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Yesterday was Carl’s and my ten-year anniversary.

We aren’t officially celebrating until Saturday, when friends are watching the kids and he and I are going to Cambridge to walk along the river and browse bookshops and peek at Harvard. Still, we wanted yesterday to be special. Ten years!

The girls and I got haircuts at lunchtime, and then all four of us did a little bit of shopping, some needed new clothes and accessories. Back home, Carl worked and I adjusted the elastic in Grace’s new nightgown and sewed a little bit more on Joy’s special summer dress, washed dishes, and then started on our special dinner of pasta carbonara, fresh green beans, and homemade focaccia. Carl finished up his work, and took the kids outside to check the garden and kick the soccer ball around a little.

Halfway through supper prep, the three of them came back inside, Carl barked at me to check Grace for ticks, and then he carried Joy bodily into the bathroom where he started pulling ticks off. She had rolled in the grass – not even the tall grass, we know better than to mess with that, just the grass on the lawn – and apparently hit a colony or nest or something of that sort. Dozens of ticks, we thought at first, all over her. It later proved to be closer to hundreds.

The next two hours were spent in careful, painstaking tick removal from our precious six-year-old girl. We were so, so thankful for the haircut earlier – her hair is incredibly thick, and it was hard enough checking it with its new short cut. I don’t think we would have gotten through it had it been long.

After we got all the ticks off her and she was showered, I checked Grace again, out of paranoia. And glad I am I did, because we had to pull two off of her, and then she got a shower as well. And then I pulled some off Carl, and he pulled some off me (“And I didn’t even GO outside!” I said in outrage.) Supper was eaten in shifts, the girls got to bed an hour and half past their usual bedtime, and Carl and I ended up scrubbing the tub out with bleach around 11:30, followed by him pulling one final tick off my leg.

So very much not how we had planned our evening.

But we had to laugh, once it was done. Isn’t that life? You want to have a special, sentimental day, and instead you’re scrubbing on your hands and knees close to midnight, trying not to breathe because your husband went a little overboard on the Clorox, wondering if you are going to be paranoid all night long about every little itch or odd feeling on your body.

(The answer to that last question, by the way, is yes.)

We encountered fire ants on our honeymoon, ten years ago. A couple days before Joy’s first birthday, back in PA, Carl found out we had to move to Albany or he would lose his job. Living in Albany, we were in the process of moving to a bigger, happier house – in the midst of painting the new place, as a matter of fact, and Mom was visiting us to help, and she and I had discovered a bat stuck in the master bedroom window – when Carl did lose his job over refusing to compromise his personal integrity.

He walked in the house, I asked him if he was OK, he said yes, actually, this was the best thing to happen to him in years, and I said Great, can you come get rid of the bat in the bedroom window?

This is our life. It’s never going to be a glossy magazine spread, pretty soft pictures and sentimental moments. It’s a whole lot messier than that, and so much richer.

So it was only fitting, I suppose, that our special anniversary dinner-and-evening be derailed by the grim, horrific, tedious task of removing disgusting, dangerous tiny bugs from our child’s body.

And the special moment? All of us curled up together, and Grace’s little voice piping a prayer of thankfulness that we got all the ticks off and her sister wasn’t going to get sick. Not the moment we had planned, but a more beautiful memory from my tenth anniversary I cannot imagine.

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