More than fourteen years ago, we went for a walk at midnight. We were on a college snowboarding trip and my husband never fails to remind me that I came to Silverthorne in one man’s car and went back to Tulsa in another man’s car – his old ’88 Monte Carlo. A week was all it took for me to fall head over heels in love with that tall boy from Nebraska. One night, after everyone went to bed, he asked me to walk with him in the midnight. We bundled up in our woolies, me with two long red braids hanging down underneath my wool toque, and we set out mittens in hand. We walked in the darkness and the stars above the trees, and then we stood in an empty cul-de-sac of a soon-coming neighbourhood. He laid me down on a snowbank and kissed me dizzy. After we came back to the rented condo filled with college students, frozen, we knew the night couldn’t end and so we drove to a Village Inn and leaned over a formica table and bitter coffee, talking until dawn. We drove back to the condo and slept for an hour before we woke up to another day of snowboarding on a budget with our friends, broken by our secret grins.

Fourteen years later, we were in a rented Jeep. His parents were looking after our three tinies on the family reunion holiday, and we are still holding hands on the gear shift. We found that ratty condo  after a while of driving – it was a different colour, there were a few more houses around, a lot of trees had been cut down. We stood in the parking lot of that condo complex and remembered when were thinner and younger. I said, “Can you believe it’s been nearly 15 years since I snapped that picture of you standing over that worn out Monte Carlo’s engine?” And he said, “We’re as close to being fifty now as we are right now to that day.” And then I nearly fell down dead because somehow we are still twenty years old and kissing in snowbanks at the same time that we’re thirty-four with three tinies and a mortgage, we both have grey hair and a lifetime now.

That cul-de-sac is filled with 15 year old homes, a few even for sale. They were out of our price range. Remember? Remember? Remember? we said as we marvelled. Remember how we were here in the snow just yesterday and now we are older in the rain, and we have all these years, all of the years we spent together. So well spent.

 

We found that old Village Inn. It was closed – empty and despondent, surrounded by chains and KEEP OUT signs. There were outlet shops everywhere and we felt sad. Everywhere starts to look the same after a while, it’s the rare place that holds its own place in the world. We hopped the chains and stood in the parking lot. The skies opened up and the grey rained down. We kissed on the front step of that old restaurant and then we peered through the opaque windows of time to our old selves.

Could we have imagined? Could we have imagined the life we now live and the choices we’ve made? Could we imagine the places we’ve gone and the tears we have wept together and the babies we’ve lost? Could we have imagined the way we smile at each other in such perfect knowing when our son – our son! – raptures over a plane ride? The way you make our daughters laugh until they shriek over tickles and the way we sleep altogether at night on our family holidays? Could we have imagined even something as simple as family holidays together with your parents and your sisters and their families? We could not. But here we are, nearly fifteen years later , kissing in an old abandoned breakfast restaurant parking lot while the rain falls and we remember?

We drove down a lake dam and stayed by the lake. Secrets are a beautiful part of a marriage. We went out for supper and talked over our life. It’s a funny thing to revisit the old haunts, to see yourselves fifteen years ago burning with passion and Somedays, when you are now older with babies and memories and stories, still somehow dreaming of Someday.

We’ve hit that point, the point when we remember each other back then, and we know now. We are familiar and yet still somehow, kissing in the empty parking lots surrounded by chain link fences and KEEP OUT signs.

He has lines at his eyes and grey at his temples, and I still see that 19 -year-old boy with a grin, coaxing me out for a walk in the midnight. And at the same time, I see our homes and our travels, our tears and our laughter, I see him standing in the room and weeping over tea-towels with never-babies inside, and I see us holding the now-growing-up babies as they learn to walk, and I see him looking at me across our old bed that he built with his own hands and I see us as kids and I see us as lovers and I see us as best friends, and I see us just last night as we staggered through a sleepless night with lanky kids who couldn’t sleep well and I think, God, we grew up together. We grew up and now we are grown up, and now  we are growing older. Those lanky kids look like us, both of us, at the same time.

We came back to another rented condo in the gathering of the light. I couldn’t have imagined all those years ago, at the Village Inn with a day-old bagel and terrible coffee at dawn, how he would have loved me so beautifully and fully, so crazily and completely, so ordinarily extraordinary. Look at us, living our lives together. Everything has changed, everything will continue to change, but we will still be here, in a car, kissing like teenagers over a lifetime of stories shared.

Look at us, in the middle of our marriage.

I write now and then about what love looks like for us. 

 

 

In which I share what I'm into (July 2013 edition)
In which I beg Barbie's pardon
thank you for sharing...
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  • Marilyn Gardner

    So incredibly beautiful. It’s a true writer who can tell us her own story even as we’re wrapped up in our own memories. Thank you.

  • I don’t know why I’m crying…

  • This is so beautiful. Sometimes stories like this are bittersweet music to me, because they show me how beautiful love can be, but also remind me that I still haven’t found my wife yet, despite years of taking risks, pushing doors, self-examination, going on dates and meeting new people. And I can really begin to lose hope sometimes I will ever meet that person. Not the person who will save me, complete me, make me whole or anything like that – I don’t believe a partner can do that, certainly not completely – but just someone to do the ups and downs of life with, to walk the journey with, to make mistakes with, to grow old with. My life is great as it is, and I have freedoms I know I’d have to sacrifice – and I want to meet someone worth making those for.

    Your posts about your marriage paint a beautiful picture not just of your own marriage, but the kind of marriage I hope to have one day – and hope I can find soon (though I recognise it takes time to build a marriage). I don’t want to wait much longer than I already have, but if I find a marriage like yours the wait I’ve already gone through and any more left, will be worth it.

    Thanks for this post, and all those about your marriage. They give me hope and encouragement.

  • Amanda Ungleich

    beautiful. such a great reminder of the daily-ness of marriage and how love blends with real life to make something really wonderful

  • Jennifer Lloyd Green

    So well written, I am crying too! Love looks like an empty parking lot … never would have seen it as possible back 15 years ago, but I do understand this now. Life is not what we expected, yet so much more. The journey has been better, unfair, unpredictable … yet our lover still stands with us. Guess that is the point of a marriage, eh? Love you both!

  • Oh boy. Suckerpunch of happy/wistful. This is beautiful.

    [secretly, my favorite part is all the purity culture rules broken here. <3]

  • Beautiful. Our romance officially started at sunrise on a beach looking out at the north sea, we had stayed up all night too!

  • Karen Joy

    My husband and I will be married 19 years in November. We just had our sixth child, six weeks ago… I have been in love with him, but going through that birth with him, and seeing the pictures from it, has made me fall in love with him all over again. But at the same time, seeing those pics have reminded me that I am no longer 21. I am now 40. Somehow, I missed that realization, and seeing the lines on my neck in the pics have reminded me… But seeing him cradle my face, or his arm around me, or his hand resting on my shoulder, or covering my own… I love him.

  • Erica Ladd

    Achingly beautiful writing and memories! I married my high school sweetheart, so those teenage memories touch me in my soul!

  • So true and beautiful and aching. We will be five years put together this year. Five years of road trips and kissing in the rain (and always in elevators), in churches and late at night. Five years of walking through betrayals and hoping in tomorrow, rescue dogs rescuing us and hardly believing when they said the words “heart attack.” And now we are at a new wrestling, one that is stretching us stronger but pinching us lonely in the night and I look forward to that 15 that you write about because the stretching will be different, but we’ll still be kissing in the rain (and always in elevators.)

  • Beautiful – I have goosebumps as I wipe away tears…

  • Karrilee Aggett

    Breathtakingly full of honor and joy and love that grows deeper. Blessed to be in a marriage much like this. I have lived with this man for over half of my life already – that thought catches my breath and races my heartbeat… because in one moment time stands still and we are back to 21 and, yes – in the next we are right here, right now… and if we blink – there we are, reflecting back over the fullness of our years as One flesh. Beautiful post!

  • jennieallen

    We fell in love at a Villiage Inn in East Tennessee. This is beautiful girl. Hope I get to meet him someday.

  • Love this to pieces. Also? My husband throws out that, “We’re closer to 50 than….” line ALL THE TIME. Sigh. 🙂

  • Monna Clare Payne

    Sarah Bessey (I always think of both your names for some reason!), I love this. I feel this way about my love too – the growing up, growing together, growing older. So much different and yet better than I expected it would be.
    Read it with tears. Your heart moves mine. Thanks.

  • Brie E

    So sweet. As someone who is just starting on their journey of marriage this is such a sweet reminder that through highs and lows and years in between it’s all worth it for the right person. Congratulations on finding that special someone.

  • Damn Sarah! I cannot read these without crying….so achingly beautiful in it’s simplicity, life lived out in love.

  • Ruth

    We have been together for just 28 years and have hitvournlate 50s. My love didn’t come along early and we were 30 when we married – the best wedding of all time” not expensive just full of love and friends. I didn’t grow up with him, but we were able to enjoy growing together. Met at a snow trip training weekend. Saw him once…that was it my knight in snowy boots and parka with a beautiful briwm beard and blue eyes, 10ft tall he looked, but really 6ft 2 in. I’m 5ft nothing, loved him, gone, in the right place after waiting on God for those years, but I had a great life before him and a different one after. 2 sons with ADHD and autism, but love those now men to pieces! They are the joy of my life, my 3 men. Can you cry at 58 as much as 18…. Sure can. Breathtaking really,

  • Smoochagator

    I’m 34, too, and wow it’s wild to realize that I’m actually a grown-up, now. My friends and I have been talking about it, and sharing our midlife crises. There’s so much that’s different from what I thought would be, in good and bad ways. I am so happy for you and your Nebraska boy, that you found each other all those years ago and have been each other’s sweetheart and best friend all this time and lived those Somedays together.

  • It’s this. It’s exactly this.

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  • Abby Norman

    Next book, love story. Please? I met my husband when I was 18, (I know!) And am so grateful for us to have grown up together.

  • This is the kind of stuff I want to remember about our marriage. Sometimes I don’t want to look back, but the way you write about it makes me want to celebrate the ups and downs and remember why I fell in love with my husband.

  • fiona lynne

    Sigh, this is just exactly how it was always meant to be.

  • Tiffany Norris

    Beautiful! Beautiful story, memories, writing, everything!

  • LondonHeather

    Oh gosh, Sarah, this is just beautiful. And as I read I started marvelling at the parking lot-equivalents in my marriage. Thank you for sharing and inspiring.

  • AlissaBC

    Gosh you sure make the middle years sound beautiful, like something to look forward to, rather than the end of it all like the movies tell us. Thank you.

  • Melissa

    So beautiful. Thank you for sharing.

  • Danielle May

    LOVE this…and not just because me and my hub’s first date included Village Inn:)

  • Sharon O

    Really good writing. Remembering is so good…

  • I love this love-post. Thank you for sharing out of the depths of who your family is. I love to be a witness.

  • Dr. Kim Eckert

    sarah bessey gets me every time. “look at us, in the middle of our marriage.” as I celebrate my 14th anniversary next week those words are poignant. perfect. real. lovely as always. thank you.

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  • Marybeth

    Your story is so beautiful. *crying* I met my husband when I was 16 and he was 15 and we married when he was 18 and I am now 25 and we have 3 babies and I see myself in this story and the growing up is so beautiful, so bittersweet and scary….thank you for this precious gift

  • DHannah

    You. Sarah. You are Gift. Thank you.

  • Meg

    Sarah, this is breathtakingly beautiful. As I read each line, I wept. You have such a way with words. Of finding beauty in the everyday mundane. Of searching and seeking out the wonders of life, and making them a reality. You are a gift to the world.

  • Philmonomer

    (first time reading/commenting–directed here here from RHE’s sunday superlatives)

    I loved this piece. So personal, and yet so universal. Very, very well written. I am in a similar stage of life, and can relate to everything written here (including Silverthorne). Absolutely amazing to think that I have small children, and that I am (in my case) closer to 50 than 30. How did that happen? Thanks for putting such thoughts into beautiful words.

    One small point (and I hope it isn’t churlish of me): the last line seemed a little clunky/off. Maybe it is just the literalist in me–so feel free to write this off as some random commentator’s personal hangup. When I hear the word “middle,” I think “half way” Given the rest of the piece (e.g., you are both 34 years old), you probably have 40, 50, maybe even 60 years of marriage ahead of you. In that sense, you probably aren’t even a fifth of the way through your marriage. And, in another sense, there is still so much more “marriage” ahead of you (for example, kids’ school–grade school, high school, college–their growing up, their young adult hood, their marriage, your grand kids, etc.). So the word “middle” didn’t ring right to me.

    But you probably just meant “middle” to mean “not at the start.” And I am almost surely the only one with this reaction to the last line.

    At any rate, thanks for writing/sharing. I really did love it.

  • Makeda

    So beautiful!

  • Oh, goodness, you always make me cry. 😉

    This is definitely what love looks like.

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