We had one of those terrible wedding videos, we’re talking pre digital. Our VHS cassette tape arrived a few weeks after the wedding and was played as a source of entertainment for the first couple of years until it was packed away in the back of a cupboard rarely to be seen again. I can’t really remember the fine details now but if I had to recall the general tone I’d say our camera man seemed to perpetually find himself at the back of the room. Everything was shot from a distance with the sound of muffled voices and the wind rattling into the microphone. In amongst the giggles of the bad camera work and the zoom in, zoom out, focus in, focus out, there is one true moment of honesty and beauty. It’s Uncle Bill.
It’s post wedding, pre reception, on a 46 degree summer’s day. For those in the northern part of the world doing celsius calculations it comes out somewhere between the soles of my shoes are melting, and I don’t think hell is as hot as this on your temperature gauge. And while G and I were off having the most expensive photos we’d ever have in our life the wedding guests were having drinks on the front lawn (the reception was at my parent’s house in the country). Unbeknown to us the videographer was making his way through the crowd asking people if they wanted to send us a message. You can imagine how delighted people were to have the camera thrust in their face while they tried desperately to rehydrate and down a couple of canapés. This was also pre-selfie before we were all comfortable with putting ourselves in the picture. Everyone looks mildly annoyed and/or slightly inebriated as the camera approaches, everyone except Uncle Bill.
Uncle Bill is standing on the front lawn of my parents house, he’s travelled all the way from his cattle property in Northern Queensland (we’re talking days in the car). He’s happily holding a canape in one hand and the cool change is just starting to make an appearance, there’s a breeze blowing into his hair and he’s having a giggle. Uncle Bill has watched my husband grow up and his advice is gentle in nature, honest in intention, and beautiful when you realise his wife is standing close by. “Hi Greg, make sure you look after your wife, you only get one!”
He’s deadly serious, because in the world of Uncle Bill there is only one.
Now, we all know this isn’t always the case. Marriages fail for a multitudinous of reasons, I have watched friends destroy themselves and others in the most toxic of marriages that just had to end. This isn’t the case for G’s uncles and aunts – they have all remained married, in fact G and I are surrounded by the eternally betrothed. Earlier this year, before G’s father passed away, my mother and father in law celebrated fifty years of marriage. My parents have also been married for over fifty years, sometimes begrudgingly, but more often beautifully. What does author Peter Fitzsimmons say about his own marriage of 24 years to Lisa Wilkinson? “We don’t have 365 blissful days a year. I say we have 50 blissful days a year, 300 pretty good days and 15 shockers.”
Fifty blissful days.
The beginning of a marriage is blissful, mine was. The beginning of my marriage was exciting and full of sweeping change and circumstance. It was loaded with romance, assurance and excitement. Our life together took off in a whirlwind, we were engaged three weeks after getting together, married 12 weeks later, and on a plane bound for our first move together a month later. We went through the excitement of our first baby, another move, another baby, another move….and while there was chaos and sleeplessness there were major celebrations. Another christening, first birthdays, another first day of school, first words, first, first, first. So much newness, so much to discover, so much to tackle together. I wince when I think back to how I often openly bragged about our marriage, our lack of conflict, our moments of beauty. That was the beginning.
We are now nearing the middle of our marriage, and like most things the middle has its issues. Speak to any author about the middle of a novel, or a marathon runner about the middle of the race. We are now middle-aged, we have children in middle school, we are working on our middle age spreads while being labelled for our mid-life decisions: cycling, dinner parties, share portfolios and no coffee after eight “I’ll never get to sleep”.
And where is our marriage? Our blissful 50 days? We have reached middle ground, in the middle of the road. We are excruciatingly honest in our language and we try harder than ever before to meet somewhere in the middle.
A few weeks ago I watched my beautiful husband deliver the eulogy of his father. As he stood at the pulpit I felt immense sadness and pride as I watched him walk through the paragraphs of his father’s life. Tales were told with a giggle, he stopped here and there for a deep breath, and then at the end a gentle sob. He told the story of a man, his career, and most importantly his marriage, for that was certainly one of his biggest accomplishments from beginning, middle and end.
I sent G a text today. “It would have been your Dad’s birthday today, yes?” I thought of G’s Mum, the significance, the first un-celebrated day. It made me want to celebrate every birthday harder, it’s a bloody cliché but they are a gift.
The middle of marriage (for us) is sometimes a slog, I’ll admit it. It’s school pick up at 3 and again at 4 in time for rugby which coincides with softball and car swapping in carparks as dinners are left in the oven. It’s parent teacher interviews where you’ll have to go to that meeting because I have to be at this meeting, and there’s a bill for the school, an emotional teenager, and where is the freaking remote again! It’s hurry up and get in the car but I can’t find my mouth guard and he’s an idiot and she’s so mean and it’s your fault that my life sucks and I hate school. It’s staying up late to pick up kids from the dance and getting up early to get to the field. It’s money, so much talk about money: should we, could we, didn’t we, have you paid the…? Oh, and would you like to have sex now? In amongst the noise?
The middle of a marriage is a magnificent mess, a marathon I wish to keep running through to pretty good, shockers and blissful end.