Now Everything is Easy, ‘Cause of You

Victorious

…to have and to hold from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, till death us do part…

Marriage vows are said for a reason. Early on, perhaps too early on for my liking, we learned that it’s very easy to be married when you’re healthy and wealthy, but that pesky “poor and sickness” part of the vow really puts things to the test. Our twenty year marriage has been incredibly blessed, despite facing various vow-invoked challenges.

When we first moved to this house, early in 1994, I did not like that we had the corner lot. Even though our property is a hair over one acre, I felt exposed to the road and longed for more privacy. That spring, we went to the nursery and bought ten evergreen trees, Canaan firs. They were about six foot each at the time, manageable enough for Ed to plant by himself, but still an awful lot of work. Once the trees were in, they created a six foot tall natural fence, and it felt like a great improvement. I was satisfied, but I still wanted more.

I would often look at the trees and wish they were taller. Twenty feet would be perfect, or thirty feet would be even better. But wait, I thought. When the trees are that tall, we will be much older than today. Taller trees = more privacy but less years together left on earth. Just one more example of me wanting to have my cake and eat it, too.

Today the trees are very tall.

trees

And like the trees planted in 1994, we are mostly strong and hearty. Remnants of twelve hurricanes and tropical storms — some mighty, some just a nuisance — have blown past those trees, and most of them are still standing. Not all, mind you, since life is never perfect. A couple died, and a couple are looking a little rough these days. Separately, they are not much to look at. But standing together, they create a beautiful, full green fence that blocks much of the road year-round. Together they are a force to be reckoned with.

Almost twenty years and many more pounds ago, I walked down the aisle of Paoli Presbyterian Church and took my wedding vows. I still remember that one of my college friends, the kind of person who was skilled at passive-aggressive compliments, told me I looked “victorious.” Not beautiful, not glowing, not joyous, but victorious. Well, if victorious means I won something, then guilty as charged, sister. Yes, indeedy, you bet I won. I hit the jackpot and I’m smart enough to remember that every single day.

Every birthday, every anniversary, every make-a-wish type occasion, I only ever hope for one thing: more years together. As long as I have that, I will have everything I need.

 

To My Valentine

Mom Mom loved my husband Ed. She was rather cranky in general, but if she liked you, you were set. She took to Ed immediately, as did my whole family, and he was quickly granted Saint Status. This both pleases me and alarms me. Not that it’s a contest, but their loyalty and devotion are firmly in Ed’s corner. I bet that if I turn up dead under suspicious circumstances, they will all whisper, “I’m sure he had good reasons.”

One thing Mom Mom warned me about was not to “brag” about my marriage unless I want some village hussy setting her sights on my man, and even though that strikes me as old country crazy superstitious voodoo, I do try to tone it down most days. Plus, have Frank and Kathie Lee taught me nothing? You just don’t go around dispensing unsolicited marriage advice; that never ends well.

But in honor of Valentine’s Day, I will say this: My almost twenty year marriage is hands-down the best thing in my life. It is a daily source of joy, comfort and strength. I wake up every day feeling happy, lucky and grateful. Sure, that feeling usually disappears most days by 10 am, but I greet each day thinking I am the luckiest person in the world to wake up next to this wonderful man. Life hasn’t always been easy, it hasn’t always been fun, but it has always been good. What’s our secret?

Our secret is we have no secret. Sometimes we call it divine intervention, sometimes we call it dumb luck, but the truth is there is nothing that we do or don’t do other than being ourselves. I could never sell a marriage book or be a paid speaker. I have no tips or helpful hints. I just happened to have married someone who, against all odds and evidence to the contrary, still thinks I’m the greatest thing since sliced bread. Still thinks I’m beautiful even though there is much, much more of me to love than in 1991. Still thinks I’m smart and funny and good, even though I am rarely any of those things very often at once.

And I married the smartest man in the world. He will argue that he isn’t, since he’s humble, too, but he is to me. But more importantly than being smart, hardworking, and successful, he is good. He is a really good person in a world where there just aren’t that many really good people. He has a pure and generous heart and always does the right thing, even when no one is looking. He can fix almost everything and create almost anything and handle chemistry and calculus like it’s nothing. (If I was more entrepreneurial, I could rent him out). He is my number one sous chef when I cook, but he knows his way around the kitchen well enough to earn Executive Chef status sometimes, too. He is still as handsome and strong as ever, and he still fits into the same sized pants as when we met. There is so much more I could say, but one needs to keep the village hussies at bay.

So maybe the secret is to marry someone you truly admire and who admires you in equal measure? Or maybe it’s all a big roulette game, and we blindly lucked into the exact right combination at the exact right time? I’ve learned not to question it too much and simply enjoy the ride.

Sometimes a girl just gets lucky.

roses

Twenty Years Come and Gone So Fast

Twenty years ago, I went on a first date with a handsome engineer who was working on launching the UARS Satellite for GE Aerospace. I was a sales assistant at Janney Montgomery Scott in Philadelphia, working for a blue blooded tyrant while studying for my broker’s license. It was a tough week, and by the closing bell, I was very tired. I distinctly remember telling my coworker that I had a date but I would much rather go home and get in my comfy clothes, read the latest Glamour magazine, and polish my nails. Even back then, I knew how to party. But I would never cancel a first date, so off I went.

Ed picked me up in his black Jeep Wrangler. He was wearing a purple tie. I was wearing a gray printed wrap dress, buff stockings, black suede pumps and pearls. Ask any of my friends, and they will confirm I am terrible with faces. But I am great at remembering clothes! I was glad to be dressed a little on the conservative side, because the restaurant was very fancy and formal…tuxedoed maître d’, candlelight, etc. I ordered a vodka tonic to start.

Our dinner was wonderful and romantic. We ordered wine like proper grownups, and not even white zinfandel like those losers still in college! The food, while very good, wasn’t what I would call innovative or especially remarkable. I probably ordered salmon. Ed said that he liked that I actually ate all my food — a little foreshadowing right there! It was a special dinner because I immediately realized the guy sitting across from me had serious potential. Conversation was easy and comfortable, and we clicked right away. I was glad I didn’t stay home and polish my nails.

Twenty years and three kids later, Ed came home early last night with flowers and told me to put on a dress! He was taking me to the Dilworthtown Inn, the place where we went on our first date. We had been there a few times over the last twenty years, and I was happy to go back. Not deliberately but because it was the only thing in my closet that fit, I put on a gray dress. Not deliberately but because I keep forgetting to pick up our massive dry cleaning order and nothing else was clean, Ed put on a purple checked shirt. He looked even more handsome than on our first date. Damn, men age well.

I ordered a vodka tonic to enjoy while I examined the menu. And what a menu it was! The Dilworthtown Inn has gotten much better with time. Neither stuffy and boring, nor tries-too-hard weird, everything offered was just right. After much deliberation and a little help from our fun and fabulous server, I decided to go with:

Wild Burgundy Escargot
Vanilla Scented and Dark Rum Glazed Roasted Pineapple, Serrano Chili, Sage Brown Butter

Manchego, Baby Spinach, and Arugula Salad
Fried Manchego, Sliced Plums, Serrano Ham, Marcona Almonds, Warm Pancetta Vinaigrette (Ed and I split this, and THANK GOD — it was a meal in itself)

Twin Lobster Tails
Whipped Potatoes, Haricot Vert, Baby Carrots, Drawn Butter

The lobster was delicious, but yes, a little boring. Of course, it was exactly what it claimed to be, and the right choice for someone who likes the classics prepared to perfection. I am always powerless in the presence of lobster and escargot on a menu, because I love them so much and rarely get to have them. Then I get mad at myself for ordering the same thing I always do. What would I get if they were not on the menu? What would you get? Take a look at this wonderful menu and let me know: Dilworthtown Inn Menu

I marvel that the last twenty years went by in the blink of an eye. As Mom Moms everywhere would say, “The days go slowly but the years go quickly.” After twenty years, I am so incredibly blessed to wake up every morning next to someone I love and respect, someone who brings out the best in me and who is always my biggest cheerleader. I can’t wait to see what the next twenty years will bring.