Marriage: Year Eleven

Fall 2013: Learning about Landmark Occasions

Celebrating ten years together feels like circling around for a victory lap. Whew! We made it! Nothing seems impossible now. We travel together to Blacksburg, Virginia. Brandon’s gift to me this anniversary is a new engagement ring and an original song, and it feels like a brand new promise, a renewed commitment to this crazy life.

Sometimes I think I’m too hard to love, maybe not worthy enough and then I lean back and there is my husband, my best friend, the one person in the world I can be fully me around, the one person who knows all of this hot mess and loves anyway. Ten years is big. Ten years is amazing. Ten years is a mountain range of memory, a topographical map of emotion and we’re climbing out of a valley, standing on a summit looking back at what was, ready to turn toward what will soon be.

Winter 2013: Learning about Forgiveness and Priorities

We tell each other everything, now.

When human resources training about sexual harassment triggers a physical reaction in me, I text Brandon with shaky hands and heart racing. Oh. Oh, so that’s what was happening. You mean I didn’t have to put up with all of that nonsense? Why didn’t anyone tell me, ever, that sometimes you don’t have to be nice. Why didn’t anyone tell me that sometimes being nice comes at the expense of something greater. I’m immediately angry instead of just ashamed, enraged and embarrassed. After I come home and we finish the nightly routine, it’s time for sweet potato fries and guacamole in the kitchen.

“I am so sorry, Brandon,” I cry. “I’m so sorry, because I didn’t know; I just didn’t know what was happening.” Our children sleep soundly in their beds upstairs, fans roaring for white noise. The sliced sweet potatoes wait to be tossed with olive oil on the counter.

“Why are you apologizing?” he asks.

“Nothing happened, but all of that nothing wrecked an entire year. I hate how off my priorities were.” Our eyes are locked, now, even from this distance across the kitchen. “I was so worried about preserving friendships, keeping silent so I didn’t cause a scene, holding the status quo, being nice, that I failed to protect what is most important here. You. Us. Our family. What we’ve built. That is what kills me. I’m so sorry. I’m so sorry.” I can’t stop saying it, I’m so sorry.

Brandon looks down for a moment and then up again at me, “I forgive you, for whatever it is that you feel like you need to apologize for. I love you,” and then the land masses we stand on collide. We hold each other long in the kitchen, tears falling heavy on each other’s shoulders, kissing the tears away, salt strong on our lips.


Summer 2014: Learning about Seasons

Summer is our season; this season is magical. We take a full ten-day trip to the Carolinas and to Florida, stopping to see friends and family along the way. Our little people are growing bigger. Disney and Sea World seem like destinations we all left carrying home only the best memories. Maybe we brought our best selves with us. Maybe they’re pumping more than the pleasant smell of cotton candy into the parks. Or maybe we’re all just present for each other, and happy, and not working, and here – together.

Published by Sarah M. Wells

Sarah M. Wells is the author of The Family Bible Devotional: Stories from the Gospels to Help Kids and Parents Love God and Love Others (2022), American Honey: A Field Guide to Resisting Temptation (2021), Between the Heron and the Moss (2020), The Family Bible Devotional: Stories from the Bible to Help Kids and Parents Engage and Love Scripture (2018), Pruning Burning Bushes (2012), and a chapbook of poems, Acquiesce, winner of the 2008 Starting Gate Award through Finishing Line Press (2009). Sarah's work has been honored with four Pushcart Prize nominations, and her essays have appeared in the notable essays list in the Best American Essays 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2017, and 2018. Sarah is the recipient of a 2018 Individual Excellence Award from the Ohio Arts Council. She resides in Ashland, Ohio with her husband and three children.

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