This feels deeply personal, and a little strange to post. But I’ve enjoyed reading and learning from the other letters in Amber Haines’ Marriage Letters link-up. So, I’m jumping in with a letter on this month’s topic: Once Upon a Time.
Remember once upon a time, when we lived to be together? Starry eyed teenagers… with a smug certainty of our own importance and bright future… with a mix-tape blasting cheesy love songs through the speakers of your Volkswagon Rabbit… with plans growing, morphing and changing in all aspects except one – we’d be together.
We weren’t wrong about that.
I got to know a lovely young woman in my last writing class. She’s 19, the same age I was when I chased our happily-ever-after down the church aisle in my white dress. She’s in love with Mr. Wonderful and they’re making plans. She assured me that their happy ending wouldn’t dare start until they had finished school, established careers, built a nest egg, and put a down payment on a reasonably-priced nest in a good neighborhood.
The Sensible Mom in me was pleased. The Romantic Teenager in me sighed.
It wasn’t easy, getting married as young as we were. But we were too
stupid naïve, too thrilled with our new-found freedom and togetherness to care. Remember the hideous second-hand couch we were so excited to receive? It was SO uncomfortable! But we threw a green sheet over it and decided we were really grown ups now. At our age uncomfortable seating didn’t seem like such a big deal. Besides, it was just temporary. Eventually life would get easier, better, more secure.
Somewhere along the way we stopped scrambling for every penny. We added meat and the good toilet paper to our grocery list each week. Acting like grown ups stopped feeling like a thrill. We faced losses and victories, created homes and packed them into boxes, had children and buried children, changed jobs and sizes and styles and beliefs. We bought ourselves a huge brown sectional, big enough for a family of 6 to stretch out and watch American Idol together.
It is SO comfortable!
All along, we’ve expected things to get easier, better, and more secure. Someday.
I don’t think it ever has. The things we planned on - careers, moving away, having children… are harder than we ever expected. The things we hadn’t planned on – grief, changing goals and ideals, special needs… are more than we could have anticipated or prepared for. In many ways, those early years were the simplest ones.
The only thing we got right was that we’d be doing it all together. And even that isn’t as easy as we expected.
So I told my young classmate that. That I didn’t regret our years of eating ketchup sauce on noodles and going to the library as a “date.” That there’s no way to skip ahead, past the hard stuff. That as much as I’d like my own kids to take an easier road, I’m not sure it’s the best road. Or that it even exists.
She laughed at my jokes and nodded her head at my advice. But she didn’t really understand. Of course not. No one does. Not until they live it.
Growing up is hard. It’s been 22 years since you held my hand in the halls of our High School. We’re not the people we were then. In some ways we’ve grown together, in others we’ve grown apart.
Most days we feel old, and tired, and a little bit overwhelmed. This life stage is tough. I want to believe that it’s going to get easier, better, and more secure. I want to believe that we’ll be finished growing up and have life all figured out eventually. But I doubt it.
Maybe the only realistic goal is that we’ll face it together.
After all we’ve been through… that’s good enough for me.
Loving you more than ever,
So here’s us.