The entire scene took one minute. Just 60 seconds.
But it felt like hours as it unfolded. In my mind, it all happened with such cinematic flare. Like an old movie. Slow motion. Frame-by-frame revelation.
Cue the dramatic music, full orchestra.
I was standing in my yard watering the giant pots on my front porch. It was a typical July afternoon in Indiana. The heat and humidity hovered much like a blanket over the neighborhood. I stood mindlessly pouring a cool drink on my sagging hibiscus bushes.
Then I saw him. My heart stopped.
My old boyfriend drove slowly past my house. My heart, which was fortunately working again, now pounded in my chest. This was not just any boyfriend but the boyfriend who made all other boyfriends seem like simple adolescent crushes. As he moved past, I felt my chest tighten and my breath catch in my throat. What was he doing here?
I hadn’t seen him in years.
While time had added a few lines to his face, he still looked much like the handsome young man I had fallen in love with so many years ago. He cruised slowly by in his old pickup. Apparently, he still preferred driving a truck, a fact that didn’t seem odd as he always had the casual confidence of a guy’s guy. A manly man. Someone who actually needed a truck versus the guy who drove a shiny pickup just for fun, never once using it for its intended purpose to pull or haul something.
He always had this rugged charm while being decidedly tender. Like he knew how to change a tire in his sleep but wouldn’t mind cooking dinner. Like he could build you a house and then take you to see The Notebook all in one day. I always felt secure with his confidence in this capacity.
Baseball hat on, pulled up slightly over his dark brown eyes, perched as if he had just scratched his head and not quite positioned the hat back in its normal place. I could just picture him running his hands through his hair.
That guy had great hair. Thick, completely forgiving, falls-perfectly-in-place hair.
The years had been kind to him.
In an instant, I felt self-conscious, suddenly aware that despite my quickened heartbeat and flushed face, I was no longer the 20-something he once knew. I wondered what he would think if he noticed me.
Would he feel like the years had been as good to me? Or would he see me as the tired, wound-up mom I really am? Would the late nights with fussy babies be evident on my face? Would the strains of parenting and marriage during the early years of parenting be apparent?
Or perhaps there still exists a fleeting memory of the carefree young woman he had fallen in love with…
We really had a great run of it while it lasted. A foundation of friendship followed by a couple years of dating. Late-night talks, freedom to explore a new city, and countless hours uninterrupted to dream with one another.
There was no theatrical breakup. No harsh words or blame. No “it’s not you, it’s me” conversation. It didn’t end dramatically. More like a slow fade, and truthfully, I don’t know that either of us knew exactly what was occurring until much later.
Had we known, I wonder if we would have fought to maintain our position. To fiercely hold onto the young love and freedom and newness that surrounds a vibrant, young relationship.
My heart ached for a moment, missing what was.
But then, as quickly as the slow-motion movie had started, it abruptly ended. My fleeting daydream interrupted by the noise of my new life. The peels of laughter and pounding footsteps of my kids. Four of them. A reminder of the vast span of years that stretched from this head-over-heels young love to present day.
Real life resumed normal pace, and in an instant, my oldest son joined me on the porch. My vivacious, energetic boy with his great head of hair that falls perfectly into place. As I soaked up his energy, I was reminded so much of that old flame that just drove slowly past my house…
And was now turning into my driveway.
I heard that old truck shift into park. I would recognize the sound of the creaky door opening anywhere. I heard it on our first date nearly two decades ago. My daughters have now joined me in the front yard, excited by the visitor. I watch as they run to him and he gathers them up in his arms. Their brown eyes, showing such excitement at his return, matching his own in perfect hue.
The fleeting ache for what was is replaced with the fullness of what is. Different. Yet satisfying.
The reminder that the slow fade of young, fiery love has turned into a steady, slow burn. The peace that the novelty of new love has been replaced with a sense of knowing. The flood of memories as I picture this old boyfriend who evolved into my daily supporter. My confidant and greatest laugh supplier. The man who affectionately refers to me by my maiden name when I frustrate him. The guy whose brown eyes conveyed complete confidence that I could get through labor and delivery four times. Leaving us with a small squad of brown-eyed babes.
I am left with the peaceful confidence that years of shared experiences and sleepless nights with newborns has forged a bond sturdier and more reliable than that old, beloved truck.
As he makes his way up to the porch, I feel my breath catch again. From under his hat, I get a quick kiss as “What’s for dinner?” escapes his lips.
The old boyfriend may be gone but the old flame still remains.
My husband’s old truck was loaned out for several years and then given back to us last summer. Seeing him unexpectedly arrive at our house driving the faithful beast caught me off guard. My little daydream unfolded in the seconds following me spotting the old love. Matt, not the truck. Although I do love that old truck.