We were holed up in a hotel in Raleigh, Rich and I, feeling slightly rebellious for not only leaving our home/street/town…but the entire state of Virginia. It felt like a bit like a breach of secrecy pulling into North Carolina…What’s it like here? How are the people here? Will we be welcome? Sent back to the 804? Five years ago on this same day, in this same town, we were also holed up in a hotel. Our dear friends, Amy & John, would have just arrived and we would have been getting ready for a kick-off-to-the-wedding dinner at the Angus Barn. A kick-off to a weekend of so many emotions – ranging from “I’m 100% sure I’m doing the best thing ever” to “What the eff am I doing?”
Five years later, those are still the most prevalent emotions in my bag.
Five years is a big deal! Or so I hear. In the land of second marriages that include children, it’s a huge number. I’m told that second-marriages involving-children that make it to the five year mark are more likely to last than standard first-no-kids-yet marriages. And I believe it with all my heart because getting here was incredibly difficult. For every happy moment – a matching moment full of frustration. For every giggle – a wail. For every success – a feeling of total failure. What you don’t see is how the numbers skewed one way in the beginning years (loads of frustration, tears and thrown in towels) and how they are skewed the other way now (loads of laughter, productive conversations and whispered moments of we’re doing it).
Yes, something to celebrate in whatever weird quarantine way we can. Which, for us, involved a trek back to where our marriage started. Any other year, we would have had a prime seat in the dining room at the Angus Barn and lingered for hours reliving the memories of the day and the days before the day. This year, same place, different approach with curbside pickup off a select menu of goodness and a picnic somewhere far enough away to be ‘away’ but close enough to the pick up zone to keep the food warm. Driving our dinner three hours back to the Ville didn’t really seem ideal, so a hotel, a card table, and our own plates & silverware had to do. Nothing about this relationship has been traditional – why start now?
Five years. In many ways, it has flown. I don’t know when your wedding stops feeling like it just happened – but I can still daydream right back to that spot in the Wild Turkey Lounge where the ceremony began with a chuckle when Rich played along with a Dad/Daughter joke and offered the former a camel as payment for the privilege of becoming my husband (spoiler alert…my dad would have given me away for free). I felt lifted by the love of our friends and family, unable to speak ‘right’ for the smile on my face and seeing tears curtaining the face of a longtime family friend sneaking a peek from the other end of the room – all confirming that I really was doing the best thing ever. The moment we changed the ceremony from one about Rich and I to one about Zoe and Zack will forever be a favorite memory. Seeing the kids’ faces crumble as we offered our vows to them, sealed with a necklace for each, will never leave me. Seeing their faces travel through the realization that they were invited to this family, that they were getting a fresh start, that they were so loved took my breath straight out of me. None of us knew they needed that marker in their lives – that before and after line solidifying the start of something new and slightly scary.
The idea that this was all five years ago already is baffling. The idea that we would leave our corona cocoon to celebrate this milestone was slightly baffling as well. Safely in our hotel, we stayed up far too late Friday night – each waiting for the other to fluff their pillows for bedtime, each having stashed a small gift under the other’s pillows. Oh good…we’re already those people…unknowingly doing the exact same thing the other did. Great minds, soul mates, super annoying and all that. It seemed such a frivolous decision to drive south, but once we got into it all was right.
We started Saturday morning late, after a (currently) rare solid night of zero stress sleep far from the worries of keeping the house healthy, maintaining a pace of insanity at work and trying to figure out the day’s entertainment. We thought we’d sneak over to the art museum and wander the park – a beautiful day while the state was still under a stay home order…surely we’d be among the few. And by few, I mean the few hundred that appeared to have the same idea. Probably not that many but probably not that far off. We ran into old friends with a faux hug and spent a few hours wandering, chatting, working on our farmers’ tans and learning all about bees. It was a perfect way to dip our toes back into the pool of the soon to be released quarantiners.
We spent the after noon being incredibly lazy – something I find impossible to do at home even when directed. At home, I attempt to sit on the couch and watch Netflix and it falls apart within minutes….maybe I’ll just dust the fan…and clean the globes…and the light switches look grimy…oh, the screws are pointing different directions. Hotels take away all of that in a true out of sight, out of mind trick. Hello, Netflix, let’s spent some real time with each other. Which also fell apart within minutes when it turned into a nap.
Finally, dinner. We played dress up (mostly, sorry legs…maybe you’ll see a razor next week) and I put on makeup and Rich took off his hat and we smelled good and were ready to see real live people. Have you had that experience yet? Coming out of your isolation to mingle with the outer world? It’s actually a bit awkward and daunting. You waiver between “Just settle in, I’m going to tell you everything about the last seven weeks” and “I can’t remember how sentences work or how far I should go beyond ‘how are you?'” There’s such a silliness in asking folks what they’ve been up to. I know what you’ve been up to, you’ve been up to the same thing I’ve been up to – minimizing your time in reality while trying to figure out if your elders would know how to do a Zoom call. We giggled our way through our pick up and drove until we found a hidden spot in a random parking lot to set up our table and chairs, placements and candles, music and wine. We pretended it was super normal, for those driving by, to cross paths with a formal-ish dinner party. Isn’t the bar to qualify as ‘normal’ super low now?
We ate while listening to our wedding playlist, danced to our wedding song and exchanged gifts – easier said than done as shopping meant trusting that the Amazon picture and reviews were accurate. I have to say, Rich knocked it out of the park with a very thoughtful and beautiful hanging infinity sign for above our bed – made while I was just upstairs and instructed to send a flare if I was coming to the lower level during the past week (yes, part of my quarantine inspiration is to start calling the basement the lower level…thanks Ramona…sounds way better). I was serenaded with a beautiful new song – a Rich written ballad – something he hates as there’s no head-banging required. We followed dinner with a walk around a lake at sunset – also serenaded, this time by the North Carolina Mosquito Choir. We looked at our wedding photos (still amazing, KM!), remembering each moment with laughter and signs and a wish to repeat it.
Five years. I had no idea what I was getting into back then. Like zero ideas. I had no clue how hard it would be and how much work it would take and how much blood and sweat we would throw at making it work. There were times I thought we weren’t going to make it work at all and times that I thought ‘well, shit…I could just swing on back to Raleigh, this is stupid!’ But now I know – it’s hard work because it’s worth it. It’s worth sitting here and knowing we have put given her all she’s got and will continue to do so for, well, ever. It’s worth knowing that we will always persevere and find the best in each other and grow closer with each obstacle. It’s worth the work of finding a partner and learning everything about them and loving them more because you find out neither of you are perfect.
Five years ago – it was the perfect day at the perfect time in the perfect place with the perfect people.
Except for right now.
Which is pretty perfect, too.