It was here and gone and I hadn’t even noticed it. But you knew it, and you wanted to make sure I did, too. It caught me off guard when you called my name from the bathroom, and I hurried to find out what was wrong, because surely there must be something wrong if you are straining your voice to be heard over the drone of cascading shower water. When I got into the bathroom, though, all you did was poke your head around the shower curtain and, offering your wet lips for a kiss, gently say “Happy Anniversary, babe.”
Whoa. It is summer after all, and I love the free fall of time, so I can hardly tell you what day of the week it is, let alone what number on the calendar. You followed up quickly, “It was a couple of days ago, and I only realized it yesterday, and I’m sorry that I forgot to say something.” You forgot? What does that make me, then?
This is our first anniversary, the one we celebrated all those years before we got married. It’s the birthday of us, the recognition of that very first time I said “yes.”
I was caught off guard – first by the sheer fact that this date, this day that for so many years was weighty and strong like an anchor, blew past me, past us, like a leaf on a highway. Then, by the reality that this is, of course, what our real life is like, now: working overtime, you and me, each pulling our weight but in opposite directions trying to balance it out. The real life of dentist appointments, and grocery shopping, and making dinner, and pulling weeds, and every once in a while sitting down to enjoy it all. And lastly, caught off guard with the number: seventeen, you said. That’s a big number. Last year was my tipping point, where now I can say that you have been part of my life longer than you haven’t, so I don’t know why this year that number almost brings me to my knees. It’s a number that feels bigger than me, than us, but then I see this life of ours, these three babes that interrupt our one moment of quiet together, folding laundry around that bed that is ours, and the numbers don’t lie.
We finished folding the laundry, answering kid questions about dinner, and breaking up an argument or two, but before it was over, I said “I want to talk about this some more.” And I do. I want to hash it out with you, remember you at 18, be remembered at 16. On our wedding anniversary, we always take stock, look around, give thanks, offer it up with bowed hearts, and it’s good. But this is different: this commemorates something smaller, yet bigger. Right before the beginning of us, there were so many other maybes. This is about when something in life tapped me on the shoulder, and whispered “pay attention.” This is about remembering beginnings. Not just the “I do” beginnings when things get official, crisp and clear, but the beginnings that look more like underwater, swirling and obfuscated, but bright with color and light. It’s about finding each other, then, and now.
There’s this bit of then and now we play: you were boyishly good looking then. You were never far out of my eye. But now? Now, you are substantially manly, solidly handsome. While I try to hide my tired eyes and wrinkled skin, you wear your age with a confidence that you have grown into. At 16, the world was vast and open, and we ignited dreams out of nothing but imagination and spark, weaving each other into the stories we’d tell our grand kids. At 16, I had no idea that my grand kids would be your grand kids, though I know I hoped they’d be. At 16, I didn’t know how hard life could be, or how beautiful, though it didn’t take long to find out. At 16, I was trying on all sorts of me’s and you were trying on all kinds of you’s.
We may forget. We did forget. The day came and went, and neither of us noticed. Instead, we both just laughed at how, so busy living our lives, we forgot. We forgot to remember. We’ve never been big on pomp and circumstance, but you know that this gal here likes some depth – a bit of symbolism, a mark of ritual. I admit – I used to be a little sheepish about the fact that I met you when I was 16 and (mostly) never looked back, but the longer I live into this truth, our truth, the more I know that it is simply part of our story, more of our story. So, tonight, we’re remembering to remember. We’ll gather our gang – this small tribe that we share, these people that we’ve birthed into being – and we’ll pack up a picnic. We couldn’t ask for a better evening – the temperatures are dropping and the air is breezy and sweet. We’ll be outside, where we have always liked life best, and later, with the tending and caring done for a moment, we’ll light up that fire pit, share a bottle of wine, and remember who we were 17 years ago.