Happy Birthday, David

Almost ten years ago, I fell down the stairs at our wedding.  Well, not the wedding itself, but afterward.  We held our reception in Baltimore at Westminster Hall, a vacant Presbyterian Church some wise people thought would look good spiffied up and turned into an event space. It’s also the burial grounds for Edgar Allan Poe, but that’s not very romantic sounding, so I’ll leave that part out.  There’s a short, wide staircase inside that separates the two levels of party space, and our photographer was rushing us away from our dinner (waaahhhh!) and outside because the light was perfect for taking photos of us cavorting among centuries-old gravesites. Like I said. Romantic. I swear to you I’d only had one glass of champagne leading up to this, but regardless, as we were hurrying away from the only meal we’d eat all night, my right foot gave out from underneath me on the polished stairs, twisting my leg in such a way that I landed on the edge of one shin-first.  Everybody saw it.  And because it all happened under the full skirt of my wedding gown, and all our guests saw was the gentle slide of me settling on the ground, I couldn’t let forth with the torrent of tears like I wanted to–I couldn’t be that bride, after all–and laughed instead.  David had been holding my hand, and for a brief moment, he stood beside me, unsure of what to do.  We’d known each other not quite a year.

Little did we know back then what the next nine or so years would bring us.  How could we have anticipated moving from the city to the rural suburbs I’d always said I hated?  Did David, who had a hard time agreeing to be married in the Catholic church in the first place, ever have seen himself happily registering his oldest daughter up for parochial school?  We didn’t know that our marriage would bring us the painful deaths of both of our fathers, one a year after the other, or three children who, every day, show us how good people can be.  We didn’t know we’d make friends, lose friends, have horrible years, have wonderful years, move into a house that was supposed to be temporary just to realize we can slow down a little and not rushrushrush if we don’t have to.  We had no idea we’d go snorkeling in whitecaps, hot air ballooning over the desert, hug palm trees on the rugged rocks of Connemara, or help our own toddlers roast marshmallows over beach bonfires.  We didn’t know that we would have arguments grand enough to render Liz Taylor and Richard Burton speechless, only to emerge from those early years more in step with our partnership than I could have ever imagined was possible in real life.

Little did I know the character of the man I’d married, either.  We’d agreed that I’d switch to part-time work after Saoirse as born. But when I called him after my orientation meeting at the community college where I was supposed to start teaching, sobbing even as I held my new office key in my hand, he didn’t hesitate, said we’d make it work, let’s get you home.  When not having finished college bothered him to the point he couldn’t shake it, he went back to school, all the while taking care of a crazy-busy job and children and marriage and life, and came out of it with a 4.0.  He still feels bad about skipping a Saturday class because I’d gone into labor with SK.  I knew I’d married a leader, someone people could go to for answers.  What I didn’t know back then was that I’d married a man who’d never let the fridge be empty of orange juice, who would go to church with his family because he wanted his children to see him there, who’d be the only one who can get the top of the stove perfectly clean and pick the dog poop out of the yard on the weekends because I’m too lazy to walk Luca during the day.  He’s the one who gives  up the last cup of coffee, the last brownie, the last good beer in the house, his last five minutes of spare time if he knows I may want it.  I never would have guessed that not only would he suggest I start writing again, but wouldn’t give up.  I had no idea he would gently, consistently, pushpushpush because, as always, he had more faith in me than I did.  He always does.  If a person in the world is 95 percent bad, David will focus on the five percent that is good, as if his faith alone in that could will it to spread.  I didn’t expect this.  I didn’t foresee any of it.  I didn’t know that he would be the husband I could trust, would write blog posts bragging about, that would make me sit here as I type and wonder how in the world it could work out the way it did.  I just guessed, really.  I loved him a lot, and he was pretty darn good-looking.  So I hoped.

Those stairs in that reception hall were way too slippery for somebody wearing brand new heels under a fancy dress.  Our dinners grew cold quickly, sitting on that table, gorgeous plates piled with food from a wonderful caterer in our beloved Mt. Vernon neighborhood.  I had just given myself a horrendous bruise on my shin that would last much longer on our honeymoon than my pedicure would.  And David?  David looked at the photographer, who was still trying to get us up and outside already, for just a split second. Then he sat down, put his arm around me, and laughed, too.

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