Happy Anniversary to Us, Husband.
We've been married for 5 years.
You walked me to the student center for coffee when we were in college because it was raining and I took off across the lawn without an umbrella - but you had an umbrella. You walked me home because we hit it off, maybe? Or because of all those late night piano playing adventures in the chapel? . . .
Oh, who are we kidding? We knew.
I remember you from two Freshman English classes at the college. I remember how you were my partner for "peer grading" on a paper and I was too proud to take your corrections . . . and then the professor had to tell me that I should have listened to you . . . because you had rightly identified my comma splices (who ever knew what that was before taking Lang's class? Hopefully he's not reading my blog these days to see how poor my grammar has become.).
Here we are . . . . 9 years from beginning college, and the stubborn pride is still rearing its ugly head, and we're still beating it back like everybody else does.
That's part of marriage. Nobody tells you about it. It's a part that teaches us to be better people.
I remember our first apartment. And our first summer being married. Someone gave us a gift certificate to a fancy restaurant downtown. We got all dressed up to go, but we had very little money in our bank account, so when we got to the city and saw that everybody was charging $20 for parking that weekend, we turned around and went home. Yeah, we went back another time and had our fancy meal (when parking wasn't an arm and a leg).
Here we are . . . . 4 years from our first apartment, and we still have to count our pennies and our blessings. We still have to practice moderation. We still have to turn around and go home sometimes because having much doesn't equal monetary wealth.
That's part of marriage. Nobody wants to admit it. It's a part that teaches us to be better people.
Sometimes having exactly enough is the definition of having everything.
I remember a special anniversary. We're never together on our actual anniversary date. So you picked a weekend when you'd be home and bought tickets to a show you knew I'd love. You reached all the way back into my childhood and took me to see The Prairie Home Companion Summer Love Tour! There were bad jokes, hymn tunes, Guy Noire, and stories from Lake Wobegone.
Garrison Keillor stood on the stage and began humming a familiar tune. Yeah - you chased down my childhood to get the tickets and the universe handed me the whole experience wrapped in a bow. Mr. Keillor stood there and sang Chopin's Op. 10 No. 3 with words about love and real life . . . just for me. I swear.
Sometimes the universe hands us perfect experiences.
And you and me? We get most of those together.
Hey - do you remember that sunny afternoon in NC after our college graduation? We sat on top of a picnic table outside the old Mast General Store drinking sodas from glass bottles and eating fried pies . . . I think it was fried pies . . . anyway, the weather was perfect and the whole valley was lit up, and it was very quiet.
Hey - do you remember the day I called to tell you about the baby? Hah. I couldn't wait just 2 days for you to get home from your job.
And the 9 months after that?
And the last 2 months of our blurry, sleep deprived existence?
That's all part of this marriage, isn't it? A part that makes us better people . . . honest people . . . people who have to look each other in the eye and say, "I don't know if I'm going to make it. I am so, so tired."
Nobody wants to tell the truth about this, do they?
Nobody wants to say, "Yeah. When you're young and married you'll probably be poor off and on. You'll probably be stressed often. You'll probably be confused and confounded - and it'll test your ability to forgive and listen and support."
Nobody wants to say, "Yeah. When you're young and caring for a baby you'll probably be frustrated. You'll probably be disillusioned and uneasy for a while. You'll be blindsided by a love that is not preceded by affection . . . yeah, there's not going to be much affection at 3 a.m. when you're pacing the floor and wishing for stronger ear plugs." Nobody wants to say all that because we want all of the moments in our families and our marriages to be those perfect, bow wrapped, universally appreciated moments. We want things to be fully formed from the beginning. It's human of us to want these things. We can forgive ourselves for that.
But you know, Friend, after 5 years of making it work (and it is always work, isn't it?), there's something I appreciated about you more than perfectly chosen tickets. More than the times when we have excess. More than the quiet, sun drenched afternoons we've snatched on the Parkway.
I appreciate the honesty.
Nobody tells you how much better it'll be if we're honest even about the ugly parts.
That's how stuff gets redeemed. Confession. And pardon. And Communion. It's the pattern God wanted us to know from the beginning.
Confession - we tell each other the truth no matter what.
Pardon - we acknowledge each other and receive forgiveness and understanding.
Communion - we are restored to right relationship.
And just like we celebrate this sacrament more than once as Christian people, we should be celebrating it continually as people in relationship.
Communion is us climbing back up toward the sun together.
Friend, you are a better partner than I knew you'd be.
Our life is less perfect than I expected - this is my weakness as an idealist. But it's better than I expected.
Less Perfect. And Better.
Marriage is a sacrament a long time after the wedding day. I know that you, Friend, agree with me when I say that nobody should tell young couples to cherish their wedding day as the best day of their lives. What a sad thing that would be.
The sacrament of marriage is a continuous climb back into the hands of God, who knows everything but never sends us a warning email. God, who is ever present, but doesn't declare His presence out loud. God, who is all powerful, but doesn't choose to interfere with our human choice making. And yet God's hands are safe and we trust them.
Here's the Truth, Friend - you and me are two imperfect people living the same imperfect life everybody else leads, but we're living it together, and that makes all the difference. I hope that there are many other people who learn what we are learning because it is a greater peace than perfection.
p.s. I know what this year's anniversary surprise is. I'll meet you on the 13th for that "special outing." We know for sure this time not to leave the auditorium during intermission - Garrison will come down from the stage and we'll have a hymn sing, won't we?
p.p.s. Ok, ok, so our special date is apparently on the 15th. And I apparently can't remember numbers. Nothing new there! You have taken particular delight in the fact that I remembered and guessed wrong, Friend . . . so I'll meet you on the 15th . . . and we'll go . . . I have no idea where!!! You win :-)