May 11, 2010
The Good Life
It’s my fourteenth wedding anniversary today, so being the phenomenal wife that I am I began searching exactly five days in advance for the perfect present for my spouse. Just for fun I had to investigate what the traditional gift would be (it’s ivory, now no longer recommended because of that whole “endangered elephant” thing, although ironically the proposed travel destination remains as Africa), which gave me absolutely no resolution whatsoever. I cheated and looked up the anniversaries before and after, and while completely at peace with missing out on textiles last year, I admit I am wistful at the proposed jaunts to France and Switzerland respectively (if there’s anything to that past lives theory, I most definitely spent a good portion of mine in Europe, drinking wassail and eating whatever chocolate I could get my preferably noble hands upon.)
Jeff and I however will remain local, and most likely will celebrate the blessed event at Chevy’s. There the margaritas flow freely, and we will probably employ a coupon for the guacamole app I will pretend he’ll share with me, and that I will instead consume entirely on my own. Our wedding remembrance day will be the culmination of four events in one week, namely that of Teacher Appreciation, my son’s multiple birthday fetes, Mother’s Day (still a high holy day in my family, just not necessarily geared toward this particular mom), and of course, our fourteenth wedding anniversary. So much giving, and sadly, most of it to people other than myself. I will be exhausted.
With tremendous effort however I will rally, and engage in a tradition I always make time for annually, the once-a-year extraction of my wedding albums which are tightly sequestered between the three albums I have of my pre-child existence, and the thirty I’ve created since the birth of my first son. I enjoy remembering that day, as well as the engagement year leading up to it and the fabulous honeymoon that followed. Every time I crack those leather-bound and embarrassingly dusty tomes I search the face of that twenty-something girl, remembering how innocent she was, how completely unprepared she was for the rites and rituals of marriage, of parenthood. I harbor a deep tenderness toward her, and am glad she didn’t know what was coming down the road. Given who I was then, I’m not sure she would have left the dressing room and descended the long, windy staircase to her groom and the pre-wedding photo shoot that would enable her to partake more fully in the upcoming cocktail hour.
If I could travel back in time, hold her hand, and divulge to my younger self what was in store for her (if she’d let me), I’d tell her this. That her extremely ambitious goals of marrying a good man she could trust, one she liked to kiss and who made her laugh (which by the way were the same requirements I had for all of my boyfriends, which perhaps doesn’t say much about my expectations in general), would come to fruition. That this man (and at least with the first child, a posse of highly trained fertility specialists), would eventually give her the two children she so craved and longed to hold. I would tell her they’d be boys, that she’d get over the whole “I’ll never have a daughter” thing, and would eventually be grateful for the plethora of testosterone so rampant in her household. I would share with her that one of her worst fears would come true, that there would be something wrong with her babies, something that made them suffer, and that even with her indomitable will she wouldn’t be able to “fix it”. I would also inform her (when she took a pause in her hysterical sobbing) that she and that man she was marrying would work it all out. That eventually, after many long years of struggle, things would turn out okay.
I’d tell her that they’d bond during the infertility years, would take even most of the multiple miscarriages in stride, and would engage in an “us against our reproductive organs” mentality that would bring them even closer. I’d explain to her that long before the first signs of something gone awry would manifest in their baby that parenthood would temporarily rip them apart, that these “later in life parents” would have a difficult time learning what it means to relinquish all vestiges of personal time, but would eventually work through that too. I would instruct her that the awareness, the irrevocable knowledge that something is permanently disconnected in their firstborn son would initially cause a rift between them once again, but through their love for one another and their commitment to their child, that cleft would be healed as well. I would convey to her the first time would be good practice for the second, and that they’d cycle through the stages of grief faster with their last son, would be able to support one another sooner.
I’d forewarn her that there wouldn’t be a great deal of traditional romantic gestures, few surprises, fewer flowers, reduced tokens of affection. I’d console her with the information that her husband’s love for her would manifest in actions, from the way he cares for her sons in the middle of the night so she can sleep, to doing his own laundry, to conducting his weekly coupon-fueled grocery shopping which greatly increases her free time (I know, now I’m just showing off). I’d inform her that he’d one day read every word she’s ever written in regards to that book she’d one day pen about her experiences with her sons, and that their marriage would survive his instruction for her tenuous acquisition of the technological savvy required to operate her blog. I’d reassure her that she would find these activities far sexier than any flora or fauna he could bestow upon her.
I’d hug her, and when she stopped sniffling I’d look her in the eyes and tell her marriage was work. It would never be perfect. There would be fights, and no matter what they were superficially about, they would somehow always be about the same underlying issue. Every marriage has at least one.
But I’d also reassure her that her initial desires would come true. He would remain a good man. After knowing him for almost twenty years, she would still like to kiss him. And perhaps for her, most importantly, no matter what, he’d continue to make her laugh.
Then I’d wipe her raccoon eyes, reapply her mascara, and tell her to get downstairs so most of the wedding photos could be shot, and she could eventually partake wholeheartedly of the free bar and pigs in a blanket her soon-to-be groom fought so vociferously to include in the cocktail hour menu. If I knew her at all, she’d rise, take a deep breath, palm a couple of the Hershey’s kisses so conveniently available on her dressing table, and descend to her destiny.
And despite everything, from the aggravating minutiae of marriage to the soul-sucking events of parenthood, she’d find her older, but perhaps not wiser self, to be honest in her disclosures. Things really would work out. They would be happy. She would be happy.
There would be, for all of her loves, a good life.