Today, we’ve been married 16 years.
And I love to take photos of us as the teenagers we were compared to the adults we’ve become.
Photos of the wedding next to photos of the last mess dinner.
Photos of us happy together then, and now.
Good times then compared to good times now.
But those photos tell such a small part of our story.
I think it might be because, for maybe the 4th or 5th time in our marriage, you are home this year, but I find myself looking back this time without the rose-coloured glasses I like to put on when I reminisce.
There are so many moments that the pictures don’t show.
And I find myself a little nostalgic for the moments we didn’t photograph. Not because I would ever want to repeat them, but because they have made us who we are.
Love is sometimes reunion photos and pictures of us laughing on the beach.
But love was also 3 months after our marriage, when I was mad because I had given up and gotten a job at a bookstore instead of using my brand new college diploma, and you got on my case for not cleaning up something and I screamed so loud at you I lost my voice and couldn’t greet customers at work.
Love was when you came home from your first combat deployment at 20 years old and within weeks we had a baby and moved homes and when your nightmares woke me up for the thousandth time I immaturely and out of pure exhaustion threatened to take the baby and go “home.”
Marriage was also that time at 4am when the baby who had fallen asleep to the sound of our fighting started crying in his bouncy chair and woke us both up where we had collapsed in opposite corners on the floor of the kitchen because no one told us reintegration is hard.
It, in all honesty, was just last month when I locked myself in the bathroom with a panic attack and you had to talk me down from the other side of the door while the kids were waiting in the van for us to leave.
Love includes fancy dresses and mess dinners, but it was also me, sitting in the minivan with 2 toddlers and a newborn in the back after dropping you at the airport, terrified to drive home and have to care for them on my own again.
The times I’d wake up when you were home from Afghanistan on leave to a cold space beside me and you, downstairs, checking the news, wishing you were there instead.
While love has been the times I’ve seen you pull into the driveway after weeks away so I’ve snuck out to the garage and locked the door behind me before the kids noticed, it’s also been the times I’ve handed you a child at the front door and gone back to bed before you even got changed.
It was our first anniversary, where you forgot completely because you were at war and I went to dinner at a chinese restaurant with our neighbours and fell asleep in front of MASH reruns alone.
And it was our 10th anniversary, where you got called out in the days before, cancelling our plans and instead you spent the night sandbagging a dyke in Manitoba and I put the kids to bed and drank the champagne alone in the bath.
16 years has included birthday’s in Thailand with chocolate and wine and the kind of nights that you write novels about.
It’s also included those days you were phoning home to make sure there was enough money in overdraft before you got a haircut and nights I was too tired of children pawing me all day to let you touch me.
When the dust settled from the third move and I was just…. sad. And sometimes that looked like compassion and tender moments and more often it looked like frustration and hurt and blame and anger.
And after the fourth deployment, when you came home and I realized the kids were older and I was more capable and I didn’t desperately need your help as soon as you walked in the door like I had in the past. So we re-learned, after more than a decade, why we had needed each other before we had just needed each other.
Love was the 530 square foot PMQ we moved into as teenagers, and the just over a thousand dollars a month that you brought home to pay our bills.
What made it work is that just like those tiny paychecks, none of those moments, not even the ones we experienced apart, belong to either one of us alone.
Everything we have and every second we’ve spent married, belongs to us both.
There are no photos of the angry words, the hurt, the frustration. There’s no photographic evidence of the boundaries we’ve pushed and the pain we’ve caused each other. You’ll never see a Facebook image of us sleeping on the kitchen floor.
But 16 years later, I wonder if those moments don’t speak to our marriage more than the happy ones.
Because we, my love, are still here.
Happy Anniversary, Dh.
You always knew we’d make it.
Letting you talk me into trying is the best decision I’ve ever made.