Couple together time had become family together time.
My husband, Lonny, and I were busy. Our Suburban yo-yoed in and out of the driveway as directed by the loaded calendar on the kitchen wall. We shuttled our five sons through five weekdays and didn't pause for breath on the weekends. Piano lessons. Middle school track. Bible league. Pee Wee baseball.
We bolted from activity to activity and stopped only to swap car keys or boys. Sometimes we ran together. Sometimes we employed the "divide and conquer." But at least we found joy in knowing that the evenings were time together. Sort of.
No matter how we plunged through the pile-up of after-school commitments, evening meant one thing: time in front of the TV in a rendezvous with Mike and Carol Brady and the everlasting Brady brood.
We couldn't settle in for the night without "Marcia, Marcia, Marcia" or "pork chops and applesauce." Every evening looked the same.
"Are you ready?" Lonny asked as he pulled the DVD from its jacket.
He and I sat in the center of the brown leather couch. Gabriel and Samuel flanked us. Isaiah was on my lap. Logan and Grant were sprawled on the floor. We'd assumed our Brady Positions.
It was together time. Just Lonny and me. Plus Mike and Carol. With our five kids and their six.
"Bring it on," I said. And we were lost in the story of the lovely lady and man named Brady.
One evening, to our chagrin, Lonny and I watched in horror as the happily married Mike and Carol made a major blunder. It was serious.
Mike Brady acquired tickets for a concert that Carol longed to see. Carol grinned at Mike with moon-pie eyes. They got sitters and gussied up in their mod-sixties eveningwear. As they were leaving, they discovered that their youngest daughter, Cindy, had come down with a threatening medical condition: the sniffles.
Mike and Carol left for their date, but they were unable to pull their minds from their ailing pig-tailed daughter. They fled the pre-concert meal at a swanky restaurant and hustled back home.
Cindy's sniffles trumped their marriage.
"Uh-oh. Big mistake. Kids rule," said Lonny between fistfuls of popcorn.
"No kidding," I said.
"She had the sniffles, for crying out loud," Lonny said.
"Yeah," I agreed.
But my heart was troubled as we hunkered down for the remainder of the episode. At least Mike and Carol were trying to spend time together. Lonny and I sat at home each night, with the kids, and watched them try.
I shared my concern with Lonny as we snuggled into bed that night. "It's been a long time since we've been out. Or spent time together—alone. I think we need to start dating again."
"I agree completely. I miss you. Let's schedule a date. Right now." Lonny sprang from bed and padded into the kitchen. I heard him pull the calendar from its nail on the wall.
Calendar in hand, Lonny slid back into bed. He and I stared at the full squares.
"Hmmm. We could grab dinner two weeks from Thursday," I said with a sigh.
"No. Awards night at the high school. How about two weeks from Friday?"
"Out-of-town track meet," I said.
"Next Tuesday after the orthodontist?"
"If it's raining. Otherwise Samuel will have T-ball."
"Well, I don't know. I don't like it, but it looks like we'll have to wait. School will be out in a month. Things will open up," said Lonny.
He pecked me on the cheek and snapped off the lamp.
I settled in beside Lonny. But as I drifted off to sleep, I felt far from him, even though I was wrapped in his arms.
The next morning I wrestled Isaiah and Gabriel, our toddler, into the bathtub. They laughed behind frothy bubble beards. Voices from The Today Show rose from the nearby bedroom. Matt Lauer said something that caught my attention amidst the giggles of my boys.
Matt co-anchored a segment on the results of a study by Denver University and Texas A & M. Two hundred-eighteen couples had been monitored for eight years.
"Ninety percent of the couples reported marital dissatisfaction within one year of the birth of their first child," he reported.
Scripture scrolled through my mind: "Children are a blessing in the Lord" (Psalm 127:3).
A child wouldn't be the nemesis of a healthy marriage, I thought. That would be contrary to God's Word.
I scooped up sudsy Isaiah and wrapped him in a towel. I stood in the doorway to the bedroom—one maternal eye on Gabriel and the other on the television. I perked my ears.
"The focus shifts," Matt said to close the segment, "from our spouse to the children."
As I toweled the last of the suds from Isaiah's chest, the culprit in my own marriage became clear.
It wasn't the children.
It was our misplaced priority.
Lonny and I loved each other deeply, but we'd allowed our time together to be snuffed out by the endless commitments involving the kids. The scraps of time that we had were stretched, at the end of the day, over our big family. Over the Brady family too.
That evening, Lonny, the boys, and I returned from a track meet. As our Suburban coasted to a halt, Lonny turned to me. "I've been thinking about our conversation last night," he said.
"Me too," I said.
"Let's grab a taco at Adolph's. You and me. We'll make a quick dinner for the boys and we'll bolt. We'll have a mini-date. The big boys can babysit."
I was surprised. "Lonny, it's late. And it's a school night."
"We won't be gone long," he said. "I don't want to wait a month to date you. Let's grab what we can. Right now."
"Sold," I said.
We unloaded the kids, flipped grilled cheese sandwiches, and left for our mini-date.
Later, we sat across the table from each other. Just the two of us at the taco joint.
"I miss you," he said.
"I miss you."
"We have some work to do," Lonny said, "to re-claim our marriage."
He was right. I smiled.
"Bring it on," I said. I reached across the table for his hand.
Even though we had far to go, I was grateful that night for where we were. It wasn't a swanky seven-course restaurant. We weren't dressed for a night-on-the-town. But Lonny and I were there—together, with only a plate of tacos between us.
We touched hearts and rekindled our marriage.
What happened to Mike and Carol and the kids? Well, Lonny and I still pop corn, grab pillows, and go Brady for family time a few nights a week. But for couple time, we've moved on to something else: NBA (No Boys Allowed). We may take a walk. We may go out or just sit alone on the creaky porch swing. It doesn't matter, really, what we do. But we've made an important discovery: The more time we share, the more we want to be together. The more effort we make. The closer we become.
Now that's groovy.
Shawnelle Eliasen is a freelance writer who lives and watches The Brady Bunch with her family in Illinois.
Copyright © 2010 by the author or Christianity Today/Kyria.com.
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