Today is my wedding anniversary (well, technically yesterday the 29th was, since it's now after midnight). I wrote this piece for my husband and gave it to him as a gift. I was in the mood to write some prose. I gave him the choice, and he said that he wanted me to post it...that he loved it and wanted me to share it. :) So... this is for Derek. Happy anniversary, sweetheart.
After the writing, I've included a few of the photographs mentioned as well as a recent picture of the two of us.
Hundreds of photographs are spread across our bed, like a patchwork quilt of faces. How many times have I looked at these photos over the years? The flowers, the cake, the white dress…the beginning. I used to flip through them and reminisce about that day, thinking about all the precious little details that went into it. Now, though, on the eve of our eighth anniversary, I find myself scanning these familiar, glossy images and for once, I am not thinking about the wedding. These pictures now evoke something deep inside of me, something that goes far beyond a single day's events.
I used to look at these pictures and see the candles, their tiny flames illuminating the aisles of the sanctuary. Now I see my husband’s face, shining with a love so deep and pure as he holds our baby girl for the first time. I see her lying in his arms, still pink and new. I see his eyes burning into me and looking as if he’s seeing me for the first time, his intense stare saying the “I love you” that his speechless lips cannot yet form.
I used to feel the smooth texture of the veil slipping over my face as he lifted it to kiss me ever so gently, but also with the intensity of knowing that I was now his flesh and blood. Now I feel the cold surface of the doorway as I lean into it, watching helplessly as he says goodbye to his hero. I see him there, kneeling by the bedside of his father, unselfishly whispering, “It’s alright. You can let go. We’re going to be fine.” Forever branded into my mind is the image of his hazel eyes, the green amplified on this particular day, holding back the tears that I could not. I feel the shudder deep inside of me as his father slips from this world, still holding my husband’s hand, and once again I encounter a stabbing pain deep in my chest-the pain that comes with knowing that all the love I feel for this man cannot bring his father back to him.
I used to hear “Canon in D” coming from a distant piano, floating in the air around me and meshing with the sounds of my own shallow breaths. I would recall with a smile my respiratory rhythms as I waited behind those closed doors, syncopated by the occasional deep inhaling that came after reminding myself, “Just breathe.” Now, a sly grin spreads across my face as I hear the sound of our feet, pitter-pattering down the long hallway, stopping only once for a passionate embrace and a lingering kiss on my neck. I hear the "shhhhh" escape from my mouth as we try not to wake the toddler asleep at the foot of our bed and I feel my pursed lips bending into a smile as he ignores my scolding and laughs out loud once again. I hear his heartbeat, indistinguishable from mine, as we make love on the living room floor.
I still think about our wedding from time to time, but far more often I think about our marriage- about the life we’ve lived together since the last rose petal dropped. My thoughts turn, not to the promises we made, but instead to the ways in which we have kept them, broken them, forgiven each other, and strived to keep them once again. I understand now that marriage is not a vow made with words on a Saturday afternoon. It is a continual act of loving and learning and becoming one. It’s more than a few fading photographs lying on our bed. It is the vibrant portrait we paint each day in living color.