A decade is a good chunk of time to use as a measurement, the end of one being a pleasing point at which to reflect and take stock. A lot can happen in ten years, yet you’re not so very far away from where it started.
Where did this last decade start? With a sunlit church; loved ones gathered inside; flowers; a white dress; a pair of rings. Many stories start this way, with a church and flowers, a white dress and rings. But this particular story is our story, mine and Andrew’s.
Our wedding day was sweet, simple and happy, with blue sky, flowers, laughter and dancing. We began our marriage in the church because, young and naive though we were, we knew we would need God to help us make our partnership last, to make it rich and full and beautiful and adventurous.
In the ten years since, we have lived in six homes in four different places. We’ve done a handful of different jobs, and met a whole load of beautiful people. We’ve been through the pain of infertility and the excitement and richness of adoption. Through all of it, Andrew has been faithful and loving, and God even more so.
In writing about marriage it’s tempting to launch into a string of abstract nouns – love, patience, faithfulness – but to me, it’s the specifics that make a story sing. The small details and anecdotes and moments: these are the things that reveal character, tenderness, friendship and beauty. I could write about all kinds of times and places and conversations here, as I try to capture what our marriage means to me, and what Andrew means to me. I could write and write and write: ten years is a lot of days, a lot of moments.
But, as it is such a good round number, how about ten? Ten moments for Ten years…
2009. It’d been a tough week but each day I had come home from work to the smell of cooking, a clean flat, a cup of tea. I’d sat with the tea for twenty minutes or so, hands around the cup and very little conversation coming from my mouth. I was recovering from some really difficult months and working hard and really had very little left to give. I had sat and eaten the food he presented, watched an episode of Jonathan Creek with him and then each night came the pile of books to mark or the laptop to work on. He kept me well stocked with tea and snacks and graciously resigned himself to the lack of communication. Then, Saturday. We wandered through Rye Lane, the scents of fast food, fish shops, butchers, cigarettes and spices mingling. The background noise: cars, a plethora of accents and languages, talking, singing, shouting. Through the market: colourful fabrics, yams, mangoes, plantain, an odd assortment of household products, cds. Then a strong coffee, pizza with black olives, plastic table and blue eyes across from me. We talked about this and that: our work, jobs we’d like to do, places we’d like to travel, food we’d like to try, projects we’d like to be part of. And then we got up and moved on.
2010: Our new house, provided by my new employers: a spacious parsonage, still empty with only our folding table and sofa bed for furnishing. There was also the new delivery: the large, orange ‘fat boy’ bean bag, which somehow we thought would match the sunset in the picture we’d bought of a beach from our home county. My sister was staying and we all took turns messing about in the huge cardboard box it came in. After a while, Andrew went back outside to hack away at the overgrown tangle of brambles that would later become a veg patch.
2011: Snow! It covered everything and was still falling. We got our winter coats on – the ones we’d both had since the days of dating in Devon – and out in the garden we threw snowballs, made a snowman and generally larked about. Coming back in we made little pools of icy water in the kitchen as we took off the dripping wellies and coats, our faces still tingling from the delicious cold.
2012: Andrew’s sister and family had come to stay and we all sat on the grass beside the polytunnel at the market garden project Andrew was working on. We’d all put together a picnic and come on over to see what was growing. He had just put in the cross shaped walkway between the beds outside the tunnel and we could see carrots, peas, beans, kale and chard growing. We picked peas and ate them out of the pods, enjoying their sweetness.
2013: He drove, and I held the new addition to our family: a little daschund puppy, Jamie. It was really very spontaneous. We had seen Jamie’s big eyes and floppy ears online, and then one Sunday after church we jumped in the car, bought a dog bed and bowls on the way and drove a couple of hours. When we got to the little house in Ely and saw the two puppies bounding around, all ears and paws, we knew we’d be bringing one home. As we drove home again, we both just kept looking at each other and him, dazed and soppy and completely besotted.
2014: We sat on jutting rocks eating sandwiches. The wind made my hair and clothes fly but the sun was hot. We watched as seals bobbed just metres below us. We were on the enchanting Lundy Island, a surprise holiday Andrew had booked for our anniversary, right at the start of our new life living in Devon. He clambered further, watching sea birds, while I sat still, smiling.
2015: It was Christmas time and our church family group were squeezed around tables in our kitchen. There were pine cones and fairy lights and red cloths and candles and everyone brought along a contribution to the Christmas dinner. The house was filled with a festive hum of conversation and laughter. We felt incredibly blessed.
2016: This was the year of the Sad Spring. But before we knew it was sad, when we were still full of hope, we sat in a church in Venice on my birthday and listened to the most beautiful violin music. I’d been learning to play, since Andrew had surprised me one birthday with one of my own. We sat side by side as the music soared under the old arches of the church. I don’t know if Andrew loved it as much as I did, but he smiled as we listened and held my hand as we meandered back through the darkening streets and asked me questions about it and smiled some more.
2017: Our favourite band was in the UK and we were going to see them! As we waited on the steps we made friends with the person in front, discussing all the band’s albums and rushing to the merch table to buy t shirts. Then we were swept into the sheer fun of watching them, shouting and jumping and dancing along, the guitar and the voice and the lyrics commanding our emotions, our respect and our complete presence in the moment.
2018: We sat at our table with our social worker and read about a brother and sister who loved the outdoors, and we knew they were a perfect match for us.
2019: The children and I went to see the first cut of hay in the first field of the season. Andrew drove his trusty David Brown 996 and our gorgeous boy rode with him while his feisty, funny sister threw up big handfuls of hay in delight.
Andrew, thank you so much for these ten years. I love how you have – how we, together, have – the imagination and courage to try new ventures and see what happens. I love all the things we have grown together: carrots and pak choi and raspberries and hay, as well as friendships and family. I love all the time spent outdoors and drinking coffee and travelling and watching TV. I love the life we keep making and reinventing and growing and living together. I love that the arguments and misunderstandings pale into insignificance among all the many many moments of friendship and fun and work and love. I love your resourcefulness, your kindness, your humour and your faith.
Here’s to many more decades of living and working together.