Love Birds: Nathaniel and Kelsey

On Wife Appreciation Day, Mr. Canary Emphasizes the Importance of Self-care

Every third-Sunday of September is set aside for husbands to dote on their wives. Could this celebration be more ironic!? Because, just like every day married life in which we husbands forget to show our gratitude until those “pre-defined moments,” here again we have relegated our “thankfulness” to one single, solitary day. A wife is, more often than not, the heart of her family. A wife, who is also a mother, is constantly caring for her family and not always taking care of herself. And, like an actual heart, it is all too easy to take her life-sustaining efforts for granted, but she needs rest and to care for herself in order to keep beating. I know this husband has been known to take his wife for granted, a time or two. So, let me do some penance for that, by bragging about my incredible wife, Kelsey…

I met my wife, Kelsey, on my first day of second grade. I had been shuffled to a new elementary school, as part of school redistricting. If I’m being honest, I wasn’t thrilled at having to start all over again at this new elementary school. By my own estimation, I had spent Kindergarten and first grade becoming the third-most-popular boy in my grade, and a stand-out for the coveted “teacher’s pet” position. I was determined to plug-in right where I’d left off, so I was more than a little frustrated when the whole class had to spend the last 5 minutes of the school day listening to “the talented Miss Kelsey” play the piano. Seeing that the “teacher’s pet” role was already filled, I went home and conned my parents into transferring me to a different class under the guise of “not being challenged, academically.” Yes, you read that right. The day I met my wife, I transferred classes because I KNEW she was better than me.

While it might seem obvious all these years later that the joke was on me, THAT fact became clear the following school year. In third grade, Kelsey, myself, and two other students were grouped together to do some advanced coursework. So, I spent the 2000-2001 school year listening to Kelsey sing Britney Spears karaoke while we worked. We remained paired in that group throughout the rest of elementary school, and we became good “school” friends. I say “school” friends, because we usually didn’t talk outside of school, and we were never each other’s “crushes”. In middle school, we did start “IM’ing” each other on Yahoo Messenger (youths, Google it) outside of school, but we really were just good friends. Until Sophomore year of high school.

Sophomore year, in all of my vain, teenage-glory (when I rocked Harry Potter 4-hair) I realized that Kelsey was now a beautiful young woman. It was like the clouds had opened- (queue the heavenly-choir, “aaaaaahhhhhhhhhaaaa” music): here was a beautiful girl, top in her class, funny in that innocent/cute kind of way, and she was already one of my closest friends. We had literally “grown-up” together, so we already knew the best (and worst) in each other- and STILL, we liked being around each other!

It took me more than a year to convince Kelsey that we could be more than “just friends”. Nine-and-a-half years after I transferred classes to “get away from her,” Kelsey and I started dating our Junior year of high school. We went to college together, after I took a one-semester detour to another school. I proposed to Kelsey our Senior year of college, in that same second-grade classroom where I first met “the talented Miss Kelsey”. We were married just shy of 15 years from the day we met, and we recently celebrated the birth of our second child and our fifth wedding anniversary.

Today, Kelsey spends her days raising our two incredible daughters- our oldest is three and our baby is 2.5 months. Our oldest, Lily, is empathetic like her mom (as long as the ornery streak she inherited from me isn’t shining through), and our youngest is already showing signs of being sweet, just like Kels. Kelsey is truly the soul of our family, and all three of us need her if we are to be “centered” in our daily lives. I contribute in raising our daughters and maintaining our home (I renounce the pyramid-scheme that is the “free-loading husband/dad stereotype”), but even so, Kelsey’s days are longer than mine. She handles most days with grace, and even her worst days show her in a more-noble light than I can manage on my good days. She is the strength of our family, which is why it is so important for her to be able to have time, more than a day, devoted towards doing what she wants, so she can continue being the mother and wife we love.

Kelsey and I have been “together” for more than a decade, now. Together, we finished college. Together, we tackled “adulting”. Together, we are raising our children.  Together, we have grieved the loss of loved ones. And together, we have built a life we love and which gives us both purpose.

When I first met Kelsey, 20 years ago, I transferred classes because I was afraid I couldn’t rise to the challenge of meeting her at her level. Fate forced us back together (despite my efforts) and now I am blessed to be challenged every single day to rise above my own baseline. Simply living life alongside of my wife- my best friend, the mother of my children- challenges me to become a better man, each and every day. I am better for it, and she is a saint for having patience with me as I work to “get there.” Thank you, my dear wife; for all that you are, and all that you do.

Author: Nathan Odell

Published: September 15, 2019