On August 17th, 1996, the wedding videographer pulls me aside, asks if I’d like to record a few words to my future husband. An English teacher and aspiring writer, I am confident; but I overdo it, trying hard to win at romance. I gush some flowery lines I no longer remember. Watching the video for the first time, I await his message to me. He appears on screen wearing a tuxedo and an uncomfortable grin.
His laughter’s an apology.
“See you at the church,” he says.
The Monday after our wedding, he leaves for two weeks to train for a new job. There will be no honeymoon. Instead we use what money we’ve scraped together for a down payment on a house. We’ll take a trip on our one-year anniversary, we say. Three months later, two lines appear on the EPT stick and we spend our first anniversary at home with our son.
We decide it’s a worthy trade.
Enter the rollercoaster. A baby girl. One new house. Several job changes. We get a dog. There are illnesses, births, deaths. Friendships ebb and flow. Couples we love get divorced. We seek joy and have fights. Extend grace to each other in a thousand small ways and a few ways so big they could’ve been impossible.
The masks are down then, our bad habits unearthed. But the people we’re becoming remain okay with each other. I try to stop nagging him for leaving the television and lights on but I don’t stop nagging and he puts up with it. He puts up with my constant talking, too. talktalktalk. And my anxieties. The fact that I’d like to be spontaneous but I’m not.
We enjoy HGTV and wine tasting. We’re a cliche. We are unique.
We get another dog.
For our 15th anniversary we consider Hawaii. Maybe we’ll renew our vows. Maybe we’ll take the kids. But we don’t fly to Hawaii and so it goes. There is always some other thing demanding our time and money. And as it turns out, we don’t need jewelry, vacations or grand gestures. We do need a new washing machine. We want another dog. We hope to send our kids to college.
A glass of wine together in the backyard is good.
This silver lining emerges alongside the truth that we’ll never be any younger than we are: the quiet certainty we are it for each other. Against all odds and statistics warning otherwise, I’m sure in a way I couldn’t be when I was 27. I’ll take the encroaching grays and wrinkles in exchange for such great comfort. It is everything. I wish everyone were this lucky to have a love so sure.
I know some aren’t.
Our 20th anniversary approaches and we choose (again) not to spend money on gifts. On a sunny Saturday morning, with no plan in place, we drive to Santa Ynez. Los Olivos. Solvang. In these lovely places we wine taste and laugh. We talk about the future and about our past, marveling at our great fortune. Later, we find the last available hotel room in nearby Buellton.
The window overlooks a freeway entrance and exit. It’s not fancy. I am glad.
Finally, after 7,305 days, we arrive here. August 17th, 2016. As of this morning, I’ve been waking up beside this good man for twenty years. And on the last morning—on my last morning—I plan to wake up this way too.
To Bill who is my favorite:
Roses are red,
Violets are blue,
See you at the church.