Eighteen and expecting.*
Just over a week on from an old friend’s happy wedding and from happily making jokes at his expense in front of all his other friends, I find myself looking at today’s date in the diary and remembering a similar day a couple of worlds away.
Eighteen years ago, Caroline and I demonstrated our decision to stop mucking about and step up.
For, betrothed by our villages as a peace accord I think, our childlike selves took vows to laugh at eachother’s jokes and to inspect eachother’s unmentionable ailments until one or both of us dropped with the emotional effort of looking interested.
To her eternal and almost saint-like credit, eighteen circuits of the Earth later, Caroline still lets slip the odd unguarded titter at my shrinking gene pool of jokes. Which might have been reason alone to keep me interested all that time, clever girl.
But the truth is, of course, when someone consistently impresses you with who they are, it’s hard not to stay interested.
And if, on top of this, they’re consistently nice to you… well, the shoes are staying off and under the table, aren’t they?
..Though I would say it turns out that this happy equilibrium depends rather on you giving them as many reasons as you can humanly think of for them to be nice to you. One of which might be pretending to play it cool at a very early stage – something which can for a while take the kind of herculean creative effort of a hormonal young man that could alternatively have been very usefully channeled into a career or something. Sure – tell ’em you’ve fallen in love. But not every ten minutes from about half an hour after meeting them. Not if you want it to last, loverboy.
Approaching life’s middle eight, I marvel at anyone’s ability to find someone who can keep time and tune with them. To find someone who’s willing to join the band at all seems remarkable, but to find someone who can stick with the piece through numerous time signature and key changes and still have intuition enough to improv a little before coming back in on cue for the big refrain together at the end seems too much to ask. Not least of all because it sounds as if you’re asking them to marry a jazz musician.
No, to have survived so many over-stretched metaphors, flowery language and inexplicably stuck drum machines on stage and to still be arsing about enjoying ourselves as ever we were is something I don’t really know how to say thankyou for.
But the fact that my long-suffering wife would, if made to read this, simply sigh and get on with something useful rather than carefully packing a case and leaving without a word is something you should show her some reverence for.
When I think of the different relationships around us during those eighteen years – or twenty-one really – I think I’m mainly thinking that no marriage survives in a vacuum. It needs relational air to breathe.
For those whose paths have had to separate during that time, I pause with some reverence. And for those who have helped us build something consistent through changing circumstances, by being consistent with us and eachother in all their different shapes of relationship, I simply mumble a thankyou prayer.
Because, just over a week on from Julian’s wedding and remembering my own, I can picture that he, for example, was at both. And interestingly, from a different but distantly related social family, so too was Mikey – Best Manning at the first, creating a party atmosphere with decks at the second. ..As too was his wife, then girlfriend, Emma.
I think, when friends demonstrate that they think it’s worth sticking around – at least, those that are somehow able to – you get to see over time why commitment is really so groovy.
Without the cloud of people who were there in August 1991, tripping over Caroline’s beautiful long train in the barn dance, and who weren’t there but who I can’t somehow believe weren’t, and who were but aren’t around with us now – and even those who never joined us at all, though we hoped they might – without them and the thought of them, I might not be still coming home to this remarkable woman’s embrace every night.
(..Except, she comes home to me. But, y’know. Don’t pick at the mood.)
So I’m thinking, here’s to the next eighteen years, gang. Wherever we find ourselves on this particular Monday, whatever has or hasn’t happened to us as we’d hoped, whatever is present, whoever is absent, when it feels things should really be somehow otherwise… I’m still expecting all kinds of good things. You’ve shown us an uncountable many already.
*Don’t get excited. Read to the end. It’s a play on words thing.