We chose a Saturday afternoon at 3:30, the hand of the clock on the upswing during the ceremony. It was my mom and I who carefully and frugally planned the day, beginning with my dress, which was ‘worn’ for a bridal fashion show and cost $60.00. This was 1965 and my father was a junior college administrator, my mother, a homemaker; there was not a lot of extra cash for fancy parties.
The church was an old, Gothic brownstone, one block from the library in Glendale, California. It was my family’s church, Presbyterian, large and conservative. About 650 of our closest family and friends came striding down the aisles of that glorious old sanctuary to hear us say, “I do.” That number was possible because people didn’t ‘do’ dinners for wedding receptions in those days. It never occurred to us.
We offered wedding cake (baked by a neighbor), nuts in a cup, buttery mints, punch, coffee and tea. Homemade table décor graced rounds of eight, set up in the church gymnasium where we greeted our guests. . . all of our guests. I don’t think we ever ate a bite of cake, past the obligatory one for picture-taking.
It was December 18th, exactly one week before Christmas. And may I offer a small word of advice right here? Never plan a wedding a week before Christmas. Trust me on this one — decorating is a snap, but anniversaries? Lost in the haze of family gatherings, shopping, wrapping, hanging stockings and various other Christmas related distractions.
As we said our vows that Saturday, we had the next two years mapped out — he would take his masters’ comps in January, I would graduate from UCLA in June, we’d board a freighter in August and travel to Capetown, South Africa, then drive north for two years of living, teaching and doing short term missionary work in Zambia. We’d take ‘the tour’ through Europe on the way home and then settle into a life that looked a lot like the past we had both come from. While we waited for all those pieces to fall into place, he would work from the end of January through the end of July, a newly minted graduate degree under his belt, and together, we’d conquer the world.
And then, life happened.
No one would hire anyone with a graduate degree for just six months. No one. He tried his hand at selling cookware door to door, which was a complete bust after one, ill-fated attempt. So he began our two years of service early, 140 miles away, serving as caretaker for a church camp. Every week, I rode the bus to school from our small, furnished apartment in Santa Monica and he took our Volkswagen beetle up and down the mountain. I studied like crazy from Sunday night through Thursday, he learned how to hang drywall, and we joyfully reunited each weekend. I got the highest grade point average of my entire college career that semester.
We went to Zambia as planned. And we had a baby, definitely not as planned. That long, leisurely tour of Europe on the way home was scrapped in favor of getting our precious girl home for her grandparents to spoil. And we soon settled into the routines of married life in the evangelical world of the 1970’s. Two more babies in two more years, I at home, he in the world of business and investing.
I’ve written elsewhere about our long, slow transition from a very traditional marriage to one that is more mutual. We’ve worked hard over the last 47 years to craft our family, to build a solid partnership and a true friendship on top of the strong attraction that brought us together in the first place. Over and over again, we have chosen to hang in, even when we’ve each wanted to run from the room, screaming, “You just do not GET it!!”
So today, as December begins to kick into high gear, I want to stop for a minute, and I want to savor. I want to remember our story and I want to tell it. I want to look at old photos and spin old tales. And I want to thank God for the privilege of discovering life with this particular man by my side. There is no one on this earth who can frustrate me more than he can. And there is no one on this earth who can frustrate him more than I can.
But we are here, and blessed to be so. We can bicker with the best of them, but underneath the sighs, behind the rolled eyes, inside the wounded hearts, there is always a powerful point of connection: we believe that God gave us to one another. So step by step, day by day, decision by decision, disappointment by disappointment, crisis by crisis, we are saving each other’s life.
Marriage is the crucible in which we are working out our own salvation, and we do it so imperfectly! But we do it. My husband is my biggest fan and I am his. We believe in one another, we value the gift mix we share, we learn from one another, we respect each other. We count it a privilege to have the children we do, to love their spouses as we do, and to watch in wonder as our grandchildren stretch and grow.
Given the chance to choose a do-over for my life, I wouldn’t change the one with whom I do it. Because even when we drive each other crazy, even when I am convinced that he simply does not understand me, this is the bedrock, this is the real deal: he does understand me, often in ways I don’t fully understand myself. And I understand him. He speaks Truth into me and I speak Truth into him, and humbly aware that all Truth comes only from God above, we say, at this end of 47 years, a profound thank you.
Thank you, Richard. And thank you, God.