Amber and I are writing these marriage letters again, because we need them. You can read Amber’s letter here. (And make sure to visit her blog for the full story of Marriage Letters.)
Yesterday the snow moved back into the Ozarks. I wish you’d have been here to see it. When I left for church, there was a chill in the air. Several hours later, I walked out the church doors and there was a five-inch blanket of snow on the ground. Things change so quickly here in the Ozarks. I’m glad you’re in Austin this week, but I wish you could have seen it.
Things change so quickly in the Ozarks. Isn’t that an understatement.
There was a time when everything was rose tinted. We drove deep into the heart of these hills, Billie Holiday crooning over the radio. We were holding hands when I noticed that you were wearing my favorite jeans, the ones that snugged up in all the right places and had holes at the knees. I reached down to the rip on your left knee, reached through the frayed edges and touched your skin. I remember Billie singing “all of me, why not take all of me.” It sounded good to me.
I suppose I had it worked out. You’d follow me into “the ministry,” dutiful wife that you would be. You’d carry two kids into the world–a boy and girl–and we’d adopt another, perhaps a biracial or international baby. We’d work out the Kingdom Come as best as we knew how; perhaps I’d end up as Christian rock god, or a mega-church preacher, or an overseas missionaries. We’d do something that changed the world. Of course, there’d be room for your poetry, for your words, and one day, you’d learn to bring them under submission. Perhaps they’d be a part of the world changing.
Do you remember when I asked you to marry me? It had snowed so much that my secret engagement excursion (the plans of which I cannot even now remember) was canceled, and we opted instead for a walk through the woods and to the park. I asked you if you’d marry me among the Canadian geese who could not keep from honking their approval and nipping at our backsides. You cried. You said you’d follow me anywhere.
If you’d have received the benefit of your bargain, I suppose you’d be a musician’s wife, or a missionary, or the wife of a preacher of some ilk. Ain’t that a gas? Yes, you said you’d follow me anywhere, and anywhere sounds like a fine place when life is projected on the pixie-dust covered dreams of two twenty-year-old romantics. But what if I had projected a more realistic vision?
If I had told you that our dreams were mirages, that the ministry, the adoption, and the poetry would never quite pan out, would anywhere have sounded quite so sexy? If I had told you that I would leave the ministry for law school, that I’d become a version of myself that made less time for music and art, would you have still followed? What if I’d have promised four children, all boys, one sick? If I had told you that our marriage would be pock-marked by more sordid things–things like loss of faith, addiction, infidelity–would you have ever said anywhere?
We both said it–to death do us part–and sometimes I wonder if this isn’t the saving grace of this whole shebang. We both meant it when we said it, and neither of us is keen to go back on our words.
Once upon a time, you said yes to a much more put together version of ourselves. We were too young to know this, but life does what it does, upends most of our put-together dreams. It teaches true fidelity–not the sort that is measured by feminine doe-eyed subservience, or masculine ax-wielding provision, or marital sexual devotedness, but the more mature, more mortared sort. True fidelity is the kind that recognizes the grafting together of bones.
In the end, life is somehow intuitive if we’ll let it be. Our dreams were all upside down once upon a time. Now, you’re moving into the ministry, and I’m making room for more poetry. Now, we’re talking less about adoption and more about family reunification. Now I’m a working stiff in middle America who wants to prove nothing more than that a real marriage in a real life has a fighting chance. Now, I’m telling you that I’ll follow you anywhere, and I mean it.
Things are cold here in the house without you. The snow is projected to stick around for a while. I miss you something fierce, but I’ll see you soon.
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