It all started with a smile…

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Thus begins “THE Week” at our home.

Yes, it’s true “the week” starts with Spare Key having more than 650 volunteer slots at the Ryder Cup at Hazeltine thanks to the hard work of Lori from our office.  She has, with considerable grace, patience and good humor, spent the past several months herding cats of volunteers into slots to work at concession stands at the international golf event.

But “THE Week” is not about the Ryder Cup.

THE Week is the period of time that begins with my wife and I celebrating our 20th wedding anniversary today – followed by The Daughter’s 14th birthday two days later – followed by The Dude’s 16th birthday two days after that.

THE Week is a breathtaking time in our household.

And, it all started with a smile.

In a previous life I used to work in Senate Majority Research in the Minnesota Senate.  From time to time we would all wander from our office into the offices of one of the Senators we were assigned to and find out if they needed anything in particular from us.

On one such morning I decided I needed to go to one Senator’s Office for something I am sure was really important then but I wouldn’t be able to tell you what it was today if my life depended upon it.

This much I do remember as vividly as if it happened today.

I walked into the office and there in front of me some brunette sweet young thing was studiously perusing the most recent edition of “Soap Opera Digest.”

(In her telling of this story years later she claims it wasn’t hers but that a fellow staffer had “loaned” it to her to read.  Whatever.)

Off-handedly I commented about the heavy reading she was doing on behalf of Senator and suddenly, there it was…a smile!

Not, I might add, any smile.

Her smile.

Surrounded by the most intense shade of scarlet face blushing of anyone I had ever met before.

Stricken, I excused myself and walked back to my office.

Along the way I somewhat gathered my composure.

Walking back into the office I strode to a colleagues’ office and told him to follow me.

He didn’t ask why until we were feet from the destination.

The office where the blushing girl with the blinding smile was reading “Soap Opera Digest.”

As I opened the door I said to him, “I want you to meet the girl I am going to marry.”

And, I did.

Much in our life has changed in the past twenty years that we have been married.

But the smile hasn’t gotten any less blinding.  Or my love for her any less encompassing.

From our first date at the old St. Paul Blues Saloon where she commented on my dancing “flair” to the innumerous times we have laughed until we cried to the moment we both laid eyes on both of our children she has been that “…girl I am going to marry.”

I wanted to impress her Dad so much the first time I met him that I sold my crappy Ford Escort and bought a Volkswagen Passat that I could neither afford nor wanted.

The first time her parents met me I know her Mom thought I must have been 53 years old.  The irony of it all is that 20 years later she is finally right!

I come from a family of 9 kids – all with outsize egos and personalities.

She never flinched an eye.

Of all the people I have ever known throughout my life – including some of the most powerful people on Earth – she is the only person who has ever intimidated me.

She has also given me the greatest privilege of my life which is the honor of raising two astonishing children.

My wife and I both marvel at the transition of our lives with our children throughout the years.  Both Owen and Maisie bear a striking resemblance to perfection.

As both of them have entered their teen year phases we admittedly wait for the moment when we can share with others the “horrors” of teenagers!

So far there has been no horror.  Occasional glimpses of it.  Frequent mood swings and crankiness or what I call “Grumpelstiltskin” – but nothing, yet, bordering on wondering where our children went.

Ups and downs. Good days and bad.  Success and failures.  There have been 20 years of all of it.

Somewhere along the way, though, the twenty years flew by in the blink of an eye.

The next twenty years promises to be no less of an adventure.  Along the way the kids may or may not choose to ever leave our home.  Mixed emotions are involved with all of that, to be sure.

It’s difficult enough knowing that both of our kids went from being small enough to hold in our arms to being big enough and learning to live without needing us in their lives every minute of every day.

I love my life.  I love my kids.  I love my wife.

My life on this planet began 53 years ago.

But, living on this planet — truly living — that began 20 years ago.

And, it started with a smile.

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