Today was the eighteenth anniversary of the day I got married. Today was the seventh anniversary of the day we signed the closing papers on our house. Today I made my eight year old cry when I told him we would not be going on our annual camping trip. Today I have been thinking a lot about the quick blink of passing time, about unexpected settling, about disappointment.
For the record: this has been a rotten summer. The older kids have declared it “the worst” but I can’t even whisper superlatives without worrying about superstitiously tempting fate. Oh yeah? You think this is bad? Just wait. I know it doesn’t work like that, but I am spurned into a practice of gratitude anyhow. And even if I can’t avoid difficulties simply by focusing instead on whatever is vaguely good, I can try not to make it harder. Life can be hard enough.
Seven years ago, we moved into a house that had a recent but poor exterior paint job. We intended to paint as soon as possible. Turns out, it wasn’t possible until now. Turns out, we might be attempting the impossible.
We would have deferred this task longer, if it weren’t for chunks of our house beginning to crumble away to dry rot. We’ve had a lot of other stuff going on over the last few years; we put it off as long as we could. And, like everything we do, we’re doing it ourselves. I wish I could tell you it’s all for DIY bragging rights, for industriousness, for hubris. But the truth is that we can’t afford to pay someone else. It’s not glamorous to talk about finances. But I have never aspired to glamor and I know other families must be in the same predicament. We are a one income family, and while that income is decent we have a lot of expenses related to some rough blows we’ve had (a year of unemployment, lengthy hospitalizations) and keeping afloat feels like accomplishment. Any extra costs are not easily absorbed.
We are losing a whole summer to this project. The husband even took off a week of work and spent the equivalent of his usual (50 or so hour) workweek power washing and sanding and scraping. We might not even finish by the time the rains start (we live in Oregon: it’s wet here) but at least the house will be waterproof and the walls won’t wash away.
We didn’t do anything special for our anniversary. Heck, we didn’t do anything special for our marriage, so I guess it’s tradition. We don’t have the time nor money (nor extended family) for special. Frankly, when regular life is so tight and stressful, we don’t have the energy for special.
Tonight the husband and the two oldest are sleeping outside on the trampoline. It was the teenager’s idea, and the eight year old wanted to do it, too. But he was kinda nervous so the dad said he would join them.
This isn’t where I envisioned we might be, eighteen years ago. But I know that my marriage and family aren’t going to wash away. We might have rough times, we certainly have areas that aren’t lovely, but we keep at it, and we patch it up, and we do the best we can. And, in doing so, we set a new precedent for our children. We will always be there for you, we tell them, in everything we do.
It’s a bummer that we can’t go camping this summer. It’s a bummer that the only thing we hoped to do was a simple camping trip, and even that proved to be too much. We have good reasons to be very disappointed. And we have many terrific reasons to be very proud. My children know they don’t have to shoulder the burdens of this world alone. We have given our kids something that we didn’t have. We have given them stability and authenticity. It might not always be wonderful, but it’s always real. It might not always be fun, but it’s always dependable. I think that counts for a lot.
(grape picture snapped today in my backyard. august is all about sour grapes, literally and figuratively. if you’re wondering: yes, we were practically babies when we got married. he was 23 and I was months away from my 21st birthday. i was going to post a picture of the two of us together, but i couldn’t find one. not even one! although, we didn’t even have our picture taken together the day we got married. civil service at a courthouse. we had no attendants or witnesses of our own. same as it ever was. the husband doesn’t know I took that pic of him today and he’s asleep and certainly doesn’t know I’m posting it. I think it’s ok, though. it’s a good capture of our life lately. he’s way up on a ladder sanding, sanding, sanding. he’s a good, solid, loyal person. i’m glad he’s mine. and, I hate to jinx myself, but I am going to try to write in this blog more regularly. maybe even tomorrow! I have a lot updates about Uly to share. somebody is still reading out there, right? maybe?)