Monday, 1 July 2013

I still do

Four years ago today, high up in the Austrian Alps, H and I were bound to each other, two lives intertwined. Though it wasn't a wedding in the conventional sense, it was, and is, the most meaningful day in our still growing relationship, and the date we mark as an anniversary. (And yes, we have a penchant in this family for celebrating the less conventional milestones in life; somehow, that makes it feel all the more special).

There was only us two, no witnesses, no papers to sign, nothing to officially validate that momentous day as two lives, almost imperceptibly really, became intertwined, became A Life; a future that we promised each other we'd build together. There were no formal vows, at least not verbal ones. I can say this: every fibre of my being sang with the possibilities before us, my flesh and blood and bone and grey matter and intestines, all my bodily secretions, rushed and tingled with the rightness of this transformation we were undergoing. I just knew. There was champagne, and breathtaking views as far as the eye could see; not that we really had eyes for more than each other. We had a passerby, careless of either the stunning scenery or the Big Day she didn't realise she was witnessing, take a hasty, ill-framed image.

On that afternoon - emotionally and spiritually and in every other way that holds meaning for us, if not bureaucratically - we became husband and wife. 

Our 'wedding', which happened us much for the benefit of US Immigration Services when I was offered a fellowship in that country as for sentiment, took place months later, in the echoing chambers of Toronto City Hall. We posed, faux ironically, with our wedding party witnesses, my brother and a buddy who had the day off work; had these two single, beer swilling, 20-something guys elbow each other out as I threw my bouquet, (result: my shy, steadfast brother, still single, still gorgeous but wisely choosy these years later, didn't catch the bouquet), and then the four of us went for a gargantuan, slap-up lunch at one of my favourite Vietnamese Pho restaurants on Bloor St. It was fun and it was inconsequential, which felt appropriate for us.

(I have a confession: I wasn't really sold on the idea of marriage per se, even after I met H, and even after I knew he was The One. My own doubts about the social [and economic, and political] conventions attached to this particular institution, combined with the values imbued in the matriarchy that was my stridently feminist upbringing by a strong, capable, idealistic single-mother-of-five, made me a wary convert. And yet now? Now I derive great delight from uttering the words 'my husband' as pertaining to H, and not just for it's retro vibe.)

But before all that, four years ago exactly, on a terrace atop a ski jump in Innsbruck, we looked into each others eyes and saw the future.

Long before we ever uttered those age old words, I do, well, we did. We do, every single day.



************************


It's not always, or even often, easy. Did we know, those four years ago, just how full of twists and turns and potholes this journey together would be? We've certainly been together through some better and (a lot of) worse, some richer and poorer (though not really), a worrying amount of sickness, and health too. But really, two people could not possibly love and cherish each other more.

Still, there is no way we could have imagined just how hard our future would be. Our young marriage has had more than it's fair share of challenges, so that sometimes we feel as though the universe is testing us. We've experienced losses, paralysing grief, hospitalization and major illnesses, joblessness, innumerable moves and family dramas. H has talked about the unfairness of all we've had to face, how hard we've had to work at finding romance, seeing the silver linings, counting our blessings, just staying afloat some days. As though we naively expected that our love alone and the marvel of us having found each other should shield us from any of that. No; like too many couples who find themselves having drifted into the world of loss and infertility just as they thought their happily ever afters were about to begin, who end up devoting so much time to the pursuit of elusive offspring, there has been heartbreak and disappointment, hard life lessons and hope. Such is life, for some of us.



************************



I wear a ring, given to me by H, my engagement-cum-wedding band.

It's a thick band of white gold, surrounding an enamelled inlay with a distinctive pattern inspired by an artist,  Hundertwasser, whose work has particular meaning for us. (H later told me that, despite the numerous times family and friends tried to persuade him that it was perhaps too unorthodox, he knew that ours was not a routine, diamond solitaire, gold band kind of union. I'm so pleased he remained dissuaded.)

Still, when we went to have it sized after he put it on my finger, and the woman in the shop gave me the instructions for its care, I did take a gulp of trepidation; it turns out that that distinctive, eye catching enamel pattern which has garnered so many compliments since, is also particularly high maintenance when it comes to daily routines (never mind month upon month of heartbreak and trauma).

It should be taken off whenever I use my hands for anything particularly active (which is always); it should not come in contact with any cosmetics or chemicals. It shouldn't be worn adjacent to other jewellery. And the list went on... The thing is, I didn't really take the advice to keep it pristine, safely tucked away; it is far too beautiful and well, it is a special reminder of just what H and I do have, a symbol of our strength.

That ring has been through all those dramas and traumas with us (and, I am ashamed to admit, one screaming, rage-fuelled journey across a room to hit a wall on the other side, when I was in a particular pique of anguish during the worst of my grieving. When I thought that since my hopes of motherhood had died with my baby, so everything else might as well go too. Luckily, H gently scoffed at my petulance on that occasion.) But here's the thing: even if it momentarily feels eradicated, you don't give up on the beautiful and the magical just because you're stuck in the middle of a seemingly endless shit storm; maybe you even cling to it all the harder.

In truth, all the carefully conveyed instructions of the saleswoman having been cavalierly disregarded, my ring is now full of scratches and nicks, after only four years of wear. But it's still whole. It's still beautiful. It's still full of vibrant colour and imbued with the deepest meaning.

Yes, I think it remains a perfect emblem of this unique, indestructible, and frequently magical union.


************************


Happy Anniversary, H. Your mighty smile and your gentle, compassionate tears, whether of joy or sorrow, are still more than I could have ever dreamed of. In the face of this, all the rest falls away. And yes, I still do.


Still beautiful, scars and all



15 comments:

  1. Happy anniversary you two :) xx

    ReplyDelete
  2. Happy anniversary, what a lovely way of committing to each other :) Wishing you many beautiful years ahead.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Happy anniversary! Wishing you and H many more years ahead, though I wish them to be more flat than these last four.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Congratulations, and wishing you years of adventures, joy and love together. Your ring is beautiful and I love that it has a story.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Happy Anniversary. Congratulations!!!

    ReplyDelete
  6. Happy anniversary! I love the unconventional milestones you choose to celebrate and your unconventional jewelry!

    ReplyDelete
  7. Absolutely beautiful! Congratulations on another anniversary and wishing you many, many more!!

    ReplyDelete
  8. Happy Anniversary! That sounds like an amazing wedding. You guys are such a cool couple!

    ReplyDelete
  9. Beautifully written. Happy Anniversary!

    ReplyDelete
  10. Such a beautiful love story. You two seem perfect for each other. Happy anniversary!

    ReplyDelete
  11. What a perfectly lovely story. What a gift, loving and being loved so completely. Happy anniversary to you both.

    (Your ring reminds me of stained glass, and yes, it is even more beautiful with all of its history.)

    ReplyDelete
  12. I love, love, love this post. I love the story of your relationship and your ceremony in the Alps. I especially love how your ring has become a metaphor for your relationship. Not to mention, it's gorgeous :)

    ReplyDelete
  13. Beautiful post, I wish you both happiness together for all of your days. Happy Anniversary.X

    ReplyDelete
  14. Happy anniversary to you too! Your ring is gorgeous, and any nicks or scratches will only make it more beautiful because it's a testament to weathering life and living it fully together.

    Beautiful, beautiful post <3

    ReplyDelete

Don't be shy, leave a comment. Your words brighten my day!