“We look so young…what happened?”
I asked this question over and over as we lie in bed last night flipping the pages of our wedding album. We were up far too late; our “bed time” a distant memory at that point. We had spent the evening cleaning and organizing, not just because it needed to be done, but because the cleaning company was coming the next day, to do the very thing we were doing that evening, and we just couldn’t let them see our house in this condition. We can’t have the cleaning company thinking we were dirty AND lazy. Cleaning up for a cleaning crew – our lives, our marriage, our parenting, is nothing if not ironic.
Most days we at least recognize the silliness and absurdity of our actions, yet sadly, we continue on; sacrificing time with each other to perpetuate an idea, an image, a fallacy born from the fake looking glass that is social media. The image that we have our shit together, even just a little. We both see it, and we hate it, yet at times continue to shovel the bullshit required to ensure our grass looks green enough. As working parents of two children, burning the midnight oil for chores, working on side projects, or when one of us occasionally leave the house to invest in some personal well being, has become more familiar than the quiet quality time with each other we mutually crave. Because…shoveling, shoveling.
Comments like, “I’m going to keep working on this; I’ll see you in the morning” or “Hold on, let me answer these few emails” are more commonplace 8 years into married life than what use to be time spent wrapped in each other’s arms, asking about each other’s day, or talking about some random story (that part was mostly me).
But let’s be honest, we’ve never been that couple. The couple that you hear about, or see in movies or on TV. The couple who lie there, after having the perfect married coitus, in somehow their still perfectly made bed, in their perfect house, with their perfect lives, talking about how perfect their lives are, until they perfectly drift off to sleep, entangled in each other, not knowing where one ends and the other begins. To us, that is our worst nightmare. People like me (see: of the “well upholstered” variety) tend to get hot, and out of breath when someone is laying on them for longer than a few minutes at a time, not to mention how quickly my arm falls asleep. On the other hand, people like you (see: “can be awoken by a cricket yawning”) tend not to enjoy having someone snore in their face. Instead we, as you so eloquently put it, “Need our space.”
But, last night…last night we broke this cycle. The cycle that not just us, but many couples, follow – the cycle of being tired, grown up, responsible for other….married. We quietly helped each other clean the house, finishing and jointly collapsing on the bed together, falling into a place rarely visited anymore, but very familiar; side by side, with my arms wrapped around you, and your head on my chest and your neck and shoulder in the crook of my armpit. A place you have long called, “Your nook”.
You reached over the side of the bed and pulled up our wedding album, cradling it gently as if it were our first child, now 8 years old. “I thought we could look through this together” you say with a fair amount of uncertainty, almost as if you’re unsure I want to join you. I sense that hesitation, but am more than happy to join you in the trip down memory lane.
It doesn’t take long before we begin to feel the weight of 8 years. Our wedding album, filled with pictures of joy and happiness. Pictures of a week spent in beautiful Concord, MA, surrounded by those who care(d) for us.
Our wedding album, also filled with a bit of sorrow as page turn by page turn we catch glimpses of pictures of couples who look so happy, but are now divorced. And pictures of loved ones who have passed away; reminding us life is fleeting.
Our wedding album, not filled with, but contains one last ingredient – a dab of regret. Not regret of having the wedding, but instead, regret for not having the wedding you wanted; THE wedding you dreamed of. Regret of not being who you are today, back then. The strong, confident woman who refuses to be accept anything less than what makes you happy. The individual who will never again stay silent when her needs/happiness are at stake. The person that our daughter will no doubt grow to see as a role model, and our son will see as a the woman who helps him become a good man.
As we lie there in silence, staring at the pictures of our ceremony, I feel the uneasy energy between us, almost like it’s trying to claw it’s way out of your body. “What’s wrong? You ok?” I ask. As cliche as it sounds, your silence is deafening. It feel like it’s hours later when you finally speak; although it has only been seconds. Right before I hear the first syllable escape your lips, now slightly quivering, I feel the sensation of a warm tear on my chest as you say, “Promise me we’ll renew our vows. And when we do, we do it our way…even if that means it’s just us there.”
Being who I am, I burn with a fire for knowledge, to dig into your comment, to ask why you’re crying, what did that mean. But, before I can, I remember the warm sensation on my chest – it’s still there, but it’s now burrowed it’s way deeper, penetrating my heart like needle filled with morphine, with a single goal to jump-start life. I stop…then say, “You’re damn right we will.” I pull you in tighter, almost as if I am trying to absorb you, to forever become one. I feel closer to you in a moment of regret, than I ever have in our entire relationship…minus the two occasions I witnessed you bring life into the world.
We continue on, reaching a picture of us reciting the amazing Blessing of the Hands reading you found and insisted we do in our ceremony. The reading is by Rev. Daniel L. Harris and accurately conveys the importance of one’s hands in marriage.
These are the hands of your best friend, young and strong and full of love for you, that are holding yours on your wedding day, as you promise to love each other today, tomorrow, and forever.
These are the hands that will work alongside yours, as together you build your future.
These are the hands that will passionately love you and cherish you through the years, and with the slightest touch, will comfort you like no other.
These are the hands that will hold you when fear or grief fills your mind.
These are the hands that will countless times wipe the tears from your eyes; tears of sorrow, and tears of joy.
These are the hands that will tenderly hold your children.
These are the hands that will help you to hold your family as one.
These are the hands that will give you strength when you need it.
And lastly, these are the hands that even when wrinkled and aged, will still be reaching for yours, still giving you the same unspoken tenderness with just a touch.
This time, we both share tears with each other. Tears because we’re reminded how important these words are, reminded how we’ve come up short in honoring these words and each other, but also reminded that we’re still holding on with everything we have. No words are spoken…because we already know what each other feels in this moment – one of the bonuses of being married to your soulmate. We clasp hands finally, and I break the silence saying, “We need to read this more often,” to which you more than agree.
“We look so young…what happened?” I say as we look at the final picture of us walking down the aisle, hand in hand, not having a single clue what the future holds. “Life happened my love…life happened.”
I know exactly what you mean. From time to time we jokingly say about picture from the beginning of our relationship that we don’t even recognize those people. While said in jest, there is truth there. 8 years was a lifetime ago. We don’t recognize those people, because, thankfully, we no longer ARE those people. We’ve grown, changed, and aged together. We’ve built a home and a family, that at times, we’ve foolishly attempted to tear to the ground. But, in the end, we’ve remained; hand in hand.
We look up to see it is now past midnight. I can’t remember the last time we stayed up this late, together. It’s no longer the day before, but now the day of our anniversary. You smile the same smile I fell madly in love with 11 years ago. The moment when you walked into my office at our place of work, and somehow I felt like I just saw my future. The moment I gazed so long, too long, that I also got to watch you leave.
“Happy anniversary my love,” you say as you lean in and kiss me. I all too happy return the sentiment, but also feel compelled to tell you what you, what our kids, what our home, what us, means to me. In this moment I feel the most open and vulnerable I have ever felt. Then…silence.
We lie together for a few more minutes before we both realize we’re too old to be awake this late, but that we both did it on purpose in order to share this moment. We don’t speak on it, or feel the need to name the moment, because in that moment, there we are. together, whole…complete. Like two puzzle pieces that were hand carved from only the finest pieces of crazy; we fit….perfectly.