Twenty years. What can a person accomplish in 20 years? Well, apparently, and somehow, against all odds, being the child of multiple divorces, I have accomplished a marriage.
Today is my 20th anniversary.
Twenty years ago today, I was wearing a gigantic white satin Eve of Milady dress that was so large it required it’s own bedroom in my Mother’s house, and three people to hold it up so I could pee, and chomping at the bit for my turn down the aisle. I was excited. No jitters for me. This was my moment.
The party was planned down to every last detail, including tiny white rosettes which were glue-gunned onto black and gold napkin rings made from the same ribbons used in the bouquets. My event was going to go off without a hitch. Never mind the band didn’t know how to play OUR SONG, More Than Words by Extreme. Everything else was going to go great. Not to worry that my father was late, and I walked in on him and my mother in the bathroom and after 20 years of divorce she was helping him get dressed, which was completely weird. That was all secondary.
It wasn’t even just about the wedding. It was about the marriage. Me, and Jack, and making a family. I knew that a lot of brides lost sight of that, but I wasn’t going to.
I knew that I was getting MARRIED.
That I would be a WIFE.
That it would be WORK.
That there would be UPS and DOWNS and even SIDEWAYS. I knew all these things, but I really had no idea what they would mean. I was 25 years old, in love, and excited to embark on a grand adventure. One that was beginning with three weeks in France and Italy. That’s reality.
Twenty years. Three children. Four dogs, two houses. Jobs, careers, career changes, romance, arguments, making up. Socks thrown (better than books or dishes, right?) screaming, laughter, tears, and love. Roadblocks, understanding, headbanging, wallbanging (you know what I mean), making out, making up, and the odd “Get the hell out.”
Twenty years of compromise and respect, and the occasional disrespect. And understanding that you can love someone but not like them for that moment.
All those years, and I didn’t really get it. I mean, I got it a bit, because we’ve made it through some pretty interesting times. But, until last week, I didn’t understand the depth of it. The reason it’s lasted 20 years.
Have you read The Gift of the Magi by O.Henry? I have read it so many times, but it has never truly resonated with me. Until now.
In the story, James and Dilla want more than anything to buy each other the perfect Christmas present. But, they don’t have very much money. Life is tough but they have one another to lean on. This one time, though, they want to do something special for their true love, to make them happy with a ‘thing’. But, as they find out, it’s really the thought, the mutual sacrifice, that really matters.
The Gift of the Magi, the irony of the gifts that James and Dilla gave each other, the offerings that they would make to ensure their partner’s happiness above their own. That is what marriage truly is.
After 20 years, I know this. Because I’ve just experienced it.
So, I believe, that’s why we stay together, no matter how many fists are clenched in frustration, how many nasty retorts are bitten back or complaints are made about an unloaded dishwasher or a forgotten call home. When we’re both stressed to the max and have nothing left over, when we ask too many questions, or not enough. When all we can feel and see is that feeling of “Who IS this person? And why? Just why?”
No matter all of that, when my husband would sell his proverbial watch to buy me a jewelled comb for my hair, I know that he loves me. That we’re meant for each other.
That is what you can accomplish in 20 years.