Outside our townhouse, there is a very tall tree with a hole toward the top. A little family of blackbirds lives inside it. Two springs in a row, we have watched the little blackbird family come alive: the mother that hunts for worms, the baby birds that chirp and sing, the older birds that fly away.
I have to keep reminding myself, this year, that the babies are not the same babies that sat in the nest last year. That, come wintertime, birds don’t hop back into their eggs and wait for spring, to begin again.
Seven years ago you told me you loved me and I told you no. Two years ago today, I became your wife, because you kept telling me yes. And yet, each spring, I must remind myself that we are moving forward and not in circles. That we will not become children and hatch again. That you’re not changing your mind and I’m not walking out on a promise. Because aren’t we supposed to be getting older?
This morning I cut some of the wisteria from across the road, and it sprawls over our vase. No matter how I arrange it, I can’t get it to stay put. Wisteria was never meant for a vase and a tie, you say, but it’s too pretty for me to leave alone, so I spend all morning, covering our house with it. You applaud every arrangement like it’s a botanical masterpiece, like wisteria never looked so good, like you’re relieved the flower can’t be trained to lie still and I can’t be trained to listen.
By now, you’ve probably learned that if there’s anything I can do, it’s add color.
This morning, looking through wedding photos and then photos before that, we can see that we’re starting to look different than we did, seven years ago, five years ago, two years ago. I am relieved, in a way, because it’s as though our skin is confirming the marks time has made on our hearts, that yes, we really did fall in love when I had that awful haircut and yes, your face does look rounder, softer, in that picture of us at graduation.
Two years ago, we stood at an altar and whispered vows to each other, smiling big and hoping high, each sure that the other would bring us the moon. Our happiness is in each other’s keeping, I told you that night, quoting my favorite childhood book, and I am unafraid.
In the weeks and months to come, we figured out that the moon also came in cups of coffee, in smiles and hand squeezes, in wiping away tears as they fell down cheeks. We started to wonder if maybe we were placed together to encourage the other rather than to be coddled by the other, and that’s when the first hatches of our new life began. We started to learn about a quieter, less showy love: the kind that makes me breakfast every morning and the kind that volunteers to scrub the bathtub. We learned about happiness, too, that it’s freshest when given, spooned out like honey; when it comes from a higher source.
They were sweet, those first days of marriage, filled with discovery, with newness, with that raw, unstained joy: a baby bird inside a nest who’s never come across danger. They were fragile, vulnerable, filled with polite questions like, how do you like your carrots? and what type of dressing do you want?
Two years later, I know the answer to those questions, but I’m asking thousands more. And you, somehow, have become even more patient with me, as we slowly grow; as we continue through the lovely work that is marriage. On hard days, rainy days— and we both know there are some— I want to crawl back into my egg, to remain unhatched, where I am safe, unchallenged. It is on those days that I see you live out the vows you made to me: to love and cherish me, for better or for worse. When I hurt you with harsh words and you bring me tea and a smile, no grudge included; that is when I know what love is.
All that I am and all that I have I give to you, we said. On days that I don’t want to try, you keep me from getting back in the egg: back to our wedding day when I only thought about flowers and nice dresses. There’s so much more to see, you say with that kind smile, when you learn to fly.
I cannot imagine more precious days than those spent as your wife. I promise to love you: for better or for worse, for richer or for poorer, in sickness and in health. As we grow up tall and have chirping babies of our own, I will be yours still.
And this is my solemn vow.