Wednesday, July 6, 2011


Twenty years ago I was walking down the aisle, young, blonde, slim in my sparkly white gown. I was concerned with making sure the order of service went smoothly. I was smiling at the friends and family that had come to witness. I was happy. I was in love--wildly in love.

Twenty years later, there is no aisle. I am no longer young, blonde, or slim and the closest I've come to a sparkly white gown is sparkly white earrings or sparkling white wine. I am happy. And I love. But I am not wildly in love like I once was.

Twenty years has a way of mellowing even the most intense emotions. Twenty years has pushed and pulled us; smoothed our rough edges and softened our hard lines. There is no way to be with someone for twenty years and be unchanged. It is impossible to be static in a relationship. We take turns changing, being the needy one, being the strong one, being the pusher or the one being pushed. We have started to resemble each other in some ways and in others we have gained our own distinct uniqueness. It is pretty much as you would expect after twenty years. When I imagined my life twenty years after exchanging vows, I could see it pretty much as it is now--a deep sense of comfort with my mate, children who bring me joy, a home that makes me happy.

But if that twenty-three year old bride could have peered into the future and seen the things that brought us here--underemployment, unemployment, the birth of four children, the loss of a child, raging arguments over religion, bouts of unrest and mild depression, concern over aging parents, financial worries--she might not have been grinning as she walked down the aisle.

But! If that twenty-three year old bride could have peered into the future, she would have also seen something else: herself as a married woman. Not a new bride wildly in love, but a woman who has loved deeply and has herself been deeply loved. A woman who has cherished the bits and pieces and messiness that is her day-to-day life. That young bride would have seen a deep contentment with the man she chose--a man who has been her strength; a man who rented awful SuperDave movies to try to get her broken heart to laugh; a man who rocked screaming children and offered pinkies as pacifiers when she was exhausted to the bone; a man who has laughed with her late at night--laughed until tears streamed down both their cheeks--over ridiculously silly things; a man who has worked--worked hard and travelled thousands of miles and missed milestones that it hurt him to miss-- to provide financial security and give a comfortable home to his family; a man whose family causes him to puff up with pride and who is certain that his is the best family on the planet.

And she would have seen herself lose herself. She would have seen her lose herself to her job. Then lose herself to her children. She would have seen a woman so lost that she felt invisible and unimportant. But if she looked longer, she would have seen that woman find herself again. She would have seen that woman find the things that matter most to her and cling to them until they pulled her back to safety.

If that young bride could have peered into the future, she might have had second thoughts. And that would have been as it should be. As it said in the vows, 'marriage is not to be entered into unadvisedly or lightly.' Weddings are easy. Marriage is hard, hard stuff. But I believe if that young bride had seen the future, she would have taken her parents' arms anyway. She would still have walked down that aisle to meet the tall, dark-haired, handsome groom, despite the hardships and the trials and the tears and the work.

She would have done it, because she would have also seen the joy--the deep, abiding, unfettered joy that she would have from walking down that aisle and saying "I do."

I am not young or blonde or slim. I am not wildly in love. Generally I find that my fluctuations about anything these days tend to be less fluctuating than they once were, but more of a gentle swaying, a sense that I have found the sweet spot between the waves. No, I am not wildly in love. But I love. I have loved for twenty years. I have seen the past and it is good. It is what has made me, him, us--who we are. It is good enough to say "I do" for the next twenty--and all those that come after.

Happy 20th anniversary to my beloved, who still makes me laugh, still kisses me until I'm weak-kneed, and is still the one I want next to me when the sausage hits the fan.

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