Twenty

Twenty years ago, I woke up single. 

I got showered. I nursed a hangover. I got dressed. I let my brother drive me to the church down the road. A few dozen friends & family showed up. And my best friend walked through the door, and grinned at me.

Transient

We were young. but we we pretty sure this thing was the stuff you could spend a lifetime searching for.  

We promised to help each other. To hold each other. To cheer & to comfort. To tend to, listen to, and to cherish. We stood in front of our friends, and promised we'd follow one another through any adventure. Take on any challenge. And come out the other side - hopefully laughing, sometimes crying, but always together. 

Twenty years of moves, children, scars and scares, new jobs, road trips, book-store dates and five star vacations, of poverty and success, animals and hare-brained ideas. Of memories & conversations. Of getting it wrong, and of making it right. Of passion, and of fights. Of making up with water balloon fights or sometimes unspoken apologies. Of teasing. Of imperfections. Of completeness. Of long flights to explore new places together.  Of simple, quiet nights with all the best things within arms reach. Of beauty. Of shared fears & comforts. Of constant, steady, amazing love. 

My Bride is the most beautiful woman I've ever met, and my best friend, and I am more than certain that I'm the luckiest man I've ever known. 

My marriage is now old enough to legally buy cigarettes.

This week, my Bride and I celebrated 18 years of marriage. 

At a certain point, anniversaries stop having an official "theme." I think it was 15 years. After 15 years, Hallmark has apparently figured out that you're statistically more likely to spend money on cage diving with a shark while wearing a wetsuit made of carpaccio than you are to buy each other a card, and the themed anniversaries run out.

(Ha! Joke's on you, Hallmark. I totally bought her a card.) 

We celebrated our anniversary by taking the kids out to eat fried clams, and then we went home and tried not to go into fried-food hibernation before the kids fell asleep. You know. So we could celebrate in private. By watching the TV programs we wanted to watch. The ones without 'iCarly Montana Squarepants of Waverly Place.'  

Ooh, the dirty, luxuriant depravity of watching a full episode of 'Episodes' without stopping to explain the deliciously sweet irony of Matt le Blanc cast as Matt le Blanc playing an erudite headmaster at an exclusive boarding school to a pair of elementary school offspring who have no idea what a boarding school is, or what 'Thanksgiving pants' are. 

Anniversaries are a funny thing at this point. We've been married almost half of my life. We've been married longer than my parents who made me were married. (Though not longer than my mother and step-father, nor longer than my in-laws. Although technically we have. Because they legally separated for immigration, without telling their kids until a couple of years ago. Or something like that. There's an immigration coming-to-America story there that I'm deeply curious about, but can never quite pin down. My Bride's version of it involves the family eating her favorite goat when she was 4 years old (eveyrone else denies this happened), and being forced to leave behind her favorite set of books when they moved to Los Angeles. Because they don't allow books in Los Angeles. Except that they do. Also: her parents deny this happened as well.  Apparently, I married a pathological liar). (Excuse me. I meant to say "a girl with a vivid imagination.")

I don't remember a whole lot about our wedding - my brother had taken me out to get drunk on kamikazes the night before. I remember how delightfully cool the window of the taxicab was pressed against my face on the ride back to the hotel. This was a life lesson. I remember showing up to the church in the morning with a cold six-pack of diet coke, and a fervent wish not to ralph on the priest's shoes. I remember that our priest was 105 years old and hated little kids. I remember that there was a delicious spread of food. I remember that I ate none of the delicious food. I remember that a friend sang while we danced. I remember insisting that we pack every single one of the wedding gifts into the car to take along on the honeymoon. (we were young and dirt poor. Which meant our friends were also young and dirt poor. Which meant it wasn't that hard to pack the gifts into the back of the car.) I remember that we were so hungry by the time we drove three hours on a windy road with the packed car to Mendicino, we ate our wedding night meal at a little brewery down the road from our B&B. I have rarely had fried fish that I enjoyed more. 

Here's a further random smattering of the last 18 years:  

Moving to Texas. "The joke's not funny anymore. We can go back to California now." Driving a rental cross-country. Augusta, Ga. Making chocolate balloons for a Christmas party. Camping in the Keys in the middle of summer. A hurricane in the Keys in the middle of summer. Two dogs. Homeless people from the bus station knocking on the door in the middle of the night. Being too broke to pay the electric bill in the middle of winter. Ballroom dancing classes. Downloaded instructions on how to carve a turkey. Being chased out of New Orleans by the American Dental Association. Cancer. Scotland. Surgery. Chemo-therapy. Driving the other way cross-country. Two of us and a dog on a twin bed in her parents house. For a year. A down payment on a Very Ugly House in The Fog. The SLO bus. Another dog. Ireland. A four-poster bed I built. October at the KOA. Doglsledding & the Pope. A little girl, 6 weeks premature. Horseback trekking across the Rockies. Moving to England. Horseback trekking across the Scottish highlands. A horse of our own. Italy. Bluegrass. Ireland. Germany. Egypt. Renting a haunted castle in Scotland. A little boy, sworn in at the embassy.  Massachusetts. Farm house. Another dog. Chickens. Mexico. Friends. A giant red cooker. The farmer's market. Maine. Tennessee. Making salami and dirty jokes. The best fried chicken in town. 

18 years. A lot of laughs and memories. And still the girl that makes my heart skip when she enters the room.