Today on this day, 19 years ago—19 years!—I married my best friend. I know that sounds all corny and cliched, but it’s the truth. If we weren’t best friends, 19 years would probably feel like a lot longer time than it has.
When I say it out loud, 19 years seems like a long time. And then when you add in the additional five years we were together before that, well, 24 years is practically a lifetime. And actually, it is more than half of our lifetimes. But the awesome thing is, it doesn’t feel like it. Not at all. In fact, last week I called to make dinner reservations for during our upcoming trip to Disneyland. The Disney “cast member” asked me if we were celebrating anything special. Because this trip is kind of our anniversary celebration (even though we presented it to the girls in a “golden egg” on Easter), I said, “Well, it’s our anniversary.” When she asked how long, I was all tongue-tied, since at the moment I was more concerned with whether Princess Tiana and Ariel (Little Miss’ favorite princesses) would be making an appearance at our meal.
“Ummmm, 17 years?” I said.
“Wow, that’s the longest time I’ve heard anyone say all day! Congratulations!” she said in that Disney way. But then as she started asking me for more information about our stay, I could tell she was writing all this down and I started wondering if 17 years was the right answer.
“Wait, hang on, sorry, I think it’s actually 18 years,” I said, thinking how embarrassing that would be if they gave us something like a cake or a button with “Happy 17 Years!” on it and the ever-precise BK would be like, “What? Seventeen years??? Where’d they get that?”
“Oh, OK, let me change that,” she said. “Wow, 18 years!”
But that still didn’t sound right to me, so—and I’m embarrassed to admit this—I grabbed a pencil and quickly did the math: 2010 minus 1991=19. Oops. But now I felt too silly to tell the Disney lady, lest she might think, “What’s wrong with this chick? She doesn’t even know how long she’s been married?”
After I hung up the phone, it bothered me that “19 years” didn’t just roll of my tongue easily. Because that’s kind of a big deal these days. Did it just get lost in the day-to-day-life-with-three-kids shuffle? I mean, I knew our anniversary was coming up, I just didn’t think about which one it was.
You know how they say it should be marriage first, kids second? We’re not good at that. We agree with the theory; we just don’t put it into practice often enough. (Uh, hello, we’re celebrating our anniversary in Disneyland! What does that say?) Our kids, as good and awesome as they are, saturate us. Our conversations tend to get interrupted a lot, to the point where most of them usually end with one of us saying in exasperation, “Forget it. I’ll catch up with you later.” We just figure this is the way it’s supposed to be during this phase of our lives.
I did fess up my mistake to BK later. He thought it was funny. He knows how I am with numbers and years.
But here’s what I realized: The reason it didn’t roll of my tongue because it doesn’t feel like 19 years.
I’ve always thought it was kind of weird when people say “Congratulations!” on anniversaries, and I hesitate to even write it in other couples’ anniversary cards. Because it’s like, “Congratulations on making it through this terribly difficult time called marriage,” or like, “Wow, you did it!” as if they climbed Mount Kilimanjaro or something. But I think that’s just because I take our relatively easy marriage for granted, although less so lately as a lot of our peers are either divorced by now or close to it, or even on their second marriages.
I wholeheartedly concur that a successful marriage is an accomplishment, and people say it is work. But we’ve always said that we don’t really get that “work” part. I guess we’re just lucky that way. Either that, or the “work” just feels natural to us and we don’t even notice we’re “working on” our marriage. Most of the time.
Of course there have been—and are—times where I’ll think, “Ohhhh, OK, now I get it. This is what they mean when they say marriage takes work.” Usually, those are the times when we just can’t agree on something, or he drives me so crazy with his kitchen-equipment rules, or the guy-like lack of sensitivity he can demonstrate, or his 6th-grade-boy sense of humor.
But that’s another post, and today is our anniversary, and this is about the many things I love about my friend, whom I first saw on the school bus mid-semester of our junior year in high school and thought, “Who’s the new kid with the wet hair and the dorky black soccer shoes?” And I should’ve known what I was in for when he walked into my computer class later that day, and trying to be nice, I said, “Oh, are you in this class?” And he stopped in his tracks, looked himself up and down and said, “Well, I’m standing in here, so uh, yeah, that would indicate that I am.”
Some things never change: Fast-forward 24 years to just the other night when I asked him to take a look at the malfunctioning vacuum cleaner, and he came in from the garage lugging his huge toolbox. Hoping it was just going to be a simple fix, I said, “Oh, no! It’s something that needs the toolbox?” And he said, “Well, it needs tools, and they’re in a box, so yes, it’s something that needs the toolbox.” That kind of thing, I knew I signed up for when I married him 19 years ago. What I didn’t know was:
- That he would become the support system I never knew I needed, providing calmness and strength where I lack it.
- That he would compliment me almost every day, even though I’m the worst person in the world at taking compliments.
- That he would make me laugh at least twice every day.
- That he would love to argue with me and consider it a sport or a hobby. He. Loves. To. Argue. Loves it. Me, not so much. But it happens. The other night, we were “loudly discussing” what Disneyland rides were appropriate for Little Miss, regardless of whether she meets height requirement. One of us wants to force her onto the loud, dark, scary, twisty rides, one of us does not. We were trying to iron all this out ahead of time in order to avoid “loudly discussing” it while in the “happiest place on Earth.” It turned into what I thought was a big argument, but to him, it was “our goals-alignment meeting.”
- That whenever the radio is on, we will randomly sing the exact same part of a song at the exact same time, and that will be the only part we sang.
- That he would support and encourage me in everything I do.
- That he would continue to be the smartest person I know, who can have an intelligent discussion with anyone about anything, whether it’s politics or foreign policy, or the physics behind gymnastics, or the science of cooking and nutrition or what does Randy mean when he says “pitchy” on American Idol.
- That he can fix anything, whether a vehicle, a vacuum cleaner or a virus on the computer.
- That he would love me through thick and thin, and trust me, I have my “thick” times.
- That he would take serious pleasure in making me an iced espresso every morning. When I gave up caffeine almost three months ago, he felt like something was missing from his morning so he developed a new caffeine-free version of an a.m. drink for me.
- That he’s game for almost anything anytime, and will even do a Jillian Michaels workout or a yoga DVD with me at midnight if I ask him to.
- That we truly enjoy just hanging out with each other, even if we’re just watching Sober House or The Amazing Race together. Which, by the way, we still want to try out for. The Amazing Race, not Sober House, that is.
- That we would be fiercely competitive with each other about everything. It kills me to admit that he usually wins, but I will never let him forget that I once beat him in a swimming race and I think I can still beat him in one-one-basketball. (But not H-O-R-S-E.)
- That no matter what he has going on, he puts family first. Like on Sunday, when he woke up early and made breakfast with the girls, worked in the yard/garden, grilled a salmon to take to his under-the-weather parents on their anniversary, put a turkey breast on the rotisserie for our dinner, helped Twin A with her math, helped Twin B make an electric paper-airplane launcher, helped Little Miss master the monkey bars, then wrapped up his night by doing some “work” work into the wee hours. (By the way, bringing the salmon to his parents was my idea. Not that we’re competing for credit.)
- That he would become almost as germophobic as I am, therefore never raising an eyebrow at my ample supply of wipes, sanitizers and sprays at any given time, and he doesn’t say a thing when the minute we check into a hotel room, out comes the Lysol and the Ziploc for the remote. In fact, he appreciates this about me, and where others find me annoying, he finds me “endearing.” Sweet.
- And most important of all, that he would be the father that he is to our daughters. I always knew that he loved kids, that he was good with them, and that he could be like a kid himself, so I had no doubt he’d be a great dad. But he has more than met that expectation, from the time our girls were infants and we didn’t know what the heck we were doing, to now during the mixed bag of preschool/preteen years. I think the two older ones already see how lucky they are, and to Little Miss, well, he’s her prince.
Those are just some of the reasons why 19 years just doesn’t feel like 19 years. And if someone ever asks me what’s the secret to a happy marriage—which, come to think of it, no one ever does—I would say it’s to marry your friend. Especially if he happens to be good-looking. And even if he’s a smartass.
Happy Anniversary to you, my amazing husband. I know you don’t like that word “amazing,” but for you, I reserve the right to use it. You earn it every day.