04 September 2008
better than everything in the sky
this is not at all what you had in mind, you think. no, this simply will not do.
you spend the afternoon taking care of your sick child. you wait nervously for the high fever to go down. you prepare yourself for the worst, for projectile vomiting or maybe even febrile seizures. you think of febrile seizures because you have a penchant for the dramatic. you haven't always been this way but febrile seizures, they really could happen. naturally, this terrifies you. you don't want to think about things like febrile seizures. not today, or any day for that matter, but especially not today. you take your son's temperature every fifteen minutes, hoping the frequency of your readings will magically bring it down a degree or two. you want results, no matter how irrational the method. you exchange one cool washcloth for another, trade worried glances with your husband though clearly, he is not as worried as you are. in fact, he's perfectly calm. this annoys you. you don't want to feel annoyed with him. not now, not today but it's too late. you are officially annoyed.
finally, the mysterious fever breaks and your son bounces around the room like a giant red ball. he's a brand new person and you are so relieved. deep down, you know it's just the ibuprofen but you don't care. suddenly, you find yourself at the mall. at payless shoes, of all places. you are looking at plastic shoes with your daughter when you catch a glimpse of yourself in the mirror. there you are, dirty hair and all. you realize you haven't changed clothes in a couple of days. and you are wearing taupe. taupe. you look like someone's mother. how did this happen? then, before you even know what's happening, you're at old navy looking at socks. you stand under fluorescent lights and contemplate the impressive selection of toddler-sized socks. they're having a sale, eight pairs for ten dollars! yes or no? ezra doesn't really need eight pairs of socks (no one really does) but they're on sale and it goes against everything in you to ignore this. and so you deliberate. this is when it hits you. you are spending your 14th wedding anniversary in old navy in front of a giant wall of socks. this makes you sad.
you wonder what happened. that man you married, does he feel the same way? surely he knows this is not right. you realize that he is also looking at the giant wall of socks. he asks you about colors and sizes, he earnestly wants to help you with this decision. you do nothing but nod blankly. fourteen years ago, you stood together in a church before God and everyone. now you are standing before a large display of socks. you're not sure what happened. you don't know what you expected but you are nowhere near the quiet anniversary celebration you originally had in mind. you long for fancy food on pretty plates, for white linen tablecloths and the flicker of candles. for something, anything. but really, you are in no shape for such an evening. you are a mess. your clothes are a mess, your hair is a mess and you feel old. what you want to feel is radiant, beautiful, luminous. you want to feel like a new bride. instead, you feel old and over.
fourteen years ago today, you were married. you wore important outfits. him, a smart-looking tuxedo and you, a soft white gown, fresh flowers in your hair. late afternoon sunlight filled the sanctuary and you said meaningful things to each other, exchanged rings. there was the sweetness of a kiss. people smiled and congratulated you. people ate fluffy white cake. you were exuberant. the both of you drove through the streets of downtown atlanta in your tiny grey ford festiva, dragging aluminum cans and a rainbow of streamers behind you. he pounded on the horn while you flung your arms wildly out the window. you couldn't stop smiling, couldn't stop looking at each other, touching each other. you couldn't believe you'd done it. you got married.
you are home from the mall now and the medicine has worn off. the fever is back, higher than ever. you sit on the couch next to your child and beg him to please drink the water. fluids, you say. you need fluids. every three seconds, you offer him more cold water. you wonder if you should call the advice nurse again, you try to hide how worried you really are. you hold his head in your lap and sing funny little songs to him, songs that he loves. you know you have a long night ahead of you. you are already so tired. you want to feel sorry for yourself, you really do. you want to wallow in this. it feels so good to wallow. plus, you are really good at wallowing. you want to cry and complain because clearly, you have been wronged. you deserve more than this, so much more. you think about all the ways you would have spent your anniversary together and so you wallow a little while longer. you do this until you remember. this is what marriage is. this is why you've managed to make it this far together because deep down, both of you know. this is what marriage is. it's everyday and sometimes it's ugly and boring but also intoxicating and spectacular. it's a million different things and all at once. this thing you have is beyond words, it transcends the sock-buying, the late-night worrying, the high expectations, the disappointments, the ugly days. it's bigger, broader, brighter, deeper. what you have is true.
this has not been an easy year, you think. no, this has not been the best year. the two of you still have such a long way to go but here you both are, fourteen years later. and for that, you are thankful. for the everyday, you are thankful. for marriage, you are thankful. for him, you are so thankful.