A few days ago, Victor and I celebrated our third wedding anniversary. I love that the day–November 24th–is so near Thanksgiving. It’s one more joyful event in this season of celebrating and yet it comes well before the crowd-crush of Christmas. We marked the occasion with a cheese plate from the neighboring fromagerie–just like last year.
Unlike last year, we know the fromager and he knows us well enough to comment when Clara’s hair grows longer. Unlike last year, when our neighbors were strangers, this year they are treasured friends. We’ve helped each other move furniture, fix appliances, paint walls. We’ve taken care of each other’s children. We share butter, sugar, balsamic. Unlike last year, when we watched the occasional church service on YouTube, this year we are part of an actual church. And finally, unlike last year we are the parents of not only a daughter but also a son, who slept in his bassinet while we devoured the truffled Gouda.
In short, what we were celebrating with our third-anniversary cheese plate was not so much each other as it was the life and family and community we’ve managed to create. Together.
When I was younger, a dreamer with my nose always in YA fiction, I would occasionally save gorgeous white dresses and flower arrangements to my Pinterest boards, but if I didn’t think too much about weddings, I thought even less about actual marriage. In my immaturity, I thought that marriage was about finding a soulmate, the person that made you pretty much perfectly happy. You would feel constant infatuation. You would never be sad or heartbroken or lonely again. It didn’t matter that there was this niggling thought: I don’t know any adults like that. I don’t know any adult couples who seem infatuated with each other. It didn’t matter, because I knew the truth: they must have settled too soon. For me, it would be different. It would be Pinterest-perfect fairy lights and Earl Grey cupcakes and lavender garlands, but forever.
Sorry to spoil it for you but these ideas were wrong, all of them. It didn’t take long to discover that engagement, marriage, all of it, is no refuge from the entropy that touches all of human experience. Little stays perfect for long.
We’ve argued, we’ve fought, we’ve slammed doors. Definitely not perfect. Definitely not always happy. Still. So much good. I hadn’t expected how the blessing of marriage is not so much staring into each other’s eyes and forgetting the world, but rather helping each other engage more fully in the world. Looking back at these first years, I think about the struggles we’ve helped each other through: deep despair, homesickness, spiritual searching and job searching. Worrisome ultrasounds, the unbelievable trial of giving birth, the sleep deprivation of the newborn days. Loneliness. Disappointment. And I think about the fun we’ve so often had through and despite it all.
You can find us, on a typical Saturday, hauling groceries up to our third-floor apartment. No elevator. I’m carrying Silas in the Baby Bjorn and walking slowly behind Clara to ensure she doesn’t fall. I’ve got a bag of food in each hand. Victor has his arms absolutely loaded up with groceries, five or six bags. We both have regurgitated milk on our shirts. Silas is wailing and has been since the car, hungry. Clara is now sinking to the floor, the toddler’s signal for I’m frustrated and I don’t want to do this anymore. She joins Silas in a shriek because why shouldn’t she? I try to nudge her up the stairs so I can take the weight of Silas off my torso and breathe a sigh of relief, but it is like trying to motivate a mule.
We are both of us sweating. I’m probably shaking a little from low blood sugar–a trip to the store always takes longer than we think it will, and it’s well after noon now. We look at each other, raised eyebrows, and we grin. Maybe one of us quotes Psalm 127, says, deadpan: “children are a blessing from the Lord.” We both crack up. These days won’t last forever. Sometimes that reality seems like a relief, other times a great sadness. We keep slogging up those stairs. And we will arrive. And this is marriage, I have found: doing the hard, good things together and even having some fun while you do.