So it was seven years this past weekend. Seven years of marriage. Seven years, 3 kids, 3 houses, 5 moves, 2 major job changes. Lots of car accidents. Seven years doesn't seem like a long time to have accomplished all the aforementioned, but we did. We were on the fast track. Once we decided to officially "date," it was 6 months until he proposed and then another 6 months until we were married. Fast track. For the record, we were good friends for 5 years before we started dating.
So, how did we celebrate seven wonderful years of marital bliss? The way a couple who knows the rhythm of each other's heart beat would, who can tell their mood by the way an upper lip curves. The way a couple who knows the other so dearly and fit so seamlessly together would. The way those who are so inextricably intertwined that they cannot locate the juncture where one ends and the other begins. Cannot fathom a world without the other one in it...
We forgot. Well, for the first 25 minutes of the morning, as we sat in bed chatting. It was one of those rare occasions where Pink and Tink were playing in their rooms, having woke before us, and Rella was still zonked. He and I were talking, and I was telling a story and in the story I needed to remember how old CB was at the time of my story so I could make my point, and I said aloud "How long have we been married aga.... SH*T!!" It dawned on both of us and we cracked up and said in unison "Happy Anniversary!!"
We went to breakfast at our favorite diner with kids in tow... seated at opposite ends of the counter with 3 chestnut-colored heads bobbing between us. We then split up for the remainder of the day: He with the 2 middle girls who he took to see Toy Story 3, and I with Rella. The baby and I spent the early afternoon at Target then the pool, then took our 2 hour trek to Maryland to pick up CB. My husband and I ate dinner separately ... he a Hot Pocket after gorging on movie popcorn and I a quick bowl of cereal after returning home at 6:30 pm. He and the kids watched some Discovery Channel show and I picked up the house. The kids were in bed by 8:30. I read a book while he watched TV and we each drank one ceremonious beer. I fell asleep on him and we retired to bed at 10:00 pm.
This is high romance, I know. And I don't tell this story to engender pity or concern over the welfare of our humdrum marriage. The spark hasn't gone out. Just changed. Altered its light, like a sunbeam going through a prism, scattering incandescence everywhere it goes. Some say marriage kills a relationship. Some say it alters it into something less fiery and passionate. I say it does neither. It refracts the firelight of your love and passion onto your whole life and you become infused with each other. You grow together, love together, cry together, laugh together, dream and disappoint with each other. It becomes less romanticized and more real. But, as much as real can suck at times, real is where it's at. Everyone has to wake up from a dream. And what you have when you wake is realness. And who you have next to you, loving you, and letting you love them back is the back bone of it all.
What we enjoyed on our anniversary was being together as a family. True, there is nothing wrong with romantic dinners by candlelight and drinks by a fire, a babysitter, a bubble bath. And, our trip to Portland really was our "anniversary celebration" and joint gift. But on the day proper, we just lived our ordinary life and felt the extraordinary gift of it.
Through the day, we made reference to "Seven years ago today..." and talked about how I'd be putting on my dress about now or how at this very moment 7 years ago we'd be cutting the cake. We'd smile over the chaos of home life and I knew we were both remembering.
Our wedding day was particularly beautiful. Rather traditional... church followed by a very pretty reception site where many weddings are held... dancing... toasts... bouquet toss... but everyone there said it was one of the best weddings they've been to. I agreed, but I was biased. For me, the best part of the day was having CB be a part of it, if only briefly. All she could manage was a walk down the aisle with my sister. The sitter had to take her out of the ceremony early, but we anticipated that. She made it down the aisle in her beautiful white dress and though I didn't see it, I heard there wasn't a dry eye in the house. I know it was hard for her. I know, somewhere deep down, she did it for me.
As we greeted the guests filing out of the church, my Godmother/Aunt came up to us sobbing. She raised a son with Autism, now a young adult, and knew how special my husband was stepping into the role of step-father. She was likely the only one, aside from me, of 180 guests who actually understood his amazing heart.
When a man falls in love with a woman, it is easy. When a man makes a commitment to be with a woman forever, if that commitment is to be honored on both ends, it is hard but rewarding work. Much like the hard and rewarding work of child rearing, though you usually don't chose your children. You do chose your mate. And my husband chose both me AND my daughter. A daughter at age 8 who was already mired in special needs. He knew what he was getting into, and it caused many months of hesitation prior to us dating. He knew if we were to date, we would get married. He knew if we got married he had to love and commit to both of us: For better or Autism. He took his time making the decision and though it frustrated me and caused great insecurity in his love, I later realized that I loved him MORE for it. If he was "in," he was in for life, 110%.
We never had time alone. We dated and married with CB on board. Romance didn't have much of a chance in its usual form. But as motherhood had a different face when it came to loving and raising a child with severe autism, so did dating and married life. Our newlywed status was not glowing with romance, freedom, silliness, and reckless abandon. It was full of parenting responsibilities from the get go, and they have just increased. This reality has made us appreciate finding the little "romances" of daily life. And that romance can be simply thoughtfulness, listening to a conversation intently, or seeing the look on his face when he's with his daughters. The face of romance changes, and as I've learned to accept love from a child who has a difficult time showing it, I have accepted romance in all its hidden forms too. A phone call just to say hi. Holding hands in bed before we both fall into a deep dreamless sleep. Laughing in the car. Making the other a morning cup of coffee. Sharing a beer on the couch watching Superbad. Loving the few moments we can spend together. Never taking it, or us, for granted.