Dad asked us, on our first anniversary, what surprising things we’d learned about marriage or each other in our first twelve months of married life. Maybe for some people that’s an easy question - I think of the many, many jokes I’ve heard illustrating how people only present their best selves while dating, then once they’ve scored the spouse, they suddenly change - but it was a hard question for us. We’ve never been very interested in trying to impress people. You had already seen me without makeup on (because I hardly ever wore make up). And it wasn’t like you had two sets of clothes, your dating clothes and your regular clothes. You didn’t have two characters, either. You were integrity, peace, and compassion. You still are.
Our first year of marriage wasn’t shocking or hard. We spent it cocooned in a five hundred square foot apartment between green Ozark hills. I taught tenth graders how to interpret symbols in literature, and you planted trees, coming home with shaking muscles and dirt so deep in your skin we could never quite wash it out. We’d spoon Thai peanut chicken from the slow cooker over rice and watch Northern Exposure and Veronica Mars and shut the rest of the world out.
We moved to Seattle, where we lived in a shared house for three years. The gorgeous old house on 52nd street, with its wide, slanting front porch and horrible flowered kitchen wallpaper. We had one bedroom on the second floor. Seven others belonged to a rotating group of international students, some of whom became aunts and uncles to Rosemary, who spent the first eighteen months of her life there.
You wrote a song for me around that time. (Was it on our second anniversary? Our third?) “We are not gifts given only once,” you sang. You compared our love to an ocean, which "lives and shifts and swallows and opens up."
In eight years of marriage, maybe that’s the most important thing I’ve learned - and I’m still learning it. That you are not just a gift for me. That the cocoon of the first year was never supposed to last forever. That our love exists for others, not just for ourselves, not just for our children, but for the kingdom of God.
Last night you lifted your glass of wine and joked, "Here's to another eighty years together!" and I said, "The only reason I would want to live another eighty years is that once we die, we won't be married anymore, right? Doesn't it say there's no marriage or giving in marriage after the resurrection? I don't want to be alive if I'm not married to you."
And I don't - but maybe that's part of what it means that we are not gifts given only once. Maybe this love is preparing us for a greater ocean. I don't know, but whatever it means, I want to be swimming in it with you.
PS: World, here is our 8th anniversary playlist. Enjoy.