Thirteen years ago today Katie and I began our lives together. We were married in a quiet little resort in the Virgin Islands. I sometimes wonder if it might have been selfish of us to steal that moment for ourselves. Maybe we owed it to our parents and friends and family to have a traditional wedding. One where people were invited. Maybe we robbed ourselves of precious memories that would have survived the stress and chaos of planning the big day and then walking down the aisle of a crowded church instead of saying our "I dos” on a balcony high above the warm breezes of the Atlantic Ocean. On this day, our 13th anniversary, however, I had none of those thoughts, and I owe it all to my mother-in-law.
This morning I received this email from her:
Just think back to where you were 13 years ago - been single for a few years doing your own thing, living in the woods with juvies, far enough away from immediate family to enjoy some privacy, free to go out some nights and act irresponsibly - and now - old married couple, no time to do a darn thing, living in center of the universe with...well the genius and the juvie, just feet away from immediate family and no privacy whatsoever, and too exhausted to even think of going out at night! HAPPY ANNIVERSARY!
My mother-in-law has forever freed me of second guessing our matrimonial escape. If I indeed ever have second thoughts again it will be to wonder why we didn’t start our married lives off with a month long sabbatical from the world instead of a week. Because she’s right, I have to go back exactly thirteen years from today to recall my clearest memories of peace and quiet outside of my morning shower. And even that is occasionally interrupted by the genius or the juvie pounding on the bathroom door to alert me of a family emergency – like one of them needs a refill on apple juice or the latest episode of Tom and Jerry Tales has ended and it’s time to fire up some Dora or Diego.
I believe God knew that we would one day have children and that by the time we had them raised I’d be well over 100 years old, which in most cases makes one ineligible for island escapes. Maybe he decided to give me a taste of retirement at the beginning of our marriage when in his perfect knowledge he realized it would be my only taste. I guess that makes me unretired.
If so, I’m glad I am. There is plenty of excitement to make it worth my while.
Like last week when I woke up and saw a possum trolling along the fence in our back yard. I yelled for Elliott to come take a look at it. We stood together and stared at it as it looked far more interested in finding a permanent bed than an immediate escape. When he finally drifted out of view behind our shed, I thought the show was over.
Then Ian got out of bed. Elliott told him all about our friend. Ian, of course, wanted to go see him. I told him the possum was probably long gone. Elliott asked me what would happen if they went out looking for him and found him. Would he bite them. I explained that possums are far more likely to play possum – act like they’re dead – than to come after anyone. That’s their protection. And that, surely, was the end of the possum story.
A half hour later it was time to go to school. I yelled for the boys and received no response. I went through the house looking for them, but there was no sign of boys. Then it hit me where they had to be. I walked out onto the back porch and looked out into the yard. There they were. Elliott bent down looking under the shed, Ian beside him trying to lift up the kayak sitting next to them.
“What are you guys doing?” I shouted
“We’re trying to make the possum play dead.” Elliott answered.
We were on our way to school when Elliott asked me if I knew how he knew the possum was by the shed. I was still in shock that Elliott would go hunting for anything larger than a ladybug with Ian as his only protection. “No, Elliott, I have no idea how you knew where he was.” I said.
“I saw possum poop by the edge of the shed.” he said.
Ian, who had mysteriously shunned an opportunity to laugh uncontrollably at the word poop, just sat there with that Ian’s wheels are spinning look. Then the wheels stopped.
“Daddy,” Ian said, “I know who left the possum poop by the shed.'” He paused for a second, clearly to build suspense. “The possum,” he shouted, with the enthusiasm of a detective who had just solved the world’s oldest mystery.
So yes, I’m out of retirement. I enjoyed it while it lasted. But even though the pace of life is much faster than it was that one week 13 years ago, I wouldn’t trade it for anything. And I found the perfect partner to bring to the show.