My newlywed husband said the same thing every morning. "You're beautiful today."
One glance in the mirror revealed that it was far from the truth.
A skinny girl with mashed hair on one side of her head and no makeup smiled back at me. I could feel my sticky morning breath.
"Liar," I shot back with a grin.
It was my usual response. My mother's first husband was not a kind man and the harsh words we heard growing up took root. I had trouble seeing myself as someone of value. I had been married two years when I surprised myself. My husband wrapped his arms around me and told me I was beautiful.
"Thank you," I said.
The same thin girl with the mousy brown hair still stared back at me in the mirror, but somehow the words had finally blossomed in my heart.
A lot of years have passed. My husband has grey in his hair. I'm no longer skinny. Last week I woke up and my husband's face was inches from mine.
"What are you doing?" I asked.
I covered my mouth, trying to hide my morning breath. He reached down and kissed my face.
"What I do every morning," he said.
He leaves in the early hours of the morning while I sleep. When he left, I rolled over and hugged my pillow. I envisioned the picture of me lightly snoring with my mouth open and giggled.
What a man! My husband understands my past. He's been beside me as I've grown from an unsure young girl to a confident woman, mother, speaker and author.
But I'm not sure that he understands the part he played in that transition. The words I heard growing up pierced my soul, yet his words pierced even deeper.
This Anniversary Day I plan to wake early. I want to tell Richard how much I love him. He may look in the mirror and see an extra pound or two, or wish for the day when his hair was dark and curly, but all I'll see is the man who saw something in me when I couldn't see it myself, and who leaves butterfly kisses, even after twenty three years of marriage.