“In the midst of winter, I finally learned that there was in me an invincible summer.” Albert Camus
The day after Thanksgiving, Hubs and I awoke at four to catch an early morning flight. Our destination: A small city in Virginia's wine country. Our purpose: To attend a friend's wedding.
I travelled light, luggage-wise, but that's not to say I didn't tote baggage. The ceremony in Virginia would mark our friend's second marriage, and, much as I admired his willingness to risk his heart again, I worried.
He and his new wife would have six children between them. The kids were adults, true, but do kids stop requiring time and attention when they hit twenty-one? To further complicate matters, the happy couple had recently bought a house and were juggling wedding planning with box unpacking. At work, he'd opted for a slower track after many hard-charging years, but his new wife couldn't cut back her hours. How would their work schedules mesh?
Did I tell you I like our friend's first wife? True, she'd initiated their divorce and had moved on without a backward look, but I'm the queen of looking back, retroactively applying relationship bandages, and asking, "What if?" Small wonder the airline didn't flag my baggage for exceeding weight limits.
First-time brides and grooms are filled with such optimism, it verges on hubris. Guests admire the bride and groom's fearless willingness to merge their dreams, futures, and fortunes. We hope they'll weather the storms to come and emerge stronger for them, but if asked for advice, we're likely to demur because who can tell anything to wide-eyed young people who are certain theirs is the great love of the century? If pressed, we might say something innocuous like, "Never go to bed angry," or "Laugh at yourself."
Guests at second marriages tend to be older and, thanks to lessons at the School of Hard Knocks, wiser. We arrive with optimism that's been dented but hasn't been stripped away. (If it had been, we'd have RSVP'd with regrets.) We've gone to bed angry once, twice, or ten times because only a saint could avoid it, and we've learned to laugh at ourselves because if we didn't, we'd have spent days curled into balls, our fingers in our ears, singing "La, la, la, I can't hear you."
We've also learned that long, happy marriages are blessed by luck. "Hard work" and "putting each other first" ratchet up the odds of success, sure, but luck's a biggie, and it skips over some marriages.
I traveled to Virginia weighed down with memories of our friend's first wife and worries for him and his new love. However, as he spoke the vows he'd written, my fears melted away.
The marriage of two people who've survived painful uncouplings is sweeter for its poignancy. It's humbling to bear witness to a bride and groom who have the courage to make promises although they'd learned the hard way that vows can be broken. They've weathered storms but haven't shut off their emotions or sequestered themselves in emotional storm shelters. They know it takes two to make a marriage work or fail and have ditched their "injured party" labels to accept that they could have done things differently the first-time around. They know they'll have to pay closer attention and adjust their behavior on the second go.
This wedding was marked by gratitude, not hubris. The bride and groom were gladgladglad to have found each other and grateful for the friends and family who supported them. The happy couple laughed a lot.
Will luck bless this new marriage? I don't know for sure, but it's clear the bride and groom are prepared to make their own.
On the trip home, my luggage felt weightless. I'd swapped my worries for joy, and it turns out optimism is the lightest element of all.