Thirteen years ago today, at Winston Place, in Valley Head, Alabama, we got married.
It was scorching hot. Pink and white flower petals covered the ground. And there was periwinkle at every turn.
Only after we were exchanging our vows did it occur to us that there was no mic system and therefore no one could hear us. Especially when the freight train went rolling past the venue.
Not to mention that out of nerves, my future husband wouldn’t even look at me. He was basically saying his vows to the minister, who was performing the ceremony.
I can’t be sure that it wasn’t actually those two who got married that day.
But as we turned and were presented as Mr. and Mrs. Charlton K. Bell, a weight was lifted.
But not because we were married. Because the wedding was finally over with. The very wedding that we had planned in only six months. For a much smaller budget than many people planning weddings during that time. Maybe because when you are thirty years old, people aren’t lining up to pay for your wedding. That was mostly up to us.
But the wedding really was perfect. Perfect for us anyway. Minus the heat. And the train. And the periwinkle. And well we did get to eat cake.
And this cake, too.
And gorgeous food.
I even served shrimp. And I detest shrimp. And then there was sweet tea. Because, well, Alabama.
And yes I know that all of these pictures look outdated. This was 2003 after all. There were no smart phones. We did have a ton of disposable cameras sitting around on the reception tables. This way guests could capture all of the stuff that the photographer missed.
It was a great wedding.
When you get married, you get all wrapped up in the ceremony and the festivities. You envision the very day when you are THE most important people in all of your friend’s and family’s lives. For just a moment in time. The memories stay with you forever. Memories of the day when the world stopped, for just a little while. All eyes on you.
Cut to…..you are married.
Marriage is not about a flawless ceremony. It is everything after that. Marriage is work. Every single day, it is work. People try to warn you about that before you take the plunge. But until you are already off the deep end, you cannot fathom the magnitude.
Year one. Year two. Tick, tock, The years keep coming. Sometimes it feels like you have been married forever. Sometimes you wonder where the years have gone. People think ahead to their 50 year wedding anniversary. Will we make it THAT far? The Golden Years?
But here I stand. Here we stand. At year thirteen. Not many years as compared to some. A lifetime when compared to others. We’ve had four children, three dogs, four houses, in two different states. We have celebrated highs. We have weathered storms. All that by year thirteen.
Yet life keeps marching. Marriage keeps happening.
There are days that you don’t really even want to talk to your spouse. You cannot share your life, home and family with another person, without there being difficult days. Some days it is like he gets out of bed, trying to piss me off. And maybe even vice versa. Okay, absolutely vice versa. We aren’t perfect.
What always brings me back though, is remembering that HE is that person. The very one. You know what I mean. If I need a hand. I just know. If there is no one else, there will be him. Always. Without question.
He is the only other person on this planet who loves our children as much as I do. And he really gets me. That is something that is only gained with time and experience. And putting in the work. Especially putting in the work on those hard day. Those days when we want to throw our hands up and run far, far away. But year thirteen. And we haven’t run anywhere.
I am not the easiest person to live with. Yet I swear, sometimes when I look into his eyes, only sometimes, I can actually see the love. The love he still has for me. As though at that exact moment, he is remembering why thirteen years ago, he signed up for this. As though he loves me more now than even then. Because he does. Experiencing life together, really does make love grow. A deeper love. A comfortable love. A love you can count on.
Life has peaks and valleys. And you need the valleys to truly appreciate the peaks. My husband would truly do anything for his family. Looking back, the reason I fell in love with him was because somehow, I always knew that about him.
Marriage is work and commitment. A commitment to keep trying. To keep loving. Keep celebrating. Learning. Growing. To keep pushing. Pushing through the hard times. Life will deal you blows along the way. Marriage is having someone. That person. No matter what, someone has your back. Your partner in life.
In the grand scheme of things, thirteen doesn’t seem so important. Except it really is. Thirteen is huge. 4,745 days later. We are stronger and wiser. We are more content with life. We made four children and they are our world. We live to see what comes next. For our children and for us.
If I could say anything to those two kids back in 2003, I would say, no matter what, just hold on. It really does get better and better. You are not going to believe what you can accomplish together.
I do love you, Charlton Bell. I still choose you. Here’s to thirteen. Could you have ever imagined how grand this would be?