It was eighty degrees in mid-May, and you were standing at the bottom of a staircase. I was at the top, negotiating with our planner that- no, in fact, our wedding doesn’t start in 30 minutes. It starts now. I was anxious. I just wanted to get down those stairs and next to you.
Seven years before that day, we had met. I wasn’t looking, and neither were you. But then you put your lunch cooler down on the counter, with “MICHEL” written across the side in permanent marker. I looked up at you and it was as if just for the briefest of moments, time stood still. I could paint every minute detail of that ordinary scene, it is so fixed in my memory. In that smallest of moments, I realized I had just met my husband. You were the first guy that I had to chase. You even told me you weren’t getting married until you were 35, which I think you thought would scare me. It didn’t because I’m stubborn. And because I knew it was already decided. I just had to wait you out.
I was used to dating people who let me be the star and were happy to just support, be in the background. But you weren’t going to be pinned down like that, not for a second. It took me years to figure out that we had to be the stars together, to trade off supporting, be a true team. And we did. We knit ourselves together slowly with long-distance phone bills, stand-by airline tickets, and all too infrequent visits. I chased you, my dreams, and a future I had once conjured up. And you, you waited me out. I came back home and we found our rhythm in the same zip code.
So, back to that hot day in May, and the man I was smiling at through my happy-tear stained veil. It’s much observed that the two young people saying those vows, rarely understand the weight of them. And of course now with 10 years behind us (17 really), I know that no couple can. Because the vows aren’t words. They are actions. They are alive. They live and breathe in every moment to come. With each year that passes for us, I look at those two people in our pictures – smiling as they leave the ceremony. I wonder if they know that year one will be easy. That year four will bring heartbreak they can’t fathom. That year five will see them to the brink of life and back again. And just when they feel like they have their feet under them, year six will be devastating. Year seven won’t itch at all. They will cling to each other harder and faster than they ever have. As a result, they will be rewarded with one of their greatest joys before it ends. And year ten. Year ten will have them looking back, not sure they are where they had hoped to be. Planned to be. For sure, that couple, standing there in the spring sun ten years ago – they don’t know these years yet. They think they understand those vows and what will come. They think they know the path. They would think year ten should have them in a different place. But they are wrong.
It’s ten years later, and it’s a cold day in May. You stand at the bottom of a staircase, clutching the hand of our oldest daughter who is squinting in the sun. She’s shielding her eyes with her arm, scrunching her nose up to keep her pink-rimmed glasses in place. I’m at the top, chasing our youngest, who barrels down the stairs, pigtails bouncing, and can’t wait to get to the bottom, to be by your side. Me either, little one. Me either.
(photo by Heather Cook Elliott)