Remember when the sound of little feet
was the music
We danced to week to week
Brought back the love, we found trust
Vowed we’d never give it up
Remember when thirty seemed so old
Now lookn’ back it’s just a steppin’ stone
To where we are,
Where we’ve been
Said we’d do it all again
Remember when we said when we turned gray
When the children grow up and move away
We won’t be sad, we’ll be glad
For all the life we’ve had
And we’ll remember when
~ Remember When by Alan Jackson
It’s a beautiful summer day at the beach. The sun is shining brightly in the sky; it would be extremely hot if it wasn’t for the breeze rolling in off the ocean. Adults and children are spread out on the beach and in the water enjoying the perfection of the summer day.
Sookie and I are sitting in our rocking chairs enjoying the breeze and the shade provided by our porch. My eyes steal over to the woman beside me; she still has the ability to take my breath away. Her beautiful blonde hair has turned mainly white; her face is no longer smooth but the lines she has on her face are the ones you get from living a life filled with laughter and love, not pain and heartbreak. But her eyes still shine with love for me, and they are currently watching me with an amused expression.
“What are you looking at?” She’s been reading a novel for the last hour, but closes the book to smile happily at me. Thirty years together and we love each other more now than ever. We’ve had our ups and downs, but the ups have definitely outnumbered the downs. Our lives have been very blessed.
I smile lovingly at my wife, reaching for her hand to bring it to my lips for a kiss. “I’m looking at the most beautiful woman in the world,” I say with conviction as I link my fingers with hers. To me, there is no one on this planet that is more beautiful inside and out.
Sookie scoffs but doesn’t let go of my hand. “When we get home, we need to get your eyes checked; clearly you have gone blind!” She laughs at me as I narrow my eyes at her, clearly unhappy with her snarky comment. I bring her hand towards my mouth. Instead of kissing it, I nibble on her fingers, which causes her laughter to end. Her lips remain parted with her tongue sneaking out to moisten her lips. Those beautiful eyes of hers darken with passion as I suck her pinky finger in my mouth.
With a wicked smile, I lower her hand to my lap, letting her feel just how much I enjoyed teasing her. “I think my eyesight is just fine thank you very much. But I think I have another area that needs your help. Do you think you could take a look and give me your professional opinion as a former nurse?”
Her fingers caress the growing problem in my pants while she returns my flirtatious banter. “Are you sure all you want me to do is look? I think you might need a more thorough, hands-on examination.”
I growl at the minx staring sweetly at me. “Woman, get in the house!”
Sookie’s eyes flick towards the beach before rising swiftly from her chair. She offers me her hand and we hurry inside like two teenagers afraid of getting caught by their parents.
An hour later, Sookie and I are in the kitchen. She’s making lunch since we’d both worked up quite the appetite. She’s standing at the counter making a mountain of sandwiches, and I’m behind her with my arms around her waist, nuzzling the side of her hair. Sookie giggling and trying to fight off my wondering hands.
“Ewwwwww! Gross!” Two tiny cherubs are standing inside the backdoor of the kitchen, their faces scrunched up in disgust. “Dad! Grandma and Grandpa are kissing again! Make ‘em stop,” the little boy screams.
Our son, Hunter Merlotte Northman, walks in through the screen door that leads to the covered porch. He is a striking man with a muscular build that he’s honed while following in both his fathers’ footsteps by joining the United States Army. For Sookie’s peace of mind, he has never seen a combat field; I too am grateful for that myself. His hair darkened over the years, but all his time in the sun this week has lightened it. His blue eyes are crinkled with humor as he smiles affectionately at his twin five-year olds.
“Samuel, I’ve been putting up with Grandpa kissing Grandma all my life. You’ll just have to get used to it like I did.” He ruffles his son’s reddish blond hair while his son’s lips curl in disgust. “And I’ll tell you the same thing Grandpa told me when I was your age. One day you’ll like kissing girls; you won’t find them disgusting at all!”
Samuel Eric Northman’s eyes widen in horror at the thought. He runs out of the kitchen screaming for his mother, Hunter’s wife Madelyn. The three adults in the room laugh heartily at his response but the other cherub in the room, Hunter’s youngest daughter Abigail, looks confused. “Does that mean one day I’m gonna like kissing boys?”
Hunter’s expression turns green while Sookie snorts quietly. I sympathize with my son’s plight; I remember how badly I took it when our daughter Rissa started showing an interest in boys. Sookie had to talk me and Alcide off the ledge the first time she’d gone on a date. Al and I had both wanted to greet her date at the door in full combat gear with our guns at the ready (they weren’t loaded of course). Sookie and Maria, whom Alcide married within a few months of my return from Afghanistan, threatened to banish both of us from their respective beds for a year if we followed through with our plan. It was a threat that worked! Still, I never did like the idea of boys dating my baby girl; it didn’t matter that she ended up marrying a man who treated her like a princess. My baby girl isn’t supposed to like boys that way. Sookie laughs at my feelings and asks me how Rissa is pregnant with her second child if she’s still a virgin. I’m stubbornly clinging to the idea of Immaculate Conception for both of Rissa’s pregnancies.
“Abby,” Hunter says firmly as she picks up his twin daughter, “the only boys you will like kissing are me, your grandpa, and maybe your brother. Do you understand?” Abby looks at her father with solemn blue eyes and nods her head yes, causing her strawberry blonde curls to bounce around her face. She gives her father Eskimo and butterfly kisses before he sets her down. She runs over to me and I pick her up, giving her a big kiss on the cheek before playfully chomping on her neck. She squeals happily and wiggles in my arms before I set her down. She runs out the back door to our family on the beach.
Hunter shakes his head at his mother and I; he knows exactly where we disappeared to for the last hour. Sookie blushes prettily and I grin wolfishly. Hunter should be used to this though; Sookie and I had a very healthy sex life while he was growing up. It’s how we ended up with three more children after Charissa.
“Is it safe for me to tell everyone they can come inside for lunch? Or are you two on a food break between rounds? I don’t need my kids scarred like I was.”
“Well if you hadn’t been trying to sneak a girl in at 2:00 am, you wouldn’t have seen that,” Sookie sasses Hunter. She tweaks his ear as she carries the platter of sandwiches to the table.
“I still think you were too strict with my punishment. You grounded me for a month. I think seeing what I did was enough of a punishment,” Hunter says with a full body shudder.
Sookie pulls bowls of coleslaw, broccoli salad, and potato salad from the refrigerator as well as a large platter of cold fried chicken. I carry two of the bowls to the table. On the way back, I whisper in my son’s ear. “Keep it up Smalls and I’ll make sure you see an encore performance.”
Hunter blanches before turning to go outside. Before the door closes, Sookie and I hear him screaming for his wife to give him brain bleach. Sookie looks at me with a raised eyebrow. I smile innocently which makes her shake her head before setting the rest of lunch out on the table for our family to eat.
Thirty years . . . that’s how long Eric and I have been married. I can’t believe how much time has passed. It seems like yesterday that he returned home from Afghanistan while I was pregnant with our first daughter, Charissa Adele Northman. She was born early; even on bed rest I only managed to carry her to thirty-four weeks. Despite being early, she was still over five pounds. If I had carried her to full term, I think she might have been twelve pounds. That’s not a baby; that’s a damn watermelon!
Rissa was and is the apple of Eric’s eye. From the minute she batted those baby blues at him, Eric was a goner. She was his little princess; it made for some rough times when she was growing up because both Eric and Pam spoiled her immensely. More often than not, I was the bad guy, and I hated it. But all of that changed when Eric caught Rissa kissing a boy when she was thirteen. He went from her knight-in-shining armor to the ogre that guarded the castle. Most parents say that the teenage years are the hardest, but that’s when Rissa and I really bonded. She confided in me about her crushes, we discussed make-up and clothing, and I comforted her during her first heartbreak. It’s interesting how family dynamics change over the years.
About six months after Rissa was born, Eric proposed to me. It was simple and perfect; we had gone away for our second adult’s only weekend to the beach house, the same beach house the family has come to for summer vacations for the last thirty years. When we arrived at the beach house, he gave me a wicker basket of things we could use for the weekend. Nestled among the bottles of wine, scented candles, and massage oil was an engagement ring. His proposal was all the more meaningful because he chose to do it where we each said ‘I love you’ for the first time. Of course, we celebrated all weekend; is it any wonder we celebrated the birth of our son, Michael Godric Northman, forty weeks later? I used to tease Eric that our son was his engagement present from me.
We had a very short engagement. Eric proposed in May and we were married in a small backyard ceremony the end of June. All our friends and family attended. Pam and Maria were my bridesmaids; Alcide and Jesus stood beside Eric. Hunter walked me down the aisle and then stood next to his father. Eric had officially adopted Hunter; he’d begun the legal process a week after returning from Afghanistan. We left the decision up to Hunter if he wanted to become a Northman or stay Merlotte. In the end, Hunter had chosen to honor both of his fathers with his name: Hunter Merlotte Northman. Hunter really amazed me with how well he balanced the idea of two dads. He’s never forgotten Sam even though he does not have any real memories of the man.
My memories of Sam have faded over time. I struggled early on in my relationship with Eric because part of me felt like I was betraying Sam. In less than a year, I’d moved on from the death of my husband with a man I admit is the love of my life. Eric dealt with my bouts of guilt and depression without judgment. It was during one of my crying jags about being a terrible person that Eric told me something I’ve never forgotten. He said I did not die when Sam did; I had to keep living life in his honor. My happiness and that of Hunter would be the best kind of tribute to Sam because it meant we were able to live full, meaningful lives despite the pain of Sam’s death. What kind of memorial would it be to wither away to nothing and spend our lives miserable and unloved?
It took me some time, but I finally understood what Eric meant. Raising Hunter to be the man he is today is the greatest tribute to Sam. At every milestone of Hunter’s life, there’s always been this tug at my heart that wishes Sam could be here to see our son. But I know Sam, Gran, and the others we’ve lost are watching over us. I think Sam became our guardian angel because he sent Eric to us. It wasn’t an ideal way for us to meet, but its poetic to think of how something so tragic turned into something so beautiful.
A knock sounds on the open bedroom door. “Momma, what are you doing out here?” Our youngest daughter, Ella, stands there looking at me with concern. Ella’s just turned twenty-two and recently graduated from Duke University. She’ll be starting her master’s program at Stanford in the fall. It breaks my heart that she wants to go so far away, but she’s always had this sense of adventure. She’s always wanted to learn and experience new things. Ella is named after Eric’s sister Pamela, whom we lost to breast cancer during my last pregnancy. Pam didn’t tell us she was sick until it was too late; she always was a stubborn bitch! Pam never married, never had children; she said our children were all the children she needed in her life. I know her death affected Eric in ways I could never understand. Pam was all Eric had after he lost his parents, and that didn’t change until Hunter and I showed up. Despite our bumpy start, Pam became the sister I never had. While I missed her terribly, I knew it destroyed Eric. He was the only Northman left besides me and the kids.
“Just thinkin’ Baby Girl,” I say with a smile as I reach for her hand. Ella takes my hand and squeezes it. Like all my children, she towers over me even in my heels. Ella is the perfect blend of the best physical attributes from Eric and me. She’s tall and slim with long blonde hair, blue eyes that always sparkle, full pink lips always smiling, and the guys all love she’s a double D. Fortunately for Eric, the only boy Ella has ever had eyes for is Alcide and Maria’s son Jackson, whom everyone calls Jax. He’ll actually be moving with her to California next month; he had proposed to Ella the day she graduated from Duke. Eric and Alcide were over the moon that our families would finally be related.
“Well hurry up,” she says laughing. “Alex is complaining that he’s starving to death. After all, it’s been ten minutes since he last ate.” We both laugh because my youngest son Alex is really a human garbage disposal. He’s always eating and never seems to gain an ounce. That probably has something to do with the fact he is a wide receiver for the Philadelphia Eagles. I would have loved if he had been drafted by my beloved Saints; I’m just happy it wasn’t the Cowboys.
Ella and I walk downstairs to find my husband and youngest son gathered in the living room. My heart skips a beat when I see Eric all dressed up. That man is still sex on a stick! His blond hair is a mix of silver and white; his still muscular body is covered by a tailored gray suit and blue dress shirt, which is open at the neck. He walks deliberately towards me, his eyes darkening with passion as he looks me up and down in my blue sleeveless dress and matching wrap. I’m nowhere near as small as I once was, and the girls aren’t as perky as they used to be, but I think I look damn good for my age.
“Mrs. Northman,” Eric purrs in that voice I’ve always thought of as his sex voice. It still gets me going after thirty years of marriage. He smirks knowing the effect on me and lifts the hand with my engagement and wedding rings, kissing and licking my knuckles which makes me shiver. “Happy anniversary,” he whispers with our eyes gazing only at each other. I get lost in his eyes.
“Oh hell no! Knock it off you two! I’m hungry and we have reservations. Everyone else is waiting for us at the restaurant.” Alex groaning from the couch breaks the spell between me and my husband. Chuckling, Eric kisses my hand once more before mouthing, “Later Lover.” They say sex usually fades in a marriage; Eric and I never got that memo. Granted, we aren’t as adventurous as we used to be when we were younger, but we’ve never lost that passion for each other.
The ride to the restaurant is a short one. Alex drives while Ella sits in the passenger seat and Eric and I are in the back seat of the SUV nestled close to one another. My son has to remind his father more than once to keep his hands to himself. Fortunately, my son hasn’t caught on to what my hand is doing to his father. Like I said, the passion hasn’t faded.
Once we arrive at the restaurant we are shown to a private room, which I wasn’t expecting. I know we have a lot of people with all our children and their families gathered, but I didn’t think we needed a private room. Of course, I should have known my husband would have a few tricks up his sleeve. Our entire family waits inside the room for us: Hunter, his wife Madelyn, and their children Nicole, Samuel, and Abby; a pregnant Charissa with her husband Daniel and their son Brian; Michael and his girlfriend Tori; Alex and Ella round out our brood. But our friends that are like family are here too! Jesus and Lafayette, who finally married when same-sex marriage was legalized in North Carolina, are here with their adopted daughters Jennifer and Elizabeth. Alcide and Maria have come with their three sons: Charlie, Jax, and Xavier. Even my brother Jason and his wife Michelle have flown in to celebrate my wedding anniversary. After thirty years of marriage, my husband still finds ways to surprise me.
Happy tears fill my eyes and I turn into my husband’s arms. I’ve been so incredibly lucky with the life I’ve been blessed with. “I love you Eric.”
“I love you too Sookie. I always will.”