Otto never tires of telling people the joke about how it was an easy decision for us to have a small, family-only wedding ceremony without all of the traditional hoopla. “We’ve both already been to the wedding where she wore the big white dress,” he’ll deadpan, then sit back and wait for that to sink in.
In a few more months, Otto and will have known each other for 23 years.
Today, we’ve been married for 5 of them. [Aside: OH MY GOD look how tiny the children were!!] Just 5 years; our marriage is only embarking on kindergarten, and in some ways I’m still holding its hand to cross the street, tucking it in at night, and trying to convince it that there are no monsters hiding in the closet.
Make no mistake: for me, our marriage definitely fears there’s a big hairy beast either in the closet or under the bed, just waiting to pounce. Except in this case the hairy beast is “One day Otto wakes up and realizes it’s maybe not supposed to be this hard, this much of a slog, this kind of endless grind,” and then he tells me that he can’t do it anymore.
This is a fear that grows out of my own experiences and insecurities and has absolutely nothing to do with Otto. And I think I do an okay job of tamping down that particular neurosis most of the time; it helps, obviously, that the man I’m married to is completely devoted not just to me, but to the kids, as well.
Even though this year has sucked.
Even though one child in particular has been extraordinarily rotten to him.
Even though “for richer, for poorer; in sickness and in health” has been getting a workout in 2012, in ways we never could’ve imagined.
He’s here. He’s not going anywhere. And not just that, he continues to remind me every day why I married him: He is smart and sweet and kind and funny and patient and his presence in my life makes me a better person. His presence in my children’s lives make them better, too, whether they know it or not.
Five years ago we honeymooned ever-so-briefly at a lovely spot in the White Mountains called Turtle Pond Farm. There were turtles, of course (as well as battalions of frogs who croaked all night long, and SNAKES ON A DOCK), and when we left, the owners gave us a tiny little bobble-headed turtle (kind of like these) as a souvenir. Now, you can see from that link that this was not a terribly expensive item, but nonetheless, the Honeymoon Turtle has occupied a spot of honor in our living room ever since we moved into this house.
When searching for a way to properly commemorate this auspicious occasion, I kept coming back to the turtle. Because it’s perfect. We got married 18 years after we met. We’ve plodded along through the recent trials and tribulations and our marriage has remained well-protected despite everything the world has thrown our way. Together, we are slow and steady and wherever the finish line ends up being (hopefully 50 years from now!), I know we’ll be there together.
So this morning, I gave this to Otto:
I have dubbed him Helmut von Turtle. (Obviously.) (Allow me to give a shout-out to sculptor Fred Conlon, because I just love him so much.) Helmut’s made from a genuine Word War II helmet that has withstood the test of time, and he’s completely goofy-looking, and of course the minute I saw him I knew he was perfectly emblematic of our marriage. (And then when Otto unwrapped him this morning, Monkey made a face EXACTLY like the turtle and it was EVEN BETTER.)
But if you rewind to before that… very early this morning, I woke up before the alarm and just lay there for a few minutes, trying to go back to sleep. It didn’t work. So I turned towards Otto and saw that he wasn’t asleep, either. I kissed his shoulder.
“Happy familiversary!” I said.
“Happy familiversary,” he answered, kissing me back.
“I think I should probably just get up,” I said, glancing at the clock again.
“I was just thinking that,” he said. “That YOU should get up.”
“Jerk,” I said.
“Hey!” he said.
Slow and steady and always able to make each other laugh. Otto, you’re my very favorite turtle EVER. Thank you for being you.