Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Marriage, party of two

When I started this blog, we'd barely been married six months, and today we're celebrating seven years of marriage -- plus another eight years of being-together-ness, since we got hitched on our eight-year dating anniversary.

So, for this week, I didn't write about parenting in my parenting column. I wrote about what happens before the baby carriage: the love and the marriage ...

We were married alone, under the early-afternoon sun in a city that was clear across the continent from our families.

Only a handful of people knew what we were doing, and we were giddy with secrecy and independence. Wet met the pastor right before the ceremony, and our witness was a stranger named Missy who worked the drive-thru window at the chapel.

I was 24 years old, with shiny rings on my fingers and an even shinier future ahead of me.

We developed our wedding film at a nearby Walgreens. We ate cheeseburgers and fries at In-N-Out Burger for our reception. I traded my poofy gown for a white sundress and we rode the roller coaster at the New York New York Hotel & Casino. We took our rented Corvette for a long drive through the desert, got lost on the way to Red Rock Canyon, and didn’t care. It was a perfect day.

This week -- today, actually, for those of you reading on June 9 -- Michael and I are celebrating our seventh wedding anniversary.

We still feel a little thrill when we look at our marriage certificate from Clark County, Nevada. It’s a reminder that we stood together, took a chance, and relied on absolutely no one but each other.

But our ties to June 9 go back even further, to the year 2000 -- remember how everyone said “the year 2000,” but then by 2001 we just called it plain old “2001”?

We went on our first date on June 3, the same day Michael and the rest of Charles P. Allen’s rugby team won provincials -- and he got a black eye when he was clocked by someone on the other team. “Don’t try anything with Heather” became the running joke amongst our friends, back at school on Monday. He asked me to be his girlfriend “officially” the following Friday, on June 9, 2000. We were kids. Two Grade 11 students who fell in love in the silly, fluttery way that turns a date to the park into a magical excursion.

We never imagined we’d get married alone, away from our families, but a series of events made it very clear that it was the best plan for us. It was the most grown-up decision we’d ever made, and we made it breathlessly.

As we watched our friends plan their weddings over the next few years, we saw the stress and obligation that went along with them. We watched some of them feel pained by decisions, and make sacrifices because of a family member. But they had to, they told us, because “weddings are about two families coming together.”

Well, yes. That’s true to a degree. But I think some people go into their marriage with too much hand-holding from their family. Sure, it’s about two families coming together. But, mostly, it’s about the two of you ... and no one else.

On our wedding day, we felt we had a good understanding of each other. After all, we’d been together for eight full years by that point. But over our first seven years of marriage, we went through difficult times and continued to learn more about each other. We navigated career changes and surgeries and moving across the province and the birth of our two children. More than anything, we realized that the buck stops with us.

Nobody else is there when money is tight, you’re panicking about bills, and sending each other furious texts. Nobody else is there at 2 a.m. when you’re exhaustedly bickering over how to handle the screaming toddler. Nobody else is there during those hard moments of a marriage, when you aren’t feeling heard or understood. It’s just the two of you, slogging it out in the trenches sometimes, and that’s OK.

We chose to get married without an audience because the heart of marriage is something you don’t share with anyone else. We sat in the front seat of a 1999 Chevrolet Corvette convertible, holding hands in front of two strangers, and promised to stick together when the going got tough.

So much has changed in the 15 years we’ve been a pair, but the important thing is that we’ve gone through it all together. We have changed together. We have grown up together. We have watched each other struggle with our demons and become better people. We know each other’s faults and cheer for each other’s victories.

And when I see him smiling, and the sunlight bounces off his hair just right, I still feel the same rush of joy I felt all those years ago.


4 comments:

Megan S said...

Loved this article! My husband and I also got married in Las Vegas because planning a wedding would have been plain crazy - even a small wedding. No one came with us, but we had told everyone we were going. I think some people were a little offended, but it was one of the best decisions we ever made. So happy to hear of others Vegas weddings :)

Heather Laura Clarke said...

Thanks, Megan! I love hearing about other couples who went to Vegas. It's SUCH an easy, fun, cheap way to get married!

Heather @ Heathers Hurrah said...

Loved reading this! Our anniversary is June 9 too - 5 years for us this Friday :)
You made some really, really good points in this post.

Heather Laura Clarke said...

Thank you so much, Heather! And yay for June 9 anniversaries! Happy five years to you both! :)