“Right now, I love you forever. I love you for the hardest mile we walked together.” Andrea Gibson
I don’t know if i can in good faith call it my most favorite part of our wedding day, only because i can’t choose a slice of the whole cake and call it the most sumptuous.
But this is definitely the story i love most today.
We woke up on August ninth to a downpour. My mother had always told me how they had wrapped her train and head with trash bags as she walked to the church, to keep them from soaking. Saran held my hand and told me it was good luck.
Jonathan and i had always loved the rain. I told our photographer – who had managed to sneak engagement portraits in between drizzles some nine months prior – that this was just our lot. We learned to love in the downpour; we’d been engaged just two months when a plane crash took four people from our family forever, when i was in biweekly therapy for clinical OCD and anxiety, when we looked at each other and said, “are they right?”
“Are we too young?”
After the ceremony, my bridesmaids were supposed to tuck my “bridal clutch” (a pearly, bedazzled wallet-with-a-strap i’d bought for 75% off at DSW the week prior) in our getaway car. No one had managed to decorate the car, a green Cadillac that belonged to my dad. The window-marker words kept getting washed off. It was kind of a mad-dash day, with an improvised first look in my mother’s living room instead of in the backyard that my brother had spent all summer landscaping.
We waved our (first) goodbyes under the stone awnings of the church and then ran to the car, my brother trailing after Jonathan with the keys.
It was not until we were past the roundabout that i realized there was no clutch; we had no money, no phones, no ID.
On the itinerary for the day, I had marked the next thirty minutes in big, bold letters: Jonathan and lizzie take some time alone to take this all in.
Some etiquette blogs will tell you this; most i found won’t. But there’s this crazy thing that happens on wedding days: you hardly see your significant other if you try and make Pinterest and every great-aunt pleased. I wanted some time, after the deeds were sealed and the songs were sung and the vows made, just to be together. To take the circuitous route to the reception.
I remember us cracking up, kind of out of breath and not knowing what to say. And then Jonathan looked at me:
“What do we do now?”
I thought this planning was perfect; this, husband, is when we catch our breath and take it all in.
I think we fought. Not a boxing ring match, just a little, well-i-planned-some-romantic-time-what-else-do-you-want-dear back-and-forth. (Let these be permission for every fellow Type A perfectionist out there: it’s okay to be human, even in your wedding gown).
But we both felt, well, a little overwhelmed and frankly, nervous that neither of us had an ID on hand. And then, Jonathan, who always drives a bit aimlessly, took us to downtown Carrboro.
“You know what? I’m thirsty. You want something?”
We had no money, no ID, no phone – it was all in a bedazzled bag somewhere in the back of a bridesmaid’s car. But the other thing no one tells you is how much water you need that day, with all the talking and nervous gulping.
There is a Wendy’s downtown in Carborro. You almost miss it; town ordinances mean it looks like the same tumbly-brick of the hipster coffee shop and bike repair place across the street. In that first summer, when i would stay until 3 in the morning before a dutiful drive home to appease my mother, Jonathan and i would stop at the Wendy’s for a chocolate frosty.
“Yeah, I am. Do you think we could – ”
He was already pulling into the Wendy’s drive-through. “Hi!” he leaned out the window to get closer to the intercom. “We, uh, we just got married and we don’t have our wallets or anything with us, but, could we have two cups of water?”
The whole staff was crammed into the drive-thru window when we pulled up. (Between the entourage that follows you everywhere on your wedding day and the happy gasps from strangers as you pass, you really do feel like an A-list celebrity). Two enormous cups of ice water in hand, we decided our drive was enough. So we headed to the reception venue, sneaking in the back door hand-in-hand.
I had dinner recently with a friend who i hadn’t seen in a long time. We’re close, but not the kind of close where she knows that i switched degree programs at Duke to graduate sooner, not the kind of close where she knows i’m taking some time “off” to re-assess my life because it was starting to feel like i was a cog in a factory that was called Achieving Your Goals.
“Your life just looks so wonderful,” she said. She meant it so warmly, but it honestly took me aback.
I mean, yeah, i have a wonderful life. A privileged, beautiful life. And her words made me realize how much more gratitude i needed to show for how wonderful my life is. But when i think about these last two years, what i mostly think of is the struggle. I’m in a lot of therapy, again. Seminary was hard. Shifting from long-distance to going to class together was hard.
It’s so easy to fall for the lie; that someone’s reality is as manicured as their Instagram. I realized then most of what i share online, in these public-but-not spaces, are cries for social justice and, well, photogenic joy.
But not all joy is so photogenic. Not all joy even looks like happiness. Not all happiness looks like two incredibly young people in a rented tuxedo and slightly-too-small wedding gown making moon-pie eyes at each other, those thirty minutes in a muddy field the only outdoor shots of the day.
And that was a good day. A really, really good day. The best, actually.*
But two years in, this is what our marriage looks like: that little spat and a drive-thru glass of water. Like two people who are very, very lucky and very much in love, but who hurt each other. Who are not always kind or considerate. Who get in screaming matches, until the cats start yowling for us to stop and we remember. Who got married young and are growing up together, which mostly means learning how to cook and make messes but also means bearing each other’s growing pains.
It looks like holding close and knowing when to give space, and sometimes confusing the two.
It looks like bleary good-bye kisses when he leaves for work in the morning and late-night runs for custard when i get home from teaching.
Maybe this is breaking the rules for an anniversary post, where i’m “supposed” to gush about how lucky we are, how in love we are, how many more years we have to get dewey-eyed staring deep into each other’s eyes, or something.
And, my God, am i incandescent because you love me, and i you. You were never meant to be the person i picked, and here you are, the only one i want to choose, every day.
But i love you most because you break the rules with me. I am thankful the most that you and i still know when we’re walking the hardest mile, we do it best when we walk it together.
I love you, Jonathan. I carry your heart, i carry it in my very own.
*And, i’d be remiss if i didn’t say how much we really love those pictures; how i still make calendars out of them two years later, how they feel real and untouched and reflective of the simple splendor that was that very, very good day. And if you need a tiny photographer with the biggest and best personality in the world, than you should hire Casey from Urban South Photo.