Twelve years ago, we were new. Seemingly everyone in our world was, too. We spent our summer months in churches, on open lawns, in function halls. It was the season of new lives, of two becoming one, of buying flatware and woks from gift registries.
I was twenty-two, you were twenty-one and we were both just babies, really. Oh my goodness, we weren’t even born yet. We, the whole concept of us as a married couple, was nothing more than the twinkle in our eyes, while we wandered through Linens ‘N Things with a registry gun and added six sets of Fiestaware to our list and then hemmed and hawed over wicker hampers.
We were playing house with limitless potential and hope and promises.
Everyone was, in that season.
Now, we are (almost) twelve and the wedding invitations have stopped.
Now, we are parents, most of us. We are also workers, business owners, world travelers, church leaders, survivors. We are busy. Just so busy. Diapers and sleep deprivation bleeds into daycare and t-ball, blurs into not remembering if we signed all of the right pages on the send-back-to-school folder or if we forgot the packed lunch in the fridge. Emails are read, but not responded to, on our phones, sitting on a park bench, hoping that they will tire themselves out enough to nap when we get home. Because a shower would be so, so nice.
You and I, at (almost) twelve, have broken two plates and three Fiestaware bowls. We’ve lost flatware to the fists of children, digging in the dirt of our backyard.
I can’t remember the last time I saw our wok.
This is twelve.
Growing up, I hated that age, the awkward step between kid and teen.
At twelve, I had a BUM Equipment sweatshirt and a terrible perm and never said the right thing to my dad. I slammed so many doors.
Now, I’m here again, but with you (and much less door slamming.)
We, and all of the others who were with us in the marrying season, if we were newborns together, we are all pre-teens now.
Once, we were in a season of spinning on parquet floors and eating stuffed chicken breast over and over and we were clinking glasses and applauding newlywed love.
Once, we were in a season where everything felt so certain, and we were all so trusting that of faith, hope and love, the greatest was love and it would remain. But, here and now, where all these life dreams were once planted, there are so many weeds.
Was it the gardener? Was it the soil? Was the sun too much? Too little?
Is love enough?
No really, is it?
Because love, done well, is exhausting work. And it does not always come with the promise that at the end of the day, you’ll have the warm and cozy togetherness that we expect as newlyweds.
And love – faulty, fragile, emotional – human love can’t always fix the fraying brokenness of the life we are tethered to.
Here, the unsettled ground is shifting and there is so much more heartache and struggle and holding tight or letting go, than I remember ever imagining, for any of us.
Now, the wistful clinking of glasses has been replaced by earnest prayers for discernment and peace.
If I could go back in time and tell my twelve year old, poodle-permed self, anything – it would be this:
Be quiet. (No really. Just stop talking. And quit slamming the door too, you big baby.)
Be about others. (Even if only to stop fixating on yourself.)
Be patient. That perm will grow out, nothing lasts forever.
Not even twelve.
And this is my hope for all of us, that twelve, that this season, won’t last forever.
It cannot. I know it in my heart.
And Vinnie, I’m thankful for you. I’m thankful that we still talk until two in the morning. I’m thankful for silly texts, for thoughtful gifts, for cuddling with me on the couch and for every long day that you choose to be by my side. I’m thankful for (almost) twelve years of ups and downs and four children and cats and even a dog, with you.
I’m thankful that we still cling to each other.
And, unlike a new bride who expects the world of her husband and never once imagines all of the unknown shadows and sunsets of the seasons to come, I don’t take any of this for granted.