Yesterday my husband and I celebrated 33 years of marriage. We met in high school at the precise time my parents’ marriage was unraveling after 18 years. My mother in law and father in law had already celebrated fifty years of marriage when he died ten years ago.
One can never fully appreciate the dynamics involved in any marriage, but I feel that I am now in possession of a few truisms based on my age and experience. (I am choosing to write about everyday, hum-drum marriages, not those that involve violence, alcoholism or severe mental illness.) Here’s where you can decide to indulge me my opinions…or not!
First, it seems silly to say that “marriage is hard work,” to the extent that everything is hard work: children, friends, careers, pets, housekeeping, gardens, garages, fitness, writing …LIFE. Anything worth having is hard work.
Second, marriage counseling can be instructive and enlightening. About ten years ago, it seemed likely our marriage would end. I don’t think the counselor saved our union, but two moments from that experience have stayed with me…one in my head and one in my heart. The first seems so obvious, BUT there is Michele World and there is my Husband’s World. These are different places, and, as such, the reaction to any marital event or communication will be interpreted differently depending on which world leader you ask. The second moment came when my husband said that it had felt like we had been swimming alongside each other for so long that it was odd to look up and not see me there. (Lovely sentiment and interesting as I can’t swim!)
Last, yes there are only three (I said a few)! Whenever anyone asks for my “secret” to maintaining a long-term marriage, I always say the same thing: “Don’t sign the divorce papers.” I’m sure my parents’ choice to end their marriage shaped my thoughts and I am not proud to say that I was the one who, at one time, felt that leaving was preferable to staying. Thankfully, we both chose to stay. And, ultimately that is the secret…make the choice to stay.
At 57 years of age, the graph of my life would look like that of most people, I assume. It’s a roller coaster ride, and I am grateful and proud that for more than half of it, my husband and I have been in the same car.
Throughout the process of unpacking, downsizing and remodeling, my husband and friends often asked me, “So what’s next, Michele? What are you going to do with yourself?” My answer was always the same: I didn’t know, but I wasn’t worried. I felt strangely and strongly confident!
It is not completely unexpected that I’d make my way back to the page, as I’ve been a writer and reader for as long as I can remember. In 1976, when “All The President’s Men” was released, I was 16. Just in case you don’t remember the movie, it was the story of the Washington Post reporters who uncovered the Watergate scandal that led to the resignation of Richard Nixon. Mind you, I made it a rule to see any movie that starred Robert Redford, but this one had a lasting impact on me. I was young and idealistic and I wanted to believe that anyone (even me) had the potential to change the world. So, I studied journalism in college and later worked in television news and public relations.
It was not until I had my daughter, at the age of 36, that I realized my reverence for writers and words came long before Woodward and Bernstein. I remember the day I read aloud a favorite poem from my childhood: Edward Lear’s “The Owl and the Pussy-cat went to sea in a beautiful pea green boat…” My darling baby smiled. We shared so many more books in the years that followed. And, after that, I created a reading list for parents to share with their children and lectured through community centers and education and recreation departments about the importance of reading to young children.
What is surprising is that I am here...in the cloud. I do remember my typewriter, fondly. I have a great deal more life experience than computer experience, and so this endeavor scares me a bit. My technology consultant, Kristin Guidi, has helped me establish this home. I formally thank her and ask you for your patience as I become more proficient in my new medium.
The doors to my pink shed are open and I welcome you whenever you’d like to stop by. I’d like you to feel as if you could sit in my guest chair, with a blanket and/or dog on your lap, sipping coffee, cocoa, tea or bubbly. I’ll start the conversation and tell you a few things about me:
I have, 3, yes three, long-haired miniature dachshunds
I collect cookbooks, but I don’t really like to cook
For 40 years I’ve recorded favorite quotes in random notebooks
Oh, my goodness, I’m a kid about Christmas
I married my high-school sweetheart
All of the writing doesn’t happen in my shed, a lot of good ideas come to me at 3 a.m. when I regularly wake with night sweats