July 23, 2020

Terra Cotta sun, July 23, 1994, Ixtapa, Mexico

Tuesday morning I got up before my husband, and hit the road. My bike is sanity these days. After returning, I brewed my other form of sanity – Scottish Breakfast tea. The morning wasn’t too hot yet, so I wandered onto my back patio with my favorite mug full of tea.

There, I found this project (see picture) on the table. Joe, the aforementioned sleeping husband, had been working on it for the past few days.

Now, I hope you will indulge me a little bit. Most of our blog posts aim for broader consumption. This blog post is personal. You see, July 23rd is my twenty-sixth wedding anniversary. And this terra cotta sun? We bought it on our honeymoon in Ixtapa. We were so poor and young. Bless our hearts. The sun, along with a silver bracelet with inlaid lapis the color of the ocean down there (lost in a State of Texas parking lot not long after we returned – curse you, whoever took it and never turned it in), were our indulgent purchases.

When Hurricane Harvey blew through Austin in 2017, this sun was our one and only casualty (thankfully). It’s all a little perplexing considering it lived on a sheltered porch all snug on its secure nail. I guess just the right gust of wind at the right time and angle took it down. Chance. Fate. Whatever.  The next morning, I couldn’t bear to throw it out. I collected the pieces of our sun and tucked them on a nearby shelf where they’ve been sitting ever since.

I’ve been married to Joe longer than I was single. By today’s standards, we were young when we married. I rarely marry people these days at the tender age of twenty-four. I certainly don’t advise my children to marry that young. But, it’s just how our story unfolded. It also means that we’ve grown up together. And this terra cotta sun followed us all these years. Followed us through being ridiculous, fun newlyweds with little money or responsibilities to tired parents of babies and young toddlers. The sun followed us through sweet elementary years when we felt we had a small reprieve from most parenting stresses. And then, into the turbulent teenage years. We went through school together, graduate programs, careers, two houses, illness, births, devastating loss, crisis, and deaths. And the sun followed us all the time. No wonder I couldn’t throw it out when it broke.

I was so sad when I found it shattered on the back porch. My very practical side (I am the practical one – I married the romantic, which is funny given my work and his work) was screaming at me to toss it. But through its eyes I saw not only the beautiful beaches where it was born, but the birth of my marriage, the blush of new love, the carefree way we faced forward to our future together – so clueless about what we were doing. It seemed, even broken, far too precious to end up in a landfill.

As I stood over the sun this particular morning with my tea, on the cusp of our 26th wedding anniversary, I looked at it all battered and glued. I touched all the cracks, and wondered over my husband’s careful and tender puzzling and gluing. I watched as the dry terra cotta turned to a rich, warm orange as my tears fell onto it.

Why do I tell you this? Well, confession: I blew it on our Silver Wedding Anniversary. My husband, on the other hand, planned, plotted, and executed, cleaned up, clinched and nailed our twenty-fifth anniversary (see the romantic reference above). So, ha! Here is penance and an attempt at redemption. Sorry, Joe. You won twenty-five, but here’s my attempt to snatch twenty-six from your hands and heart, especially in light of a global pandemic and democratic meltdown.

But more importantly and to the point: this blog is about marriage. Not weddings. There are a million things covering weddings – imagery and ideas and blogs and lists and posts and pinterests galore.

Marriage, though, is a wholly different thing. There is no real good map. No obvious way to chronicle the milestones and stories and memories and scents and smells and tears and laughter and scraps of paper or pottery. No way to Instagram or Facebook or Pinterest it. No way to bottle and market it. This is the nature of marriage – mysterious and obvious, unique and universal, covenantally sacred and profane, personal and communal, private and public.

And this is marriage. This is twenty-six years. This is partnership. And friendship. And love. Of course, our marriage is ours. It’s like no one else’s marriage. We have actively cultivated our marriage and made deliberate choices about what we wanted, needed, and what would be discarded. We have bumps and bruises. We have hurts and cuts and breaks. Of course we do. We have an ace in the hole  – a secret weapon (or two) we’ve relied upon for years. And we also polish and sparkle, like our wedding bands worn smooth over time. We have laughter, stories, a secret language. We have intimacy and friendship and trust. We have forged – and I do mean forged – ties and binds and bonds.

The sun isn’t ready to be picked up and held just yet. But on Tuesday morning, I did run my hands along it. I touched all the little symbols – the raindrops and corn and animals and flowers. Is it possible that it is more beautiful now than its previous pristine condition? Yes, not only possible – probable.

Joe and I are approaching something new. In one year we will be empty nesters. And we know that given the odds, we are over halfway through our lives. And while that might seem scary, somehow, I am warmed. By the promise of so many new things waiting for us. By the hand that is so warm and ready to hold mine as we step into this next phase of life. By the wisdom of living into life, into marriage, into covenant. By the courage it took for us to get here. And the courage we have to keep going. This little terra cotta sun captures it so well. Things birthed, broken, set aside, dead, and then resurrected. It’s really a timeless story. Told a million ways. This is the way we tell it, twenty-six years in.

Happy anniversary to the best that ever happened to me. I am the luckiest girl.