This tube of toothpaste.
It’s good toothpaste, the kind that promises whiter teeth and cleaner gums and fresh, minty breath. It’s been in the fancy little holder beside our sink for the last two weeks now. It’s been mashed, pinched, folded, and squeezed. I’ve even punched it once.
There is an unwritten rule between my wife and I that whoever brushes their teeth first takes the time to lather up the other’s toothbrush, too. It’s one of those tiny but appreciated acts of service upon which marriages tend to thrive. While doing so one night last week, I noticed the tube was nearing the end of its usefulness. I had to roll the bottom up to cover my toothbrush, and then roll it up more to cover hers.
“Toothpaste’s getting low,” I told her.
“Okay,” she said.
When my wife went first the next morning, she had to roll and squeeze a little more. “Toothpaste’s almost out,” she said to me afterwards.
“Okay,” I said.
And that’s how it started. Every morning and every evening we went through the same routine, and our tube of toothpaste kept shrinking. “Toothpaste’s getting low,” we would say to each other. “Okay,” we both would answer.
It’s become the sort of entertainment that two people who have known one another for a third of their lives can appreciate. Small things, not big ones, give us the most laughs. And our fight to not be the one who breaks down and finally throws the toothpaste away has given us plenty to laugh about.
This morning, I had to both grimace and hold my breath to get any toothpaste out. Just enough, I noticed, for one person.
I looked at my blue and white toothbrush, then at her purple one. I put it on mine. I know, I know, bad husband. But she had done the same to me last night.
My wife swears she will not be the one to give in. And I have promised the same thing, though I’m secretly in talks with the kids to throw the thing away for us. I’m tired of having to go through an entire workout just to brush my teeth.
Is this whole thing a little comical? Yes. Is it ridiculous? No.
Because there is something else going on here. Something deeper.
Being a husband or a wife is work, no doubt about it. Hard work. And when that husband becomes a father and that wife a mother? Harder work.
I labor all day at one job and then come home to another, one that involves a wide range of skills. At home, my title is among other things Lego Builder, Homework Helper, Vehicle Mechanic, House Fixer, and Grounds Supervisor.
My wife has it just as bad. She’s a teacher during the day, and also at night. Add to that Cook, Housekeeper, Confidant, Rocking Chair Attendant, Bed Tucker, and Boo-Boo Healer.
We each have a lot of responsibilities around the house. Maybe too many. Adding Empty Toothpaste Tube Chucker would probably put us over the top. We would collapse under the pressure.
Tonight, in the quiet hours just after tucking the kids in and just before tucking ourselves, my wife and I together picked up the tube of toothpaste and dropped it into the trash. Then, after retrieving a new one from the cabinet, I put toothpaste on her brush and she repeated for me.
We both need a little recognition for the things we do. A little thanks for those little jobs that keep our little lives running smoothly. That she or I will be there is a given, but that’s not reason to take each other for granted. Yet that’s what we do sometimes.
That’s what we all do sometimes.