In two weeks I will celebrate my thirtieth wedding anniversary. Or I would. If my husband hadn’t died in the Colorado woods on a sunny day. Asshat.
I have no idea how I might mark the day. A conversation with Sorority Sister does make me give it some thought. A million years ago, actually thirty, I stood in a church in one of the only pretty bridesmaids dresses I ever had the privilege to purchase and watched her marry the love of her life. She, not so sentimental, would never label him such. But he is, whether she goes for labels or not. Two weeks later, she traveled with me to a historic hotel where The Norwegian proposed, to witness the elopement that rocked our tiny world.
It was the eighties. Giant, outlandish weddings were de rigueur. Given my shrinking violet personality it is hard to imagine, but I wanted no part of a ginormous affair. We wished instead for a lovely, understated mingling in front of our closest loved ones. Neither of us had parents who would stand for such nonsense. At last count, there were four hundred people in the church, someone else had picked my wedding dress and my future mother-in-law announced this would be a soiree sans alcohol. I know. Bahahahahahaha. My grandfather actually advised me think twice about marrying into a clan without appreciation of the need for a little nip to get through the rough stuff. My father would say later, “Thank God you eloped. I had no idea how I was going to pay for that circus.”
The memories flood back as Sorority Sister searches for a way to tell her husband the depth of thirty years and all it entails. Words fail her as she is an accountant. They’ve had ecstatic times and they’ve suffered the devastation of losing a child. Only those living that hell can know the toll it takes on a marriage, the cavernous wound created and the struggle to reach toward each other instead of away. She wants to thank him for staying while she left us for a while in her grief and could not be reached by any means. She wants to be glad that they have weathered thirty years. At the same time, she wants to acknowledge that marriage isn’t all flowers and whimsy. She wants to acknowledge there are days she hates his guts. Cover your gasps girls. If you put on your honesty hat you know we all reach the end of our marriage ropes now and then. She finds it disrespectful of all they’ve endured to act as if thirty years is filled with only light and fairy dust. She asks for the words.
Since I love words more than life, I am happy to oblige. And I squee a little. That’s how we venture to thoughts and reflections on thirty years–the good, the bad, the great, the devastating, the fights, the in-laws, the everyday frustration, the money, the jobs, who’s gonna make dinner and put the god damn seat down would ya? What words can possibly capture all of it? What words can encapsulate a life shared together, and in the end, well made? The best I can muster is a spider web.
Marriage is a spider web, intricately woven over time through sunshine and rain, sometimes tattered and torn and sometimes strong and vast against the elements. It is strand after strand, each wrapped about each other, representing the moments created together.
Some strands are strong, unbreakable. Neither tornado nor hurricane can move them. These are the times we stand together against whatever may threaten our union, whatever may try to tear us asunder. Like a spider’s web, any attempt to tear at the fabric will only entangle itself, spinning and trying to shake away from its strength.
Other strands are sagging, as if the spider began to weave and became too tired. The other had to pick up and carry that strand to the other side, to support and ease the burden. To do more than one’s share. The share of two. The strands with gaps and sags represent the weight of life: despair, fear, heartbreak, loneliness and, yes, death.
Other strands zigzag about in no particular order. They show us that marriage, and life, may not be what we thought it would be when we were so young, and silly, and yes, stupid. They represent our adaptability and our promise of compromise. They demonstrate the change of path for the betterment of the other; the moments we sacrifice in order for our partner to get what means most to them regardless of any price paid by us.
There are strands which glisten in the sun, reflecting light and beauty. These are the strands we create when we cleave to each other to make things work, when we unite as one and the world can cast nothing our way to break the union. These strands are kisses and great sex and stolen glances across a room. These strands are children and favorite movies and secrets and private jokes and drunk dancing and waking up to see the other peacefully sleeping next to us.
The reason they shine so brightly is to carry us from one side of the web to the other. To light the way. To show us the other side is filled with joy and happiness if we believe in each other and our ability to love each other through the darkness.
All together, the strands tell a story, create a tapestry of what we create with the number of days given us. In marriage, like snowflakes, not one is the same. Our webs are the fingerprints of the lives we create together. So dear, dear, Sorority Sister, there is no answer to why one works and why one doesn’t and why some can weave a web that endures and some webs float away in a harsh wind.
But I’ve seen your web and it is beautiful. Happy Anniversary.