Day at the Faire
On Saturday my husband and I are going to the Renaissance Faire. We don’t dress up but we admire and whisper recognition at others who do, playing visual trivia with the anime, fantasy, sci fi, steampunk, and sixteenth century costumes. We go every year and plan to see a mix of both familiar acts and new events. Then we just wander around from open to close. We go in August, our anniversary month. We buy a piece of pottery from our favorite shop. We eat butterflied potatoes. We boo the blue knight and cheer the yellow knight. I look forward to this day all year.
This year we will celebrate our twenty-ninth anniversary. It is not a number with shiny significance. There are no premade cards. But I like the sound of it. It has weight. Out of the single digits, beyond the teens, not as many as our parents but more than most, twenty-nine years married feels like we should be taken seriously. We have been married longer than we were alive before the wedding. Our before feels like childhood. Our after feels like life.
Twenty-nine times my husband has read Truman Capote’s A Christmas Memory on Christmas Eve. Countless times he has made me laugh, told me a story that changed my perspective, reminded me to be kinder than I would have been without his insight. Fewer times he has made me cry, embarrassed me at parties, made me so angry that I could not see a future for us. Once I almost left. The relationship was too hard. He was too hard. But in a revelatory moment I felt strongly that it was not time to go. I sensed that for me, this hard part was meaningful and being open to it would make me a better person. So I stayed. Once, years later, I might have lost him. As I held his hand post surgery, I realized that somewhere the meaning in our relationship had eclipsed the hard part. That it had been right to weather through then and now. I watched his chest breathe up and down and was grateful I was sitting where I was.
My husband has cooked beautiful food and kept our household running smoothly for all of our twenty-nine years. Other women tell me that I am “lucky” to have a husband who does this. I used to feel insecure and defensive. I contribute as well, I would say, and he is difficult in other ways, and I … I … would search for qualifiers. I could hear the judgement in my “luck.” As if I found a $10 bill on the ground and had not looked around for who had dropped it. As if I was shirking my duty. As if we had not crafted the most logical assignment of work, determined by aptitude and satisfaction rather than expected roles. Luck – chance, good fortune, fate – has gifted us many things. But daily life, we figured out on our own. Who will pick up the kids, who will read them a story, who will buy groceries, who has the best job opportunity, who gets up early and who stays up late – partially by design, partially by necessity, we tried different combinations and repeated what worked. Over time, suddenly, the day to day was a way of being together. Our way. Perhaps a lucky way.
Now we are empty nesters. People warned me about this stage, they feared it would feel like the dissolution of our family, the “loss” of children. The reality is that our children remain ever present, they just don’t live with us. In the space this shift has created, we are discovering aspects of our relationship that were dormant under the sheer work of getting four humans to work, school and home. Echoing when we were newlyweds, but so much more, the culmination of twenty-nine years has shaped and tempered our interests and decisions. There are still hard parts, but we move in the same direction, and we more forgiving, more honest, and time has taught us that there is time. Today we can go to Renn Faire.
Every year I make my husband pose for an anniversary picture, a selfie shot at a funny angle because I have short arms. He hates this and scowls into the phone. By this point in the day, I have a ring of dried flowers on my head, petals and leaves poking through messy, humid curls. We look an odd, slightly bedraggled pair, a crinkle-eyed fairy and her grim escort. We have been twenty-nine years on this journey, beginning on a proper track and then diverting, in and out of the thicket, braiding so many colored ribbons around the maypole, a hurdy gurdy cranking and wheezing in the background.