We were asked to present our ‘love story’ today for a Valentine’s Day service at our UU ‘church’ (I may forever need to place that term in quotes of some form). Seems appropriate to document here, in the spirit of both Valentine’s Day and being in the midst of our 20th year of marriage. I should note that my beloved and belovedly strange husband managed to ad-lib the term ’24-hour leprosy’ into the mix. I happily post the text here minus the ad-lib:
We were honored, but admittedly a little daunted, upon being asked to share our story as part of a service on “the miracle of love”. Religious baggage aside, the bar of “miracle” seems unattainably high, although perhaps we, like many couples well past the honeymoon phase, have grown to take our story, and our relationship, for granted. So we’re grateful for this opportunity to honor each other and share with you a little bit of our storybook on this Valentine’s Day.
Nearly 20 years ago, we walked down the aisle to a little song actually called “Storybook Love”; some of you may know it from the movie “The Princess Bride”. Looking back, the path to the aisle was perhaps a little more miracle than storybook.
The miracle began…
When two 17-year-olds who lived 6 hours apart somewhat begrudgingly went to a college visitation overnight in Peoria, Illinois…
And happened to find each other across a room filled with a few hundred high school seniors…
And walked around outside for hours in freezing cold weather, “talking” until the wee hours of the morning…
And, after they left the following day, a young boy with phone phobia braved his fears and picked up the phone anyway…
And a young girl who already had a prom date felt compelled to invite said young boy instead…
And the young boy’s parents let him spend a summer driving back and forth across the 300+ miles of distance between them…
And they weathered the even greater 800-mile distance separating them (and the astronomical phone bills that resulted) as they embarked on their journeys to college.
And all of that was the easy part!
From this chance meeting, our 17-year old selves from very different backgrounds and bearing very different personalities, built a relationship.
If the people in the world came in 31 flavors, Andrew would be the 32nd. He was irreverent, hilarious, brilliant, volatile, and unrestrained, someone unlike anyone I had ever met – and not surprisingly the child of hippie parents.
To continue the ice cream analogy, even though it’s not very vegan, Julie was afraid to be anything but everyone’s favorite flavor. Good at everything (even things she didn’t want to do), grounded, popular, athletic, smart, with a hidden wild and silly side that was carefully managed in order to not stand out or ruffle feathers.
And yet something about the combination sparked more than tumultuous arguments (of which there were a memorable few); there was something truly miraculous about how the puzzle pieces of ‘us’ fit together and brought out the best and tamed the worst.
The recognition that this was more than fleeting young love must have extended far beyond ourselves; this is the only explanation we can find for why our friends and both sets of parents actually ENCOURAGED us to marry when we were barely 20, before our senior year of college. Even the minister we approached to marry us rallied his support, expressing no reservations about our youth or our differing (Methodist and Jewish) religious upbringings.
And somehow, despite a year of engagement that challenged us in many ways, including witnessing the unraveling of my own parents’ 20-year marriage and experiencing a life-threatening illness only weeks before the wedding, we took the leap.
Over the nearly 20 years since, we have in most senses of the word, “grown up” together.
This is the part where those of you who know Andrew can have your little chuckle about viewing him as a “grownup”.
Through everything, we are each other’s support systems and confidantes. We’ve experienced many of life’s joys and challenges together, and our shared sense of humor and trust in each other often carries us. We are best friends in every sense, sometimes to a fault, as we have to remind ourselves to include others in our world. What I find most miraculous is how different we each are today in many ways from the kids that fell in love at 17, but as we’ve traveled the path of growth together, we always seem to arrive at the same core values and life goals.
The birth of our daughter, Alli, 9 years ago yesterday, brought yet another miracle as we moved from ‘couple’ to ‘family’ after 10 years of marriage. Now we have this little (ok, not so little anymore) creature that is in all ways a product of our love and carries so many bits of each of us in her. It also gives us new perspective and new things to love about each other as we see each other in our roles of mother and father.
I am as in love today as I have always been with Andrew for his unique sense of humor, his frightening intelligence, even his irreverence – but most of all for the incredible amount of caring, kindness and generosity he gives to his family and the world around him.
And I love Julie most for her ability to understand my unique sense of humor, her ability to keep up with my frightening intelligence, and of course her tolerance of my irreverence. I love her for all the same reasons I did when I met her. She makes me a better person. I love that she is still grounded, but that her wild and silly side makes much more frequent appearances, sometimes even overshadowing mine. Who else would pierce their nose as a 40th birthday present for their spouse? I’m constantly in awe of her ability to know how to handle every situation, and watching her as a mother and teacher constantly inspires me.
So on this Valentine’s Day, a day we often let pass with little fanfare, we are grateful for this opportunity to not do so. It is our hope that you and your loved ones, who we know have your own unique stories too, will be inspired to a little fanfare as well.
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