Thirteen - FamilyEducation

Thirteen

July 07,2009
Professor Mom
Aliki McElreath

Aliki is a writer and college English teacher. She lives in North Carolina with her husband, two children (ages seven and ten), a dog, a cat, a rabbit, and too many fish.

July is always a roller-coaster month for us. Not only is L.'s birthday at the beginning of the month, but our wedding anniversary is the day after it. And although we vowed not to let our important date be eclipsed by L.'s birthday, it's inevitable that it often is--not in a terrible way, mind you. If you are going to have your wedding anniversary overshadowed by another celebration, then it might as well be a celebration of your child's birth--for what better way to express the love you have for each other then to spend that one memorable anniversary in a hospital room ogling that brand-new person you brought into the world? And while I could have done without spending the day recovering from a brutal labor and delivery, and eating sub par hospital food, it was a special day, no doubt about it. ************* One time last year Scott and I were at an outdoor event with a friend--an event that included lots of families and children--and this person looked around thoughtfully at the crowd and said out of the blue that she thought most of the people there were probably not happily married, and furthermore were grappling with their own deep-rooted personal problems, we just couldn't see them. Wow, I thought. What a downer. Later that day, snuggled on the couch after the kids were tucked into their beds, Scott and I pondered that comment. Maybe this friend was right; maybe not--who knew? But either way it seemed terribly sad to us that anyone would walk around seeing the world that way. Earlier that day I had seen only families together, celebrating an outdoor event on a crisp winter day; she had looked out into the crowd and seen unhappiness, and marital strife, outstretched claws instead of clasped hands, tears instead of laughter. But you could go anywhere in the world and imagine unhappiness everywhere you went. You could strip the layers of any happy photo and see tears and raised voices and broken hearts. Or you could see the love, the perseverance that would come, the strength, the commitment in the clasped hands. There are many sides to everything. Even a heated argument between two people can give way to deep understanding and love; a flashed angry look melt later into a smile, a warm caress. If you walk around life seeing people as fundamentally unhappy together, then you won't be able to find happiness yourself; if you seek perfection everywhere you go, you won't find it at all. Scott and I have been married thirteen years today. It doesn't seem like much time at all (especially when you compare it to my parents' 44 years of marriage), yet at the same time I know it is. It's also true that thirteen isn't the prettiest number in the world--it's not as pure and innocent as one, or as staid and stalwart-looking as eleven, but it's a good, strong number. It seems to embody marriage itself--not picture-perfect, not scripted to a tee, not all glam and happy all of the time. We've weathered plenty of storms as a couple, and will no doubt weather plenty more--but I'm proud of our marriage. When I think about all those ups and downs, the rough patches, the uncertain times, I see them always against the triumphs and the energy and the love; I have immersed myself completely in the larger story of our lives--a story I love to be a part of--a story we are writing together, side by side.