Tomorrow we drive to another University town in New Hampshire to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of DH’s much-beloved Aunt and Uncle. Their three children and six grandchildren have conspired to throw a party that promises to be tender, elegant, and raucous at different moments of the evening. Much like the two parties in the marriage itself.
I remain in awe of couples who create a long and rich life, dedicated to the many elements of their lives together: their sticky web of family relationships, their distinct individual professional and creative lives, and their relationship as just two. In its everyday incarnation, a long marriage like this inevitably has plenty of rough patches, conflict, and inelegant moments; but seeing it from the outside, as a deeply interested observer, their balancing act looks like a blessing and a miracle.
It’s not quite as impressive a feat, but tomorrow DH and I will mark our own 16th wedding anniversary. We will go out for dinner together this evening, courtesy of the generosity of grandparental babysitting. But we’ll spend tomorrow basking in the spillover of Summer light emanating from a much longer union. We will bask in their light even if it pours rain as the forecast has promised.
This fall will mark twenty-two years from the day I first fell in love with DH. He took me up to his grandmother’s farmhouse in Vermont on Columbus Day weekend, and I was a goner the second his big black Mercury wagon crossed the rickety bridge. Before we arrived there, I was already spectacularly smitten with him. But seeing him there at the house sealed the deal. The old white house sat on a rise in the blaze of early October leaves, and it sent out a message I had been primed my whole life to find. This was stability. It was warmth. It was real. This man came from a family that knows a thing or two about love, and I would be safe there with him.
I suppose some women fall in love with eyes, or pecs, or IQ, or a really sweet ride. For me, it has always been a house — the older and homier the better. The product of so many happy ones myself, I knew a good one when I saw it. DH has turned out to be the very embodiment of that house (that is, if one of the bedrooms was hung with rock concert posters instead of delicately flocked wallpaper.)
Since then, he and I have lived in a pretty wide-ranging series of places together and apart. We lived in different states for four years after college, then occupied a series of indifferent student rental apartments Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Michigan. Those apartments had weird roommates, strange bugs, oddball landlords, and occasional break-ins. Then, fourteen years ago, Brooklyn became our first real home. There, we had our two kids, worked like crazy at our two jobs, and made new friends we adore and who take amazing care of us.
But then came our magical two years of self-induced dis-equillibrium. We quit our jobs, sold one house, and packed up another. We lived in a list of places I detailed on the right hand side of my old blog, sleeping in at least forty different locations. We didn’t work. (Or, more accurately, we worked on various things, yet failed to earn any money for our work.)
Instead, we focused on the sticky web of our family, and on connecting more fully with each other. We turned away from our life as two professionals, and focused on the project of teaching and supporting our kids and building a stronger foundation for the four of us, rather than professional success for the two of us.
This turn of events is not what I planned for my life, but it’s the path we’ve forged together. If you had asked me as a young feminist whether I would ever quit my work life for my family, I would have scoffed at you in a most certain and self-important way.
My scoffing days are over.
On Monday, DH heads off to a pretty terrific new job. If he would let me write about him here in greater specifics, I would tell you all about it. (If you know me, just email and I’ll bore you with every detail.) Suffice it to say that he gets to have a big impact on the world AND gets to be a big cheese. I know he’s going to be amazing.
But boy, am I going to miss him. I will miss our lunches of leftovers. I will miss bickering with him about whether and when we’re going to get those darn leaky windows fixed. I will miss taking off with him for a class of competitive Hatha yoga (he and I were the only ones in the class competing, of course.) I will miss hearing him play scales on his electric bass while I work on my book. I will miss our long talks in which we tried to figure out how to be better parents, how to be better friends and better connect to our families, and how he could start his own nonprofit organization (on hiatus for now, while he takes on this other big new job.)
Coming back home has been great for the girls and for me, but this year hasn’t necessarily been easy for DH. It’s hard on one’s ego to try out a whole bunch of possibilities on the path to get to the right one; good thing his ego is rather sturdy. But I firmly believe that all this searching he’s done, with the three of us cheering him on from the sidelines, has helped the four of us weave ourselves closer together. We’re no longer four people pulling aggressively in four different directions.
Twenty two years ago I first kissed the man who would become my everything. Sixteen years ago I was lucky enough to marry him. Thirteen years ago I gave him a photo from my first ultrasound, at a picnic in Prospect Park. Ten years ago, we moved into our now-and-forever house, me enormously pregnant already at five months. Two years ago, we chucked it all up in the air to see where our lives would fall. Last year, we found ourselves back home, unsure of what the future would bring. And tomorrow, on our sixteenth anniversary, we celebrate the enduring love of just one of our many role model marriages. I can’t imagine a better place to be.
I am certainly among the luckiest women in the world. I will love watching you take on this new chapter, DH.
And Happy Anniversary.