12/16/2014 11:44 am ET Updated Feb 15, 2015

What I Got For Hanukkah Was a Reality Check


Although I'm embarrassed to admit it, it's a pretty typical nighttime scenario. Somewhere between 9 p.m.-10 p.m., my husband and I trudge downstairs after finally get the kids to bed. He heads for the couch, where he sets himself up with the iPad and the sport game du jour, while I position myself in front of my computer to write or read an essay. If it's past 10 p.m., I might just flip the laundry and then head back upstairs to bed, usually giving him a little wave before I go.

This is our quality wind down time; me in bed with the Bravo Housewives and him on the couch with the ball players. I hear that in this young children stage, our behavior is pretty typical. We are tired. Honestly, I'm usually too tired to even mind the lack of time together. I need time to myself just as much as I need time with my husband. So, while I know we could do worse, we could certainly do better.

For the record -- yes, I have to say it -- we have a pretty solid marriage. We like each other. We support each other. We met at 15, started dating seriously at 19, got married at 27 and have been married for over 15 years. We know each other. Well. Still, I'm starting to wonder if I'm okay with the fact that the majority of our time together is spent doing our own thing. It's only at certain moments that I realize we may be missing something. Like the other night.

My husband was down in the basement putting together a ping-pong table that we got the boys for Hanukkah. He made his way down there around 9:30 p.m. or so, while I finished up around the house and then immediately went to lie down. Around 11:15 p.m., he came into our room where I was dozing and said, "Hey, why haven't you come down to the basement?"

Huh? I'm half-asleep.

"Sorry. I just thought you were busy putting together the table, and I was tired."

"Why don't you come down now? I'm almost done."

I looked at him bleary-eyed, and to be honest, slightly annoyed. The last thing I wanted to do was move from my comfy bed.

"I really don't want to," I pouted.

He looked at me with disappointment. "I thought you'd be interested and keep me company." He paused, "And I could use your help."

I jumped on that. I knew it. He needed my help. He wasn't interested in my company. My expression must have betrayed my thoughts, because he backed out of the room before I even answered. "Forget it. Whatever."

Well, I got what I wanted. I was alone again, but now I was torn. I really, really wanted to be sleeping, but a part of my brain was flicking little red flags at me. Why didn't I originally go down to keep him company? Why wasn't I interested? I didn't even think about going down. Shit.

I pushed the covers aside, got out of bed and made my way downstairs to the basement. He was sitting on the floor, studying the instructions sheet. There were tools and a half-put-together table next to him.

I studied his bowed, wavy head of hair and concentrated expression. He hadn't yet realized I was there; still so cute, yet obviously going a little deaf.

"Hi," I said.

He looked up and immediately smiled. It was the crinkly-eyed smile, the one I fell in love with.

"I'm glad you came."

"Me too." I said and meant it, then sat down on the floor next to him.

Sometimes, you just need a moment to remind you where you're supposed to be. And that's really the gift that we need to give to each other.

Essays like this one can be found on Happiest holidays.