Yesterday we went to a wedding. The bride and groom are both talented, accomplished professional musicians -- both organists -- who will be making their first home in England. Our choir sang for them. From the loft, on an extremely hot and humid day, I watched the bride walk down the aisle toward her waiting husband-to-be; she in an elegant strapless white gown, carrying a sheaf of delphinium and calla lilies; he in a morning coat. Over the past four years I've watched her grow from a gifted, determined, but less confident young woman into this poised, mature, accomplished and beautiful woman who was walking now, with grace, toward her new life. And I cried a little, as I always do at weddings, because even with all their hope and joy, no young couple can possibly know what they're getting into.
Tomorrow, J. and I will have been married for thirty years. We laughed with H. and D., the couple who married yesterday, that their marriage followed right after a royal wedding, just like ours did: we were married the week after Charles and Diana. Our wedding, and theirs, were both a whole lot simpler, and, fortunately, we've been a lot happier. "Be happy forever!" I told H. as I hugged her after the ceremony. Her face lit up, as it does when she smiles, and she said, "I really think we will be!"
What does it take, this elusive thing called happiness? One thing I think I see now, that I didn't then, is that happiness doesn't mean the same thing. No one, and certainly no two people together, can maintain the bliss that they feel when they fall in love and embark on that crazy promise to spend their lives together. Staying together becomes work at times. Hard work. It also takes some luck, a lot of patience, and a sense of humor; it requires a growing sense of one's own self as an individual as well as a partner, and an increasing flexibility to allow the other person to be who they are meant to be, and to see the beauty not in some idealized notion of what the other person and this union ought to be, but in what they are at any given moment. And frankly, sometimes it's better to let it go and move on.
We've been fortunate. It's been, and continues to be, an adventure. We're still growing and changing, and have become not only "the protectors of one another's solitude," as a dear friend remarked about his own marriage, but the protectors and defenders of each other's quirkiness. One day, we may be protectors of each other's dignity.
What a beautiful and insane endeavor; how much we expect from it and from one another, and how far we fall short! But as the tango shows us, there are infinite ways for human beings to dance together.