As I was getting my hair done, my childhood hairdresser recounted a conversation she had with a client earlier in the week who was going to an anniversary party that weekend. The couple were celebrating 5 years of marriage and my hairdresser mused "I didn't know people had parties at the 5 year mark but I suppose any milestone these days is worth celebrating". Briefly, I wondered where we would be in 5 years.
The early afternoon was spent at the home of my grandparents with my mom, grandma, and 4 closest girlfriends. One was getting married that fall and in a rare moment of down time, the two of us sat in the stairway, reflecting on all that the past year had been, what what about to be, and what was to come. The plans we were making for the future.
At ten minutes to 3:00, 10 years ago today, I stepped into my childhood church. The first thing I saw were mens' shoes. Many pairs of them, on the other side of the drawn curtains. That's all I could see...their shoes. There they were. Just meters away. Hiding behind a curtain, keeping with the superstition of not seeing eachother beforehand.
For the first time that day, my breath caught in my throat. Tears came to my eyes. This was it. It was really happening. It had all come down to this moment.
I looked at my dad as if to say "I'm doing the right thing, right?"
Together we walked up the stairs to the sanctuary and waited our turn to walk down that aisle.
10 years ago today I wondered...where will this path take me? My future starts today....what will it bring?
If I had've known then what I know now....
There were people there that day who thought we would never last. It was just a matter of time, they said. We were too different, they said. The issues we argued about would eventually tear us apart, they said. They knew better than me, they said. I would see.
For the most part, those people are no longer in our lives. Turns out they were wrong. That they didn't know better. It wasn't just a matter of time. We have lasted.
10 years today.
And I know, 10 years isn't really all that long. People celebrate 25th anniversaries. 40th anniversaries. 50th, 60th, even 70th anniversaries. But a lot of people don't make it to 10 and so today, having made it to a decade, I am celebrating all that we are, how much we have grown and how far we have come.
We dated for 5 years before we were married and before we even started, Jeff informed me I would be the mother of his children. Quite matter of factly he told me, on a camping weekend up at Green Acres in Kincardine. I was barely 18 and it was my last summer at home before beginning University. 4 years older than me, Jeff knew what he wanted and had made up his mind that it was going to happen. 4 months after our wedding, on Christmas Eve we learned that our first child was on its way.
We heard squeals of joy. Cries of excitement. Gasps of surprise.
We heard "You're pregnant already?!"
We heard "What are you going to do with a baby?"
We heard "It will never last"
Then we heard a heartbeat. At the same moment, in the same doctor's office, we heard our baby's heartbeat.
This was real. This was really happening. I was going to be the mother of his child.
After 3 days of exhausting back labour, no sleep and trips back and forth to Stratford, our marriage was cemented by a 7 lb 14 oz pink bundle of perfection. We had been married for 13 months and now we had a daughter. And while I watched the tears stream down his face at the sight of her, while I watched him hold her for the first time, while I watched her as she latched on beautifully within the first hour, I knew. This was where I was supposed to be. This was who I was supposed to be here with. He was right all along. He knew. He knew all along and he was right.
As Makenna neared her first birthday and we crossed off our second anniversary, we bought our first house and Jeff decided to join the Goderich Fire Department. People scoffed and rolled their eyes. He just wanted to be like his brother. He didn't know what he was getting into. This guy cried at the drop of a hat, was he really going to be able to handle car accidents, deaths, danger, heights, gruesome sights and so much more?
He has cried, yes. In the middle of the night, or when he is triggered, or when it just seems so unfair. And we have argued. We will continue to argue about it. There are times when it's tough being a firefighter wife. There are time when it sucks. There are times when I roll my eyes and scoff. But more often then that, I am proud. Today, he's a Captain on that department. He is a celebrity dancer. He is a Queen's Diamond Jubilee Medal recipient. He has led his crews through countless unimaginable sights and sounds. He has earned respect and is well known here. He has buried one of his own and attended the funerals of others. Today he is writing an exam to further his position in this field.
"It will never last" they said.
But he knew.
Just when we thought we were getting the hang of the whole parenting thing, coming out of the "terrible twos that proved to be nothing compared to the 3s", life threw us a bit of a curveball.
It was harder on me than the first time around, it was more intense, and it all culminated on the stormiest, iciest, nastiest winter day in 2008. 4 1/2 years into our marriage, Jack Jeffrey stormed his way into our lives in true Jack fashion, letting us both know exactly who would be calling the shots and demanding the attention from that moment forward.
The weeks and months that followed tested our marriage. Neither of us were prepared for the kind of baby Jack was. We struggled. To be good parents to him, to be good parents to our three year old, and to be good partners to eachother. In the darkest moments, we dared to wonder if we had made a mistake having another baby. We vowed that there would be no more. We kept score, we blamed eachother, we resented any freedom the other had and we argued. A lot.
People told us it wouldn't last. That this was a phase and he would grow out of it and we would come through it. I didn't believe them.
But they knew.
More curve balls came our way. I became caught between the family I was raising and the one I grew up in. I felt pulled in too many directions. I grew tired. I grew frustrated. For the first time in almost 30 years, I grew jaded about marriage and relationships and love. I was a mother first, a daughter and sister tied for second, and my role as wife fell to third. A distant third.
That lasted a good year or more and through it all, my husband proved, once again, that he was one of the good guys everyone hopes to find. On the nights I lay awake worrying, he held my hand. On the days I raged against all that my life was becoming, he provided perpective. On the nights I cried, he wiped my tears. When I would be on the phone for hours, he would be making supper, playing barbies and reading bedtime stories.
These people who said it would never last. That we were too different. That life would tear us apart.
They didn't know us at all. They had no idea.
But he did. He knew. And he continued to know, when I didn't, exactly where we were and where we were going.
And then, 8 years in, the "big one".
Nothing tests your marriage quite like the fallout of an F3 tornado.
Firefighter first, husband second. That's just the way it had to be. But by that point, I knew who he was, who I was and that we would make it.
Yes, there were bad days, and bad nights. We argued and resented and took our frustrations out on eachother. But more often than that, we made up for eachother's weaknesses. We operated as a unit. An unbreakable front that would be damned if a freaking literal tornado was going to tear us apart. Everywhere we turned there were stories of relationships in serious trouble. Marriages on the brink. People worried about us. Wondered if we would survive it. Wondered if our young marriage was strong enough to withstand losing our home and vehicles, rebuilding a new house, parenting two young children through it all and fulfilling our professional roles all at the same time.
We would get through this too, we vowed. As community citizens, as parents, and as partners.
If we can survive a tornado, and all that comes with it, he said, we can survive anything.
2 years later, he was right.
That day at Green Acres, I didn`t know. But he did. His mind was made up. Over the next 5 years while we dated, I began to see the life he was envisioning.
10 years ago today, we thought that eventually there would be 4 kids. We were wrong.
We thought we would have more time with certain people. We were wrong.
We never thought we would lose our home to a tornado. We were wrong.
But 10 years ago today, we stood at the front of my childhood church and recited vows we wrote ourselves. I told Jeff he was my greatest challenge. I wasn`t wrong about that. I told him he was my best friend and secret keeper. I wasn`t wrong about that either. I vowed that I would ``spend the rest of my life holding his hand, encouraging him, laughing with him, crying with him, supporting him and giving him unconditional loyalty and love``.
In his vow, Jeff said I was his soulmate and that he``wanted to grow old with me and sit back and talk about all the good times we had together``.
Today we have been married 10 years. We hold hands, we encourage, we laugh, we cry, we support, guide and are loyal. We talk about the good times and the bad. We love.
But we are not old.
I looked at my dad, all those years ago as if to say ``Am I doing the right thing`` Seeing the question marks in my eyes, he squeezed my hand and whispered that he had never been more proud.
There were people who said it would never last. That life would tear us apart. They were wrong.
That night as my dad addressed the reception, he told the crowd he knew Jeff was the one for me because when I smiled at him, I smiled with my eyes. He said that ever since his daughter was a little girl, when she committed to something she committed with her whole heart and was ``all in``, no matter what. He said he had no doubt in his mind that I had made the right decision.
He was the one who was right.
Read my 7 year anniversary post here
Read my 9 year anniversary post here