If it were a person, our marriage would be an adult. Eighteen years ago, Big Daddy and I decided “why not” and hopped a plane, rented a car and made it official.
In thinking about what I wanted to say about the last eighteen years, I landed on the metaphor of a roller coaster. Totally original, right? But, really, I think it does encompass, so well, what married life is. We raced out of the gate with excitement, expecting something awesome. That first hill? It was a doozy. We were shoved back in our seats, fighting to keep our heads upright. Finally, we clicked to the top of the hill and the brake released and we were free falling. Floating. Exuberant.
The thing about a really good roller coaster ride, is that it’s unpredictable. You can’t really plan or prepare for what’s ahead on the track. You can brace yourself for a sharp turn, but it jostles you anyhow. You can give into the steep hills, recline your head back and give into the pressure pushing down on you, or you can fight it off to watch the people on the midway. You can squinch your eyes shut at the top of the hill or throw your arms into the air.
You can’t see what’s after the climb to the top. Sometimes you plunge into darkness and emerge into the daylight half blinded, blinking and totally vulnerable. Sometimes you’re enjoying the ride more than your partner and sometimes your partner is enjoying the ride more than you. You can’t really predict that either. The bravest person can flee in the face of adversity and the biggest coward can rise to the challenge.
Eighteen years ago, we didn’t have a clue of what lay ahead of us. We had some hopes. Some dreams. A burgeoning of hope and possibility that becomes the Princess. We had a tiny, shitty apartment and a hand me down couch. I could barely boil water. I had no idea, when I was 22 and he was 23, how the next near two decades would roll out for us. It didn’t always roll out smooth. We were riding the roller coaster and we didn’t always have a say in it’s path. Sometime, the bumps small and smooth and we laughed through the butterflies in our stomachs and sometimes they were rough and jostled our bones and rattled our teeth.
Eighteen years ago, I couldn’t tell you what “for better or for worse” would look like. I could imagine things, good and bad, great and terrible. I could list my fears for myself and my new husband and our new lives. I didn’t know then that marriages are not won in the times of great joy or lost in the time of great sorrow. They are won and lost on the straightaways; in the tiny minutiae of life. The grow and flourish in the mornings and over the pile of laundry and across the dinner table and when you’re arguing over the budget and picking paint colors and baby names and debating who changed that last diaper.
Every year, Big Daddy and I have walked hand and hand to the front of the line. We’ve watched the shiny cars pull into the station. We’ve taken a deep breath as we’ve climbed in, fastened our seat belts. We can’t see what the track will bring us, but we have a rough idea what we can expect. Our train shoots away from the station. No matter what it brings, we’re going to handle the hills and tunnels and twists and turns together.
And next year, I’ll turn to Big Daddy, breathless, and ask to ride all over again.