The Only “We” That Matters

By Diane Stark

My husband Eric and I spent last week in Hawaii. Our children stayed at home with Grandma. We spent the week relaxing on some of the most beautiful beaches in the world. We drove around the island in a cute little convertible, a far-cry from the seven-passenger SUV I usually drive. We sipped drinks with pink paper umbrellas and ate delicious food, which I didn’t have to cook. We did exactly what we wanted and nothing that we didn’t.

Sounds pretty great, right?

It was. Except for one small thing.

My husband used to live in Hawaii. Over a decade ago. When he was in the military. When he was married.

But not to me.

In a way, it was nice. I had my own personal tour guide. We never got lost, and Eric knew all of the best places to go.

“We have to go to the luau at Paradise Cove,” he said. “There are several of them, but that one is the best.”

And he would know. In the three years he’d lived there, he’d been to all of them.

“This is Electric Beach,” he said. “We used to come here to scuba dive almost every weekend.”

We.

Usually when my husband says “we,” he means him and me. But this “we” wasn’t us. And it hurt a little bit.

It’s not his fault. Eric and I didn’t even know one another back then. And I was part of a different “we” in those days too. But my “we” didn’t get to live in an exotic locale like Hawaii for three years.

Before we even booked the trip, I’d shared my feelings with Eric. “I’m just worried that the trip won’t be special for you because you’ve already seen and done it all,” I said.

Eric waved his hand through the air. “It will be special because I’ll be with you,” he assured me.

But I was unconvinced. I imagined our romantic Hawaiian vacation as nothing more than a trip down memory lane for my husband. After all, he’d moved there right after he’d gotten married the first time, and his oldest son was born there. He was planning to take me to many of the same places he’d already been, and he was sure to reminisce about the times he’d visited as a young Army captain.

But I wanted us to make our own memories. Memories that were just ours. But it didn’t seem possible given the circumstances.

As we drove around the island, Eric showed me the hotel where he’d attended the Army ball, the Army base where he’d once lived, and even the townhouse he’d rented when he first arrived in Hawaii.

And of course, in each instance, when he’d said “he,” he really meant “we.”

The “we” that didn’t include me.

I couldn’t help feeling melancholy about the whole situation. My husband had lived in one of the most romantic places in the world – and not with me. “I just wish we’d been together then,” I said with a sigh.

Eric reached over and took my hand. “It wasn’t as great as you’re imagining it, Honey,” he said. “It wasn’t like now, when we can do whatever we want every day. Back then, I had a job to go to, and I didn’t have much time to enjoy all that Hawaii has to offer. Except when I took time off because my family had flown in for a visit, it wasn’t that different than living anywhere else.”

I nodded, grateful for his efforts, but not really buying into what he was saying.

He squeezed my hand and added, “And just for the record, I’d rather run the rat race in Indiana with you than live in paradise with anyone else.”

Tears filled my eyes as I looked at the man I married. In that moment, I realized that the past no longer mattered. Eric and I were making our own memories, and they were far better than either of us had experienced with anyone else.

I also realized that paradise isn’t a place, it’s a person. Or in this case, two people – working, raising kids, paying bills and loving each other every day.

Together, Eric and I are the best “we” I could ever imagine.

The only “we” that matters anymore.

Because the truth is, we’ve built our own paradise. Even in Indiana.

About this writer

  • Diane Stark Diane Stark is a wife and mom of five. She loves to write about her family and her faith. Her essays have been published in over 20 Chicken Soup for the Soul books.

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