If I could, I would usher you through the evening of January 8, 2005. Reasonable people, assessing every fact and line of fine print, conclude this is the most significant night of my life. The story should sit on my lips, ready to spill.
A man like me should be able to bend the ears of strangers and loved ones, holding forth on how her hair rested atop her head like a diadem, detail every stitch of her dress. “Dearly beloved,” I’d say, “I gather you together in the presence of God and these witnesses to hear how the Almighty paused time when she graced the aisle." I'd recreate every crack and crook that punctuated my voice when I read the vows I penned. I'd name that tune which gave me shivers.
My world certainly shifted on its axis 15 years ago when we were married, but I barely remember what it felt like. I know what happened in the technical and spiritual senses—the order of the program, the names of those who stood up for us, how two lives collided for keeps. But my sense of my own wedding would sound like the memories of wild-eyed survivors right after a storm. First quiet, then chaos. It was over as quickly as it came.
Before you cross the threshold into the most freighted minutes of your life, someone should mention that trying to preserve each moment only makes the moments faster, slipperier. You have and you hold, but the little things fall through the spaces between your fingers.
Fifteen years pass much the same way. As with our wedding, if asked, I would happily show off photographs and pace through chapters in the story. I might run the numbers: one son, two houses, three cities. But the stuff that really sticks to your soul passes by before the message travels from your brain to your fingers, telling you hold on for dear life.
A few nights before this anniversary, we watched “Marriage Story.” The contours of strained conversations between Adam Driver and Scarlett Johansson felt familiar. Like their characters, we ask who’s getting bigger and who’s looking smaller; we deliberate over which of Alice’s potions marriage serves today.
Where their conversations exposed fractures, ours come to rest upon a sure foundation. In the heat of those moments something always works out, working out from in between us in a way that defies prediction.
The moments which make up a marriage add up. I can’t recount each of them—the thousands of kisses or words whispered as eyes flutter to sleep. I know there has been sex and fights that derailed sex, the dizzy warmth of feasting and drinking, dollars stretched and futures sketched, fingers brushed across knees, countless words spent in cheerleading and constructive criticism, prayers all too rare and an embarrassment of laughter’s riches. I know what I know, but can’t summon the stories on command.
Yet all the moments rest within a reservoir, ready to surface when an extra dose of grace or strength is needed. They fulfill their destinies, tiny and profound, defusing tensions or detonating to create ruins out of pride.
No doubt the impressions of this milestone will last longer than memories of it, gathering with the moments before and the ones to come that make us and hold us. When I think about what it takes to sustain a life lived together, that bothers me less and less.
Our marriage, fifteen years and counting, sounds like a well-loved LP of “God Only Knows.” The acetate has survived a few moves, been slipped in and out of its sleeve, rested beneath a warm windowpane or two. The grooves bear their share of scuffs and scratches; drop the needle and you’ll notice the hiccups. But you still hear the bounce in the harpsichord, how the French horn rises up to soar above the mix, the softness in Carl Wilson’s lead vocal when he pronounces assurance within love’s cathedral. “You never need to doubt it.”
The impression of that recording, like the imprint of 15 years, resonates longer than the last note, returning to steady the soul when the soul says so. God only knows what or who I might be without all these evanescent moments. And only God knows enough to number or order our days. But I know what these days mean. Whatever moments fingers lose, hands makes up for, wrapping around that meaning, carrying it everywhere.
I might not be able to retrace every step leading here or finger the threads holding us together. But I know where I am in the story. The details blur from the edges in, but all this has happened—and more. I know because I am what I am, and we still are what we are.
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