My wife has heard all my stories. I’ve heard all her stories. Every childhood memory, every funny anecdote, every life-changing experience had been exchanged within our first few years of marriage.
Conversation in years four to seven was full of stops and starts: “Did I ever tell you about the time–” and the other partner would politely answer, “Yes. Yes, you have. But I’d love to hear it again.”
Conversation in years eight to ten comprised both of us pretending to have forgotten all stories, “Maybe it’s the mold behind the refrigerator or all this lead paint covering our walls or possibly a brain tumor from too much cell phone use, but I don’t remember hearing you had a paper route as a kid. Please tell me that story.”
Occasionally a story surfaces that my wife has never heard.
“Did I ever tell you my family met Telly Savalas in an elevator?”
She’ll look at me, her expression briefly serious before switching to one of relief. “No. No, you haven’t. You really haven’t.” We’ll embrace for a moment before she says, “Please continue. But let me make some popcorn first.” She’ll sit down with her popcorn, her eyes full of anticipation as she leans forward expectantly.
“Well, we were in an elevator and Telly Savalas got in, and he looked at all the kids because there were four of us, and he asked my parents, “These all yours?”
“What did your parents say?”
“I don’t remember.”
“Let me go grab the kids and you tell the story again. Kids, come downstairs! Dad’s going to tell us about the time he met Telly Savalas.”
“Who’s Telly Savalas?”
Year eleven we allowed ourself broad creative license and started adapting personal memories from popular books and movies.
“Did I ever tell you when I was a kid both my parents were killed by this evil wizard so bad that nobody would even speak his name?”
She’ll answer, “Don’t get me started on orphans. Did I tell you about how I was a precocious orphan girl sent to live with an elderly brother and sister on Prince Edward Island and I was always getting into trouble whenever people made fun of my red hair?”
“But you don’t have red hair. That story sounds a lot like Anne of Green Gables.”
“Yeah, I’m Anne of Green Gables. That book was written about my life.”
“But it was written one-hundred years ago.”
“And how did I go back one-hundred years? That’s an even better story. Did I ever tell you I had a friend who built a time machine out of a DeLorean?”
When my wife and I made summer plans and realized we wouldn’t see each other for six weeks, any melancholy at missing each other was vastly outweighed by the exciting prospect of gaining new stories to tell each other. My wife and I are big proponents of couples taking separate vacations, not because we need a break from each other, but because this will give us new stories that we didn’t experience together and might keep our conversations fresh for an entire year.