“Hey, are these our spoons?”
At Tom’s words I froze for a second.
Are these our spoons? Do I know you? The spoons we use every time we eat? The spoons we grab from their assigned section of the silverware drawer a dozen times a day? The spoons that scoop soup, ice cream and oatmeal into your mouth daily? The same spoons I wash and dry and arrange on our kitchen table while neighbors circle around? These spoons are featured in squares on Instagram, for goodness’ sake. Are these our spoons?
“Yes, they’re our spoons.”
In my bountiful world of home, friends, children, grandchildren, laptop, tables and food, spoons are significant. If blindfolded I’d identify our spoons by touch. I could draw an accurate sketch of our silverware.
On a recent Sunday afternoon I assisted my husband in his workplace, a world entirely unknown to me. Heavy wooden desks, big computers, shelves filled with thick books, phones and sprawling white boards filled the space.
The comment about spoons thrust me into an acute awareness. My husband not only lived at home with me but he also spent a massive amount of time in his work world. Tom lived at the hospital roughly sixty hours a week and I was barely acquainted with his job. I’d been to his office a handful of times in the years we’ve lived in Columbia. Now I wished I’d ventured into this part of his life more often.
Tom had invited me to help him pack his stuff and move to a new office. At first I wasn’t interested. He said he could handle it alone but if I went we could spend time together. That made sense, so I said yes. I’m glad I did.
I saw him in such a different light in his workplace. He’s organized and decisive; he quickly sorted and discarded papers. He made prompt decisions about what should stay in the old office and what should go with him. When I tried to help, he’d redirect me to a more crucial task. He’s a great leader. I told him he’d be a dream client for me to organize. But he hardly needed an organizer.
On shelves were old framed pictures I hadn’t seen in years. Seeing how much we’d aged, I wanted the speeding years to slow down. Also on display were darling photos of our grandchildren and the beautiful piece of wood he’d found while canoeing backwater near the NC coast with his dad.
I winced when I realized selfishness played a role in my uninvolvement in his work life. I was comfortable with my world and routine and I hadn’t realized how valuable it would be to join him occasionally in his place. Has self-identifying as a homebody become a blanket excuse? I let out a sigh when I realized I still had so much to learn about my husband after 37 years.
As we moved boxes from one part of the hospital to another, he greeted employees by name. We laughed as we scooted down the halls together and I told him to be careful to not bump the walls. Scraping the hospital walls is a pet peeve of his. A weekend employee drummed up a conversation with me about his faith and what he was learning. When Tom joined us, we prayed for him. We were all three encouraged.
Our Sunday had become much more than packing boxes. We left the hospital, chatting away as we searched for a late lunch spot. We landed in an unfamiliar area of Columbia and enjoyed a tasty lunch in a bright sunny deli brimming with energetic college students. I snapped pictures when we walked away as if we were tourists. The big city atmosphere in Columbia is stimulating. We love to explore new spots together.
The sun was setting as we got home. I’d intended to wash clothes and pack that day since I was leaving town the next morning. But productivity, perfectionism and plans occasionally need to take a back seat to an opportunity right in front of me: a perfect chance to get to know my husband better, in this case.
What sort of choices can we make to know our spouses better? How can we combine our interests, passions and worlds to stimulate deeper conversations and be enlightened on mysteries about each other.
During the week following that Sunday afternoon my questions to Tom surprised even me as they popped out of my mouth. “How are our investments affected by the current economy? What are your thoughts on closing airspace over countries? How can I be a better writer and hone in on the theme of my book?” His answers were thought-provoking and helpful.
We’ve known each other all these years and still have so much to gain from one another. I’m full of curiosity and I’m on a new mission to be a student of my husband. I even asked him if he needed my help in his new office. His answer: “Yes.”