Notes on a Marriage
I got married ten years ago today. I was never one of those women (or little girls) who dreamed of a big, elaborate wedding day. I never thought being married was a particularly lofty goal. Coupled or uncoupled, I intended to live a full life. But a decade into this joint venture with my husband and I think I got a pretty good deal. The husband is currently producing a travel series in Italy. Thus, he is gallivanting around Florence while I sit in Denver. Colorado is in the midst of a late-season snowstorm, so I spent much of the day yesterday pulling on my boots and venturing out to shake the trees in an effort to keep branches from snapping. I brought in the annuals we’d planted in flower boxes on our front porch. I put plastic over the basil plant. I turned off the swamp cooler and turned on the heat. It is not a glamorous life.
Meanwhile, my husband sends me emails about the shrimp dish he had for lunch and the gelato he ate before turning in for the night. I make jokes about how he’s celebrating our anniversary in style, while I’m just doing chores. But it is a joke. I’m glad he’s working on this project. It’s a good gig and he loves his work. We’ll find time to Skype today and we’ll celebrate another time. We are not the sort of couple that puts too much importance on the calendar.
Ten years ago on our wedding day, the weather was warm and springlike. We gathered with our friends and family in a nearby park. Occasionally a strong breeze blew across the lake. After our distinctly non-traditional ceremony in the park’s boathouse, we brought in tables and food and bellini cocktails made from Colorado peaches. We’d hired a small jazz band and we’d ordered the Spring Fling cake from a local bakery. If you’ve had this cake, you know how good it is. It’s not a traditional wedding cake, but I think most wedding cakes are dry and dense. They have to be to hold up the elaborate decorations and wedding toppers. We didn’t have any of that. I made a chocolate cake with bourbon truffles for the groom’s cake. If you aren’t from the South, you may not be familiar with the tradition of the groom’s cake. It’s often sports-themed (think college football teams) or kitschy (a pyramid of donuts). Perhaps the most famous depiction of the groom’s cake tradition comes from Steel Magnolias, the stage play turned movie, where the wedding scene featured a red velvet armadillo cake with gray icing. Ugh. No theme cakes for us.
We didn’t do a big sit down dinner reception with seating charts and all the angst that can bring. My mother and I found my dress on a bargain rack at a local department store — not a wedding dress, but a white tulle party dress that filled the bill. We spent more money on music than on flowers. We kept our budget small and stuck to it. Shortly after our wedding, we had dinner with a couple who’d been married for years. They were still paying for their wedding. The idea of that debt made my stomach hurt.
We splurged on the honeymoon, taking a Mediterranean cruise with stops in Barcelona and Monaco and Pisa and Tunis. The trip was wonderful, though I experienced a bout of seasickness as we cruised past Corsica. As I convalesced in our cabin, the husband ventured out to explore the ship. He entered a poker tournament and won. He returned to our room and tossed a wad of cash onto the bed. “I should get sick more often,” I said.
And through the years, I have managed to get sick again. Three years ago I landed on my wrist in an early morning exercise class. The husband was already at work and I called to let him know I was going to run to the doctor and have it checked. “It’s not that big of a deal,” I said. “I think it’ll be okay.” He was home within half an hour. He drove me to get the x-ray and stood by while the doctor wrapped my swollen (and broken) wrist in a temporary cast and pumped me full of painkillers. I was in no shape for driving. I told my husband it was a good thing he came home. He said he could tell by the tone of my voice that it was more serious than I was willing to admit.
And that, I have learned, is the best thing about marriage. It isn’t that it’s necessary to have another person to drive you home when you’re high on Vicodin. You can always call a cab. But it is exceedingly nice to have someone who can read the tone of your voice so accurately. It is nice to have someone who knows when to leave you alone and when to check on you. It is nice to know that when you decide to paint a room, you’ll have someone to help with the taping and the tarps and the clean up. It is nice to have someone who brings you coffee on Sunday morning while you work the crossword puzzle, who’ll make grits because you want them, who’ll pay too much for tickets to see the Dixie Chicks because you really want to go, who’ll take the dog out in the middle of the night, who’ll drive you across the state of Mississippi in August when your first book comes out and never complain about the heat, who’ll send you an avalanche of sweet and funny cards in the mail.
Ten years into this partnership and it’s not the wedding I want to celebrate. I celebrate the sick days, the hard days, the ordinary days. I celebrate the chores and errands, the trips to the emergency vet and the trips to the hardware store, the jammed power tools and the boring dinners.
Sure I could do it by myself, but I am glad I don’t have to.