When I was a bride, I had a wedding "trousseau," a kind of bridal bonanza of stuff: pots and pans and linens and luggage.

But it also included what I considered the best part: lingerie - nightgowns made of filmy, floaty fabrics in lush colors like baby blue and peach, and even one clingy black one.

For a brief blink of time, I felt like a Hollywood starlet.

Then along came real life: mortgages, taxes, head colds, compromise, trips to the hardware store for ant traps - and kids.

My starlet days were finite.

Ultimately, our three daughters seized those nightgowns for their dress-up trunk, and, in time, our granddaughters discovered them and did the same.

My husband's early-marriage bedtime attire fared even worse. He had a couple of tailored bathrobes, and some pajamas in wonderful plaids that picked up the auburn in his hair way back then.

They have completely disappeared along the way, along with the auburn hair, now silver.

One of the things about marriage - long marriage, especially - is how steadily and yet stealthily things change. And that includes bedtime attire and rituals.

These days, my bedtime "trousseau" consists of long johns washed and dried so often the material has been reduced to a paper-thin layer of flannel, mismatched pajama bottoms and tops that are my nighttime version of comfort food, and a once-quilted bathrobe of now indeterminate color, somewhere between pink and beige.

For spring and summer, the bedtime wardrobe shifts to shirts and shorts that bear the names of our daughters' colleges, and charity events in which we've participated. We look like urchin characters in a Dickens novel.

And then there are the bedtime rituals we must attend to, our hands meeting romantically at the bulging bathroom medicine chest so overloaded it barely closes.

"Don't forget your statin," one of us will remind the other as we jockey for space at the sink. "Where's the Advil?" is another rallying cry.

This sacred space has been transformed into an overloaded pharmacy dispensary, with those horrible printed inserts spilling out about possible side effects and allergic reactions.

Together, we rummage through the preparations for skin, heels, elbows, tummies, colds, coughs, and mysterious viruses.

There is not just brushing, but flossing with the gloom of the periodontist echoing in our ears about the condition of the Friedman gums.

Sometimes, there is the need to minister to strains, sprains, pulled muscles, and tricky backs, so his-and-hers heating pads are now in the armamentarium.

In the bedroom itself, there are newspapers and magazines piled sky-high on the night tables, one of which also contains a white-noise machine for the resident insomniac - me.

There is the humidifier to plug in.

There are pillows to sort by depth and filling - our pillow tastes are, alas, as variable as our tastes in food.

And there is the final sigh about the damn bedroom shade that somehow refuses to stay put in the dark of night, and when we'll call the shade guy to have a look.

There may be some nudges about his snoring, and my need to run our ceiling fan in all seasons because I am permanently overheated.

And we argue over old and dumb issues along with some new ones, certain that even after decades, we can help the other to see the light.

But then there's also this:

The man who has been by my side for 55 years is still there.

And if I have a bad dream, and nudge him to hold me, he does. And if it's thundering, ditto.

My guy is there to remind me that long marriage, with all its compromises and all its disenchantments, is still a haven for two imperfect people who will wake up in the morning and know this is where we belong.