It is the eve of my wedding anniversary.
Three 85-inch wood tables stand foot-to-foot along the pavement of our backyard, forming a line from mulberry tree to mulberry tree. The rich tones of the wood play in my mind as I mentally, meticulously, lay pomegranate blossoms, English ivy, and boxwood together to form a garland runner. I place candles, but not too early, lest the California sun melt the beeswax into an unburnable mess oozing out upon that rented wood. I plan the menu, the plating, rearrange the seating, all within the comfort of my bed, waking too early, too full of excitement to sleep any longer.
Now we come to ten years, a less common milestone in a society today. “Doesn’t it feel like it was just yesterday?” a stranger asks.
There have been too many children, too many losses and too many homes for it to feel like just yesterday.
Were it just yesterday,
I would still be in that blushing stage of the bridal wreath. Timidly approaching conversations with my husband in order to be tactful, caring, and gage his responses, adjusting my responses accordingly, should I need to call him out or call him on, as wives are apt to do. Instead, after ten years, life sometimes demands too much from me to give all my energy to these conversations. I do my best to be charitable; and it falls upon him to be stronger, tougher, and more proactive than I gave him credit for in the beginning. We are partners.
Were it just yesterday, I might feel the insecurity of being a new mother, wondering if this or that approach to parenting will make or break this child of mine. Instead, after ten years, I know that parenting is an ongoing task, one that is not determined by the individual interactions but the sum of our lives with these children; that apologies can count sometimes count more than getting it right all the time, and that when I am in need, the little people in my life can show their quality as tender individuals capable of loving others and not just receiving love themselves.
Were it just yesterday, I might look on a future full of plans, linear plans, in which we decide what we want, we lay out the steps on how to get there, we create action plans and we celebrate our successes. Instead, after ten years, I see a future full of possibility knowing that no matter how much we plan, things could change radically. One job, one unexpected viewing of a home, one particularly special child can bend the road in such a way that everything we imagined would happen is no longer on the map.
Yet in those unexpected twists and turns of life, new possibilities emerge.
Things that seemed like childhood dreams or the dreams of just yesterday become reality; a home with five children, configured a bit differently than I imagined; a place in the country that provides a new opportunity in patience because there is not one bit of grass seed in that massive yard; a connection to my spouse that comes not just from attraction, interests and values in common, but in the glory of having lives built together through shared suffering. We have built a world around a commitment for life in which our children are the fruit and our home is the physical space, where we hope to invite others to visit and hopefully find some good that they can take from it.
The invitations mailed and tables outside in their setting under the mulberry trees stand as a symbol of how our lives have evolved and expanded.
I do not present these ten years as a time to boast, but rather with gratitude in the face of a life begun and a life continued on this shared journey where happiness cannot be sought for its own sake, but two partners in love can go on this path with laughter, dancing, classic movie quotes, and the understanding that we do not have to do it alone.