My newlywed husband said the same thing every morning. "You're beautiful today."
One glance in the mirror revealed that it was far from the truth.
A skinny girl with mashed hair on one side of her head and no makeup smiled back at me. I could feel my sticky morning breath.
“Liar,” I shot back with a grin.
It was my usual response. My mother's first husband was not a kind man and his verbal and physical abuse forced her and her two children to find a safe place. He showed up on her doorstep one day with roses. She let him in and he beat her with those roses and took advantage of her. Nine months later she gave birth to a 9 lb. 13 oz. baby girl -- me.
The harsh words we heard growing up took root. I had trouble seeing myself as someone of value. I had been married two years when I surprised myself. My husband wrapped his arms around me and told me I was beautiful.
“Thank you,” I said.
The same thin girl with the mousy3 brown hair still stared back at me in the mirror, but somehow the words had finally blossomed in my heart.
A lot of years have passed. My husband has grey in his hair. I'm no longer skinny. Last week I woke up and my husband's face was inches from mine.
“What are you doing?” I asked.
I covered my mouth, trying to hide my morning breath. He reached down and kissed my face.
“What I do every morning,” he said.
He leaves in the early hours of the morning while I sleep. I miss our morning conversations, but I had not realized that he continued to tell me that he loved me even while I slept. When he left, I rolled over and hugged my pillow. I envisioned4 the picture of me lightly snoring5 with my mouth open and giggled.
What a man! My husband understands my past. He's been beside me as I've grown from an unsure young girl to a confident woman, mother, speaker and author.
But I'm not sure that he understands the part he played in that transition6. The words I heard growing up pierced7 my soul, yet his words pierced even deeper.
This Anniversary Day I plan to wake early. I want to tell Richard how much I love him. He may look in the mirror and see an extra pound or two, or wish for the day when his hair was dark and curly8, but all I'll see is the man who saw something in me when I couldn't see it myself, and who leaves butterfly kisses, even after twenty-three years of marriage.