Today is our 21st anniversary…
“The birthday of our family,” as Ezra so eloquently puts it.
This picture… the one at the top… it makes me feel old… because… well… I am old, and I’m starting to look that way. And really, I’m okay with that. Why am I okay with that? Because I’ve earned every bit of it, and I’d much rather be where I am now than where I was in the next picture down. I know some stuff now. That’s worth the lines on my face.
I’m not great at writing about marriage.
Mostly because I’m not that great at doing it,either. At year one I felt quite certain about everything. By year five I remember thinking, “Five years is a long time, I think we’ve got this figured out now.” Ha. By year ten I was beginning to realize that no one ever figures anything out. By year fifteen. Well. That third quarter was… educational. By twenty, I still didn’t have marriage figured out, but at least I was beginning to figure myself out.
As I sit and stare at these photos and ponder what I have to say… the only thing that comes to mind is a quote from one of my favourite Game of Thrones characters, Ygritte, who is forever saying, “You know nothing, John Snow.”
Here’s what I do know:
I lucked into my husband.
I say lucked, because clearly, at 19 years old, no one has a damned clue; and I certainly didn’t. He’s everything a girl could hope for: solid, steady, hard working, non-substance abusing, patient to a fault, quiet hearted, adventurous, kick-ass, lion-heart brave, a great dancer and hilarious. Okay, he’s not a great dancer, but he’s a great dancer with me, in the kitchen, when no one is watching. And he’s a great dancer to really, extraordinarily bad karaoke, sung by drunk Koreans somewhere on the border of Thailand and Myanmar, but that’s another story.
He is, perhaps, the one man on the planet who could put up with my rodeo. I am not, in a word, an easy girl to get your hands around, much less keep them around. I’m slippery, by times. I’m impulsive. I’m passionate to the point of being a serious pain in the rear on occasion. And I have a million hair brained schemes up my sleeve that I’m sure are a GREAT idea. Like racing rickshaws across India. Yep. That’s next.
He has, very graciously, grown with me instead of away from me. I’ve done my best to do the same, but often, my best is not very good. His best is very, very good. For that, I am eternally grateful. He’s given me his life, but more importantly, he’s given me mine as well, with an open hand. If anything made me love him, keeps me loving him, it is that.
He protects me. Sounds a little old fashioned, doesn’t it? I will say that it took him a good decade to wear me down on this point. I could take care of myself, thank you very much. I did not want doors opened or meals paid for. I did not want, or need, to be rescued. He smiled patiently, opened doors, pumped gas, brought me tea in bed, paid for meals and listened to me rant, until I got over myself and admitted that I love it. Mostly he protects me from our spawn.
When the children were little and I was exhausted he’d roll in from god knows what kind of awful five-day-sleepless-night-road-trip, and hit the door slinging kids. He was known, on a somewhat regular basis, to appear in the kitchen and grab two boys by the backs of their overalls (toddler uniform at our house) and literally toss them, like dwarves, toward the living room with a non-negotiable, “GET OFF YOUR MOTHER! Give the woman some space!” Every night, for about a decade (the decade that I was pregnant, nursing and drowning in elves) he sent me to the bath tub every single night after dinner and managed the dinner clean up and bedtime rodeo himself. It was a rodeo, I assure you. Sometimes I had to put my head under the bath water to avoid the soundtrack.
He adventures with me. I like this. I would not make (did not make) a particularly good caged bird. Early motherhood and the logistical confines that go with it were trying to my nerves. I need to explore. Toddlers are not conducive to this. Especially when you have as many as we had at one point. Four under four was more than a bit mad. It was his idea to hit the road on bicycles. He carries his weight and as much of mine as he can manage, as well. He’s not one of these guys that is like having a fifth kid. Nope. He’s out in front, getting shit done. I like that.
He lets me do my thing. This is important. If he did not, I don’t think we’d still be married. Sometimes, I need to run away and join the circus. Or walk across Spain, or something. I need to hitchhike around the lago, or climb a volcano, or go spend a week in a cottage with my friend, or take my Mom and Hannah to Peru. I just have to, or I’d go nuts and jump off of something high. He gets this about me. I don’t think he always loves it, but he gets it. And he lets me go. More than letting me go, he supports it, even when it means a month of being trapped in a fishing cottage alone with Ezra. Trust me when I tell you that is not a small thing.
He is a relentless lover of me, even when I make that as difficult as I can possibly think of how to. Honestly, I don’t try to make it that hard, but if you knew the inside of my head, you wouldn’t believe me. He gets me, even when I don’t get me. He views me as his gift and a privilege to care for. I know this, because he’s told me as much. He doesn’t care if I work, but supports any and all work that I decide to throw myself into. His greatest interest is my comfort and happiness. I know this because he brings me tea almost every morning in bed, and a glass of wine every afternoon. Just now, while I was sitting to write this, he appeared with a gin and tonic and a smile. 21 years in, he still thinks of me first, fifty times a day. Who gets that? I told you: I lucked into him.
Today, we celebrate 21 years. That’s not a small thing, but it’s not even half way to a big thing, really. I’ll consider 50 a big thing. I thought long and hard about what, if anything, I wanted to post on the blog for today. I decided it might be fun to share 21 years in 21 pictures. From before we were married to this year. I hope you enjoy them. There is, however, something more to say, and it’s important to me, because I hate when people put a shiny face on everything and pretend that life is perfect.
Life is not perfect.
There’s no way in heck that 21 years could be perfect.
You’ll scroll through these pictures and smile at a series of sweet moments. When I scroll through these pictures, I see a series of stories, and back stories and things I could never do justice to: the beautiful, and the soul-searingly painful. There’s one in which my eyes tell a story that the picture doesn’t. My heart was a chasm that year. In another, I have been weeping of heartbreak within minutes of a beautiful moment being captured on film. In another, everything looks perfect, but our world was falling apart. Neither of us knew if we could keep pulling the rabbit out of the hat and do this any more. It’s important to me to be real about that. No one has a perfect life. We’re no exception. Our grass is not greener.
The traditional wedding vows… for richer or for poorer, in sickness and in health, in good times and in bad… yeah, no one knows what the heck they are promising when they repeat those words. We’ve done all of that, more deeply, on every side, than I could possibly have imagined on the day I wore that white dress. It hasn’t been easy, but I will say, that it’s been worth it. Very, very worth it. And the nice thing about weathering the first two decades is that a girl begins to get some perspective on what is possible and it occurs to her that the value, not just for us, but for generations above and below us, is worth all of the effort.
To my lovely husband, who is so much more than the boy I married, I simply say: “Thank you… for the love, for the laughter, for the wild ride, for continent spanning adventures and feats of death defying bravery, for being willing to take me as I am, and for being an optimist. 😉 Let’s race rickshaws across India for 21, shall we?”
21 Years in 21 Pictures:
Christmas, 1993. He proposed to me by our Christmas tree. He had proposed MANY times before. This time, he had a ring. This time, I said, “Yes.” (I said, “NO” a lot of times first!)
The spring before we married, in Indiana, I was 19, he was 22
I kind of hate this picture, but I can’t find the one where I’m shoving cake into his face with an evil glint in my eye.
We had babies. A LOT of babies. This one is Ezra, the fourth. I was 28, he was 31. I was at least as tired as I look!
Sometimes, we escaped the children and ran away to Mexico. (Except that this picture was taken by a six year old Gabe, so… not so much.)
And then, we REALLY lost our minds, sold our house and all of our stuff, quit a perfectly respectable job and decided to ride bicycles from London to North Africa and back. What were we thinking? This was taken in Koblenz, Germany.
I was tired for over a decade. On a train somewhere in Germany, I’m asleep, he is working. Note Ez passed out across the aisle
We get lost a lot. Like, really a lot. Usually it’s my fault. He’s sorting us out. Rome. Obviously.
This colosseum at El Jem, in Tunisia is WAY better than the one in Rome. You should go. We walked and talked for a long time. My parents were minding the kids (who were playing “Gladiators and Lions,”… the lions were winning… on the colosseum floor). My Dad took this photo.
The Man actually got a standing ovation on the street from a whole crowd of French for this one… Marseille… February… our lips nearly froze together. The children were mortified.
Plymouth, Massachusetts. American adventures.
The ruins of Monte Alban, outside of Oaxaca are some of my favorites. I climbed a tree and told myself stories for much of the afternoon while the children ran amok.
Belize… our friend Tracy Place took this photo. It’s one of my all time favorites. Kinda sums us up.
This is our favourite way to spend an afternoon on any continent. Guatemala. The first time.
More than occasionally, he man handles me. I get picked up, and tossed into kiddie pools in rainstorms on occasion. Just to remind me who’s bigger and who’s boss! 😉
Oregon. I was tired. He’d flown out to spend a long weekend during one of my 8 week, hair brained adventures without him.
Can you see the jet lag? Thailand, on a bus between… oh who the heck knows, south somewhere… headed to Khao Sok. We have a million versions of this picture. He sniffs me a lot.
Halloween, in Thailand… he went as a Roman something-or-other… I went as a green M&M. Again with the picking me up. This is what happens when you marry someone much bigger than yourself.
Hannah took this, without us knowing. We found it in the camera later. Akaroa, New Zealand. We hiked way up on Purple Peak. The view was spectacular in every direction.
And then… there was that time we were painted… naked.
The best moment of our cruise to Alaska last August, and my favourite recent picture of us. My feet were still blistered from the Camino.