Ten years ago, I stood at the back of the church waiting to walk down the aisle. I was with my Dad listening to the violin and piano playing Canon in D when tears came unexpectedly. I walked the long aisle mostly crying. When I met Jamie at the end, he took my hand and squeezed it twice. He told me later that he thought I’d changed my mind. But that wasn’t it at all. I was overwhelmed by all the love and beauty and hope around us. We didn’t know then that the wedding was really the easy part, that we were starting the best and hardest adventure of our lives.
Almost five years ago, the nurse walked into my hospital room at 2 a.m. carrying a screaming newborn. My abs and arms ached with exhaustion as she passed Jackson to me. Earlier that September day, the hospital’s air conditioner had broken, causing sweltering heat to engulf the entire floor. I was a sweating fool as I tried to nurse this tiny, enraged human. As the nurse left our room, Jamie sat up on his sofa-bed and proclaimed over the wailing babe, “She can’t do this to us!” We quickly learned that yes, yes, she could. And she did. His scream is just as piercing now as it was back then.
Two months ago, Jamie and I figured out that if we take the boys for a walk in the double stroller after dinner, we can talk in complete sentences while we wander through town. There is some kind of magical power unleashed in the easy rhythm of wheels gliding over uneven sidewalks and down busy streets. The boys become content and uncommonly pleasant. And so do we, because we can finally finish that conversation we started almost five years ago.
Six years ago, we loaded up our Honda Civic and drove twenty four hours to get to Colorado. We spent three weeks hiking, camping and drinking beer. We attempted to reach the summit of Long’s Peak and were unsuccessful for the second time. The fourteen mile round trip hike requires you to start in the middle of the night, but we overslept and wouldn’t have time to be off the summit before the afternoon thunderstorms rolled in. We made the best of it, hiking just past the Keyhole before we turned around. I still wonder if we will try it again one day.
Nine years ago, we bought our first house. The movers spent exactly twenty minutes moving our meager belongings into the empty rooms. Soon thereafter, Jamie planted four raspberry bushes in a row along the hillside. Over the years, the patch grew more dense as rotten berries seeded new plants. In late July, the limbs would drape downward, heavy with ruby red jewels. Each morning, I would sneak outside and pick berries until my bowl was heaping full. The boys would devour them for breakfast, leaving stained fingers, red chins and full tummies in their wake.
Eleven months ago, we boarded a plane to Germany with a two and three-year-old in tow. Parker screamed like a maniac as I tried to buckle him into his car seat just before our plane’s departure. Jamie and I exchanged scowls across the aisle as we tried to calm Parker in our cramped quarters. The message beneath our glares was one in the same, “Whose bright idea was this anyway? We will never make it across the ocean.” Jamie held a few pipe cleaners in his hand, trying to distract Parker from his raging meltdown. He may have eventually thrown them across the aisle at me in a wave of frustration. I may have given him the middle finger. Sometimes marriage is about actively communicating.
Nearly three years ago, we welcomed Parker into the world. He was born in the early morning, around 12:15 a.m. His first night was spent in the nursery where he slept the whole night through, giving his Mama and Daddy a mighty fine present. Jackson would adore him until he became mobile enough to touch and hold his toys. The years would reveal quarrels and crying and naked wrestling. But also, there would be love. Lots and lots of love.
Eleven years ago, we got engaged in Ellicott City, Maryland and walked to a nearby restaurant to celebrate the big news. At the end of our meal the waitress asked us if we would like any dessert. We smiled at each other before Jamie declared, “I think we will! What would you recommend for two people who just got engaged?” We waited expectantly for a hearty congratulations that never came. Instead, she replied, “We got pecan pie, cherry pie, hot fudge sundaes and chocolate cake.” There wasn’t even a hint of a smile. We ate our chocolate cake while wondering if perhaps our waitress were already married.
Six days ago, our whole family sat down and ate an entire dinner together. Let me repeat: my two-year-old and my four-year-old BOTH sat at the table for an entire meal. Jackson explained that his favorite part of the day was Great Granny’s breakfast and Parker said he loved playing in the pool. Daddy loved his nap the most. I loved that we finally, FINALLY, ate a meal without the usual grumbling and frustration that permeates this stage of life. It gives me hope that maybe we won’t raise heathens after all.
Sixty minutes ago, Jamie and I left for the airport where we will board a flight to Denver, Colorado. It’s a place we keep coming back to, a place we both love. We spent our honeymoon exploring Boulder and Rocky Mountain National Park and have made four trips back over the last ten years. This trip, we will see some of our old favorites (Mountain Sun Brewery and RMNP) and sneak in a few new adventures too (Red Rocks and Garden of the Gods.)
I hope as we wander these mountains we catch a tiny glimpse of the carefree, young kids we were all those years ago, and I hope we have the good sense to appreciate where we are today, in the present. Much like the last ten years, today will not be perfect, but it will be ours to take on together. I imagine we’ll find a little rooftop bar with a view of the Rockies where we will sit down and order two (or more) local beers.
We’ll raise our glasses to life, to love, to ten years of marriage, and to talking in complete sentences. We may even order another slice of chocolate cake to celebrate the stories we have shared, the stories that hold us together.