Nine years ago tonight, we had successfully said our vows, signed the paperwork in front of witnesses, cut the cake, hugged everyone in the receiving line, and taken more pictures than we ever had before. My family laughingly gave this photo the caption, "Doug dragging Jennifer down the aisle."
And he kinda was. After finishing the actual ceremony, which he considered the last marital hoop to reach the finish line, he was ready for the honeymoon suite.
What he didn't know was that the honeymoon suite was an omen of our life to come. The fireplace electric heater was broken. The hotel's staff came in two times to fix it (not quite romantic), but they failed miserably. So, we spent a very frigid night trying to sleep in a ginormous ice-box. Since neither of us sleeps well when cold, we woke up sleepy and grumpy the first day of married life. And by the end of our honeymoon a week later, we both were bedridden with a bad case of the flu.
And there went the honeymoon phase of our marriage.
I'm glad we didn't know what the "for better or worst" vow would mean for the next 9 years.
But through the worst--the loss of two babies, the loss of a job and a career, the almost loss of a limb in the chainsaw accident, the problematic births of all three of our children--through all the worst, we've grown closer. I mean, anybody who helps bathe you when you're wounded and scarred, who shops and cooks for you--those acts of kindness are the ones that make you appreciate each other.
And today it was funny to watch what our anniversary has turned into.
Pre-children, Doug would've sent me a huge arrangement of roses that I'd have to watch with vigilance because the cats like to eat rose leaves. Now? For the first time--no cut roses. Instead, a gift certificate to Jackson & Perkins so I can buy roses to grow at our long-awaited "new house." My heart just melted at this symbolic gift of life and permanence.
Pre-children, we would have dressed up and gone to Melting Pot and spent two, quiet, romantic hours in peace. Now? My shirt had kid snot wiped on it, and somebody's footprint was stamped on my jeans. Instead of dinner, it was a crowded luncheon at La Madelaine's with three children + my mother added to the noisiest table in the room. Three baby birds needing to eat everything on our plates and imitating a monkey's call when our hands didn't work fast enough. One big bird had a squalling meltdown when he discovered we were all "sharing" the one piece of chocolate sacher torte. And then that same bird picked up the plate and licked every last drop of chocolate sauce off. (Yes--it was that good).
My grandmother asked me the other day if I were wearing a new ring. I looked down at it. It did look a lot shinier than normal, but not because it spends most of its life on a shelf.
"No," I said. "Same old wedding ring. I've just been washing sippy cups a lot each day so it stays shinier."
Just like my marriage--more work I put into it, the shinier it gets. Now, it does make it easier to see the defects. But it also makes it easier to see the beauty of the whole.