Sunday, December 5, 2010

Fifteen Years, Give or Take

We're carrying on every day with our Advent activities.  I keep meaning to write about what we're doing; so far we've decorated bedrooms, written letters to Santa, chosen our annual new ornaments for the tree, and written letters to the girls' teachers.  Yesterday morning, the activity was "shop for your family," so we split up and I took Annie while Jason took Jemma to do a little gift-buying for the not-present members of the family.  The season goes so quickly and we're trying to infuse a little cheer into every single day, though I think our activities might be a bit skewed toward the ho-ho-ho variety and lacking in the ho-ho-holy spirit of the season.  Next year, a mental note to add in some community service and a bit more reason-for-the-season stuff.

After we shopped (and snuck in some one-on-one hot cocoa time at the coffee shop), we loaded the girls up and brought them to my parents overnight so Jason and I could compete in the annual Holiday Road Rally party.  Last year, we had a lot of fun but our team didn't even place.  This year, Jason our team got naked wore less than all of their clothes in certain local places, pushed an empty stroller through a bar while drinking a can of cheap beer, got in Reed's Lake, took a group photo in a bar bathroom, laid down bare-chested on the ice rink, and sang karaoke while crowd-surfing plus all sorts of other daring feats that won us first place!  It was fun and exhausting and we've decided that next year we may want to spend the entire allotted rallying time at a single bar with our team, score exactly zero points, and go back to the house just to watch the slideshow of other groups making fools of themselves.  For now, we are champions, as denoted by our engraved pint glasses and the Christmas tree trophy that will grace our mantels until next year.

This afternoon, before picking the girls up, we got to have a late lunch in Saugatuck with Chris and Sarah before attending Christmas Vespers at Hope.  Full of food and a glass of red wine, we were pleasantly drowsy and warm in our seats while the gorgeous songs washed over us.  As the Chapel Choir filed past us down the aisles wearing their colorful robes, I looked at the altos and sopranos and thought, I was just you.  It seems like a few minutes ago that I walked down the aisles of that chapel, slung my backpack over my shoulder, maybe looked around to see if I could spot one cute Cosmo wearing his green sweatshirt on Fridays.  It wasn't yesterday, though; it was fifteen years ago.

The front of the chapel today was full of poinsettias.  There were four be-ribboned Christmas trees, candles, two choirs, a full orchestra, a conductor wearing tails.  It looked nothing like it did that June day when I walked down the middle aisle in a white dress.  But if I just looked at the floor under my feet - the big black and white squares - I could imagine that it was 1999 and I was getting married, I could imagine that it was September of 1995 and I was catching Jason's eye for the first time.

A few weeks ago, Annie (always one to change up her jewelry daily, or several-times-daily) wore a single silver ring on one finger for about a week straight.  On day four or five, I brought it up.  "What's the deal with the ring?"

She blushed.  "I got married."

"Oh, really?  To whom?"

She made a you-should-know-this face and said, "To Ben!"

"Does Ben know this?" I asked.  She insisted he did.

"So," I said, "if I called Aunt Connie right now and asked to talk to Ben and said 'Did you and Annie get married when we were at the park the other day?' he would say 'Yes'?"

She sighed.  "Noooooooooo."

I promptly called Connie as soon as Annie was out of earshot and we laughed at the ridiculousness of it. I mean, we've been forcing them to play together since they were little.  We did take Annie to meet Ben when he was mere hours old and she was a three-week-old newborn in an infant car seat.  We have video of six-month-old Annie growl/screeching at Ben and reaching her arms toward him at the South Haven house.  We have video of the two of them, age one, red-cheeked from their naps, toddling toward each other for a zombie-like hug.  We might even have photos of them in swim diapers, taking baths in a kiddie pool on a deck overlooking Lake Michigan, sitting in high chairs at Connie's kitchen counter, sitting on a bench next to each other at the preschool playground, holding hands as they walk around Meijer Gardens.  They've always had a special bond.  But married?

Connie and I laughed about how simultaneously awesome and awkward this would make our lives.  We talked about how strange it is that neither one of us has ever encouraged any sort of "Is Annie your girlfriend?" or "Is Ben your boyfriend?" talk.  We agreed that, in spite of our nonchalant "Maybe you will, maybe you won't, that's a long time away and you don't know who you'll get married to yet" responses, they both remain strangely committed to this idea.  We said how much great fodder we'd have for a rehearsal dinner, how much fun it would be to plan a wedding together, how great it would be to see our best friend at our grandchildren's birthday parties.  But then we agreed, too, that it's nonsense, probably in fact a very bad idea, bizarre that they continue to bring it up, Annie never deviating from her Life Plan:  Marry Ben At Age 21, Have Three Babies.  Gaaaaaaah.  It is ridiculous.  It's beyond ridiculous.

I look down at the black and white parquet floor in the church where Jason and I were married, I look at the fresh faces of the choir girls singing "Silent Night," I look at Jason's face and I think how, fifteen years ago, I was meeting him.  I think how, in fifteen years, give or take, six-year-old Annie could be a twenty-one-year-old bride.  And if I am honest, this is not even what I want for her, not at all.  Too Young!  Whole Life Ahead!  Gather ye rosebuds while ye may, and etc.!  But who can say how it will all turn out, because, well, you know:


  1. I finished reading this with a huge smile on my face. Such good writing, Stephanie, really. :)

  2. Besides being really great writing, you made me reflect on how short and long all of this time has been. Though I didn't get married until 2001, it feels like just yesterday that I met my hubby, that summer of 1998... and i truly cannot believe that it has already been almost 13 years... Freshman year Pull, Gilmore girls dorm living... just yesterday.

  3. Crying! Oh Annie, the thought of you in a wedding dress is too much for this aunt, who just bought you fairy tale stuff for Christmas.