Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Everything I Need to Know About Marriage, I Learned From Two Turtles

I'm not really a knick-knack kind of person. If it were up to me, there'd be no such thing as a purely decorative object.

I would frolic through the house like Maria in The Sound of Music singing praises to the barren, empty countertops in every room.

Nevertheless, these two miniature turtle figurines sit on the counter in our master bathroom:

The green porcelain turtle on the right belonged to me in high school, and the silver one on the left was Phillip's.

I had a lot of cutesy stuff like my little green turtle back then, because apparently the childless version of me liked stuff a lot more.

At some point I would have discovered Marie Kondo and sent it to Goodwill, but when Phillip and I got married I found out that he also had a little turtle, given to him as a gift when he was a religious missionary in Venezuela.

What a funny coincidence! I thought, and put both turtles together on our bathroom counter as kind of an inside joke.

Thursday was our anniversary, which means those two turtles have lived side-by-side for 16 years. They've been through six moves across four different states and survived a decade and a half of not-so-careful handling by children... and it shows.

The silver one is tarnished and has spent a considerable amount of time missing his tail, which we later find hidden in all sorts of unusual places, courtesy of our toddler.

The ceramic one has broken three out of four legs, having been dropped countless times (usually while the child holding it is in the very act of solemnly swearing he won't drop it.)

Having been through all the moves and the children myself, I identify with this decrepit three-legged turtle and its mate.

Life so far has been full of joy, but it's also been full of hard days and late nights. Over the last 16 years, Phillip and I have waited in emergency rooms and operating rooms, been NICU parents, and known the grief of miscarriage.

The ordinary stresses of life don't sound as dramatic, but they slowly and steadily chip away at you just the same.

Fifteen years of raising a half-dozen children has left me permanently unable to complete a sentence, and Phillip rarely goes a week without some helpful co-worker telling him he looks tired.

We're no longer the fresh-eyed babies in our wedding pictures, that's for sure.

Picture from 2003.

But even though we're a little worse for wear, I think I somehow like us better for it.

The white hairs beginning to show at Phillip's temples are a reminder to me of the hard times; the laugh lines around his eyes are a reminder of the good ones.

Some people think the key to a good marriage is finding the right person. But even if you found that person, you'd wake up 5 or 10 years later to find yourself married to someone else. People aren't like museum exhibits, protected from the elements and preserved at all costs. The constant highs and lows of living shape us, just as slowly and surely as running water shapes a landscape.

That's why I think the most important thing, even more important than a partner who is committed to you, is a partner who's committed to being married to you.

No matter how you change, no matter what life throws at you, two spouses with a reverence for the institution of marriage will always stick together.

Which is why, I suppose, I like our turtles. 

It's clear that life has been rough on them, and that they're no longer shiny or new.

But as long as those two bedraggled and slightly beat-up turtles are together, I have to admit I kind of like them better that way.

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AnneMarie said...

Happy anniversary!!!!! Those turtles are adorable, and I love reading your wisdom on marriage :)

PurpleSlob said...

The turtle story is adorable, and so are 2 two!! Along with all 6 babies. Keep it coming!
And oh yes, Happy 16th Anniversary!

Unknown said...

Love this post. Sure hope the future brings you spouses for your children that you can be happy about like I feel about my children's spouses!

Kimberly said...

Marrying a good match is important, but I agree with you that commitment to your marriage and family is even more important. We change with age and experience, and there's no real way to know how your spouse (or you!) will handle a certain challenge until you face it.

There have been a few times in our nearly 14 years of marriage when I thought, "I didn't sign up for this." My next thought was, "Yes, I did; I just didn't realize what I was signing up for." I thought I was signing up to live happily ever after with a great guy. I was actually signing up to create a family with a good but imperfect person, and that we would support each other through good times and bad.

We share a lot of good times, but sometimes we aggravate or disappoint each other. We still stand by each other, though, and honestly, that's one of my favorite parts of marriage: knowing that somebody will stick with me in all my best times and my worst ones.