were wide open and locked onto her daughter’s eyes. Alissa laughed and laughed and spoke in that special voice. My heart exploded.
I stayed out of view and enjoyed watching the interaction for a few more minutes. Those types of deep, joyful laughs are reserved just for Marley and come from that very special mother-daughter bond.
Now that Marley is 2 and a half, there has been no shortage of belly laughs. It’s all the things she says, does and comes up with. Alissa uses that special voice (maybe not realizing it) with Marley when we see a new scribble drawing, or when Alissa picks Marley up from preschool.
Alissa also uses the voice when brushing or braiding Marley’s hair, hears Marley singing a favorite song, or when they go shopping and run errands together. I hear the voice when Alissa surprises Marley with a treat or encouraging her to ride her trike, coaching her in T-ball, praising her after swim class or teaching her etiquette.
I no longer have to hide to hear the special voice or the two of them sharing a belly laugh, but I try not to move or interfere so the moment can last as long as possible. It’s really the most heart-warming thing to witness– to see their bond.
What an incredible discovery I made when Alissa unknowingly revealed that special voice. It’s part of the magic of motherhood, and I never would have imagined how extraordinary it would be to witness Alissa’s journey and transformation.
I am wishing a very happy Mother’s Day to Alissa and to all the mothers that share their own special voices and belly laughs with their children. In these crazy times, with the constant barrage of noise and interference, it’s these true, special moments that keep things in perspective. And I’ll take the sound of a deep belly laugh any day.