It’s my anniversary, and I’ll cry if I want to

Jonna Jerome

Today marks the 26th year my husband and I have been married. The day used to be grandly celebrated…with a great deal of forethought. These days, with everything going on in our lives, we often fall into the category of managing everything else first just to put out active fires. Sometimes, this year included, we totally forget the day of our union completely – until the morning of! I’m not saying that’s how it should be, or how we want it, but we have the comfort of knowing our partner will understand. That’s saying something.

Remembering the day of our wedding, I gathered some interesting quotes from friends and family that I’d like to reflect on. For the record, they either terrified or annoyed me at the time. My outlook has shifted. Here are my favorites:

“I was worried you would never get married, because no one could ever live up to your dad.”

While this statement is very true – it also is completely misguided. After all, I was not marrying my dad. Dads are in a class all their own. It’s different than the husband role. Sure, I want to be loved unconditionally. I adore the fact my dad always tried to fix things for me, took my side even if I might be a “tiny” bit at fault, and tried valiantly to protect me from harm or disappointment. Yet – in a husband I’m looking for a partner who will call me on my bullshit while not walking out the door. A man who will let me grow, even if he’s growing in a different direction. If we can still come together at the end of the day and be grateful for it – that’s a gift. Even if he does snore. And if I snore, he has the grace to not call me on that.

“Why would you have betta fish at your wedding? They will fight anything else – including their mate – to the death if they’re in the same bowl.”

To elaborate, each table at our wedding reception had a flower arrangement that included a bowl holding a male betta fish as a centerpiece. I wasn’t thinking about the fish as symbolic of our relationship – nor did I even realize at the time their temperament. This comment came back to haunt me years later when I got my daughter a betta for her small fish tank. The people at the pet store did not inform me this tiny fish should not have any other living creature in their environment. As my young daughter and I watched this beautiful fish swim about the aquarium, it suddenly attacked the tiny water frog inside with it. Horrified, we managed to lift the frog out and put him in a container. Then, the betta continued its rampage by flipping over a defenseless water snail and ripping it from its shell. We were agape. My daughter started to cry. It was a real-life horror show of what the wild kingdom can be in a fight for survival. We managed to return the frog alive to the pet store – and I gave them an earful about the lack of instructions when we purchased the fish.

Anyway, back to the symbolism of having betta fish featured in the centerpieces at our wedding reception. I choose to view it as a feisty, independent being, whose boundaries need to be respected. As are two people who choose to reside in the same house with each other for the rest of their lives.

“Thank you for marrying my sister.”

This one was a bit weird…but I guess my family was beginning to question my life choices. Both my siblings married quite young. Both are in their second marriages – which appear to be going strong. This comment made me feel slightly like a consolation prize, but now I view it as good things come to those who wait. Because, truly I too would likely have been divorced had I married any earlier. I had to get some of my mistakes and judgment errors out of the way to recognize the right person when he was thrown into my lap. And I thank my girlfriend for throwing him into my lap – even though at the time I was furious.

“You made our dreams come true today.”

Clearly, I like this one best. Because my husband’s parents were also wondering what the hell their son was waiting for in terms of getting married. This had more to do with the baggage of those who came before in our lives, and who weren’t quite the right fit more than a resistance to marriage.

Some luggage is cute and fits in the overhead bin. Then there’s the lumpy duffel bag that wrinkles all your clothes and leaves you an emotional wreck. When you get married at a later age, you come with a certain amount of carry-on. Luckily, we had been around just enough to recognize a good thing when we saw it – though I almost blew it. We were set up by my aforementioned girlfriend – after she had already tried multiple times with other contenders. Those did not go well. I told her under no circumstances was she to try this again.

Therefore, I was not told that I would be getting another phone call from a man who impressed her by politely fluffing her napkin at a company Christmas party. This poor guy was embarrassed when he phoned and I had no idea who he was. I said “Let me guess. Denise told you to call.” I realized how awkward this was for him, so agreed to meet for a drink. I cheated by arriving at the restaurant early and having only cranberry juice when he thought I was on my third cocktail. I got lots of information that way, as he valiantly tried to keep up. I was slightly worried he might think I was an alcoholic. By the end of the evening, I started thinking, hey – this guy isn’t a jerk. He’s pretty cute and very funny, even if he didn’t tell me I had salad in my teeth.

We started tentatively dating, subtly trying to figure out what was wrong with each other – why were we both still single? We had decent jobs. We hadn’t been married before. No kids were involved. Had we been emotionally unavailable or just hurt? We finally gave up trying to analyze all that and chalked it up to timing. This felt easy. He handled meeting my whole family at Easter without passing out or running away.

Quite a few years have passed since then. I have noticed that much of what we read about dating and relationships centers around new love…mainly how to attract it. Less is said of how romance changes over time and what it really looks like – warts and all – which is where many of us are…if we’re lucky. Our misconceptions about what’s important, amidst the influence of social media and entertainment, can really mess with your head at any stage of the game.

In the early rose-colored glasses days, I got butterflies and a big stupid grin on my face whenever I’d see my man approaching me – just like in the movies. We all think we know our partners before saying “I do,” and yet…how can we? We are carefully presenting our best selves, and sometimes it isn’t until you experience the hardest parts of life that true colors emerge. 

I’ve learned over the years it’s the little things that ground and shape us, not so much the grand gestures, that actually keep a relationship alive. Sometimes it’s just the fact they keep showing up day after day – not that they buy you expensive gifts or look good in a suit. In my case, it was something as simple as him fluffing my dinner napkin that made me realize this was the guy for me. People do change and grow – but the core of who they are remain. 

My definition of love looks different than it once did, thank goodness. Realizing what’s important in the long haul can be both an epiphany and a breakthrough for future longevity. 

I’m welling up right now with happy tears. Thank you, dear, for not divorcing me through the hardest of times and the really ugly, snotty tears. Thank you for not being superficial. Thank you for appreciating my body after childbearing. And, knowing my dad (and family) loved and respected you makes me fully aware you were the best commitment I’ve ever made. Most of all, thank you for fluffing my napkin.

I need to run out and get a last-minute anniversary card.

This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Dana

    “Thank you for marrying my sister” gives me hope for my future someone ☺️. And “You made our dreams come true today” made me smile with joy for both of you… and also reminded me – that no matter what, hope floats❤️❤️

  2. Kathleen brewer

    You always were a good writer, really enjoyed that. Wish I had gone to your wedding.

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