***Every Friday, I dig through my archives and pull out an old favorite that you might have missed.***
This morning as I lay in bed watching my husband sleep, I thought back over the past 19 years of marriage and knew that If I could do it all over again, I’d do it differently.
I wouldn’t have married him 19 years ago today at all. I wouldn’t have walked down the aisle on a rainy, gray June day and joined my life to his. I wouldn’t have faced down the family and friends who told us we were too young. I wouldn’t have been a 4-months-pregnant bride.
If you could just give me a time machine, I’d go back and put a stop to the whole stinking mess.
I’d have never sat crying in the church when the wrong flowers were delivered. My father-in-law wouldn’t have sat sobbing in his pew as his son “threw his life away.”*We would never have stressed over how to pay for that modest but still way-beyond-our-means wedding. We just wouldn’t have.
Because if I could hop into a Way-Back machine and change things around, we’d have already been married for years.
I should have married him sooner. It was foolish of us to wait. We certainly didn’t gain anything by not doing it years before we did. We were just as poor, just as naive, just as unprepared at 21 and 23 as we had been at 19 and 21.
That two year wait gained us nothing except the hidden shame of being a pregnant bride.
We had listened to our parents who told us that the wise thing to do was to wait. We were too young, they told us, to be ready for such a commitment. (Never mind that our own parents had married just as young as we were then.) We had moved in together, and bought a house, and our parents appeared to agree that this was better than getting married young. We were encouraged that playing house was somehow wiser than beginning a life together. Whether or not that message was what they meant, it was the one we heard.
Our parents were wrong and we never should have listened to them.
Laying in bed this morning and watching the steady rise and fall of his breathing, I kept wondering how different our start in life would have been if we hadn’t listened and had just gotten married instead of waiting for our families to approve – if we had known back then that our certainty was enough. If our first wedding had been more like our second.
We were officially married in the Catholic Church on our 10th anniversary. It was quiet and low-key. Just our closest family and friends attended the daily Mass where we renewed our vows. The reception at our house featured a pot-luck dinner and a homemade cake. There was no drama or worries over invitations or seating charts. It was just us and our loved ones coming together to ask for God’s blessings on our family. It was joy and grace and all of the lightness of spirit that I wish my first wedding had had. It’s the kind of wedding I hope my children will have, whether it’s big and grand or small and private. I hope that they have that same lack of family drama, and the same certainty.
My husband and I have walked through Hell and back again in the past 22 years together. We have had 8 children and buried one. We’ve faced sickness, and seen our middle child become a paraplegic and learn to thrive in her new life. We’ve left our families behind and had to start our lives over again in a new city far from home. We’ve lived through poverty and plenty. We’ve seen our first child move out and begin living life on her own.
As we’ve walked down this long and winding road together, I can’t see that we gained anything by waiting. I remember the stress of living with a man and knowing that “breaking-up” would have left me both heartbroken and homeless. I remember the arguments of “too young” and “not ready” that seemed so wrong, and yet were the wisdom of common convention and so we listened to them. I remember the trembling hands and fear of holding a positive pregnancy test four months before our wedding date. There is a world of difference between the “oh sh*t” of being a pregnant girlfriend, and the joy of being a pregnant wife – and the ring on my finger was the difference.
Which is why when my children talk about getting married “some day” in the distant future, I tell them to find the right person and then not wait. Don’t wait for their families to approve, or their bank accounts to reach a certain number, or for a college diploma to hang on the wall. When you find the person you know you want to spend the rest of your life with, I ask them, why would you want to wait to get started on the rest of your life?
*They love me now, so it’s all good.
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