Ours, like any long journey of love, is a difficult love: tested, tried, twined, tangled, and yet somehow true. Life together has been good…and hard, two words proving to be synonymous when it comes to the marriage of James E. and Donna K. Wallace. Whether it was God, fate, or a trick of nature, we chose one another. The challenge has always been to choose again…and again, to love/ honor/ cherish (!)/ in illness/ health, poverty/wealth, til death do us part. We are asked to choose the chosen each new day and the next, and the next.
The choosing got harder before it got easier. Maybe we still haven’t arrived at easier. “Easy” is a default setting on personal ambition, boredom, work-aholism, our own agendas, nurturing new friendships at the expense of fighting for this one sitting across the dinner table repeating stories we’ve already heard, copping negative attitude, complaints about the day while eating meat, potatoes, and a vegetable.
I think of words whispered to me while flying from Raleigh Durham to Minneapolis/St. Paul. My seat mate, a friendly old southern gent leaned toward my ear and declared, “My wife said that she vowed to stay with me through better or worse, sicker or poorer, but not every day for lunch!”
Still, I didn’t want this union of ours, this marriage, this covenant, to go by unnoticed or to roll out merely by chance. I didn’t want to leave my kids with only the “yucky parts” –the bitter without sharing the full-bodied sweet. Isn’t this what archivists, scribes, and romantics do…excavate the pages of past history to find what is meaningful, or for meaning-making, and even with hopes of keeping it alive? Can we make sense of the ever-present polarity of both the ecstasy and the pain simply by writing about it? Might we find the joy inherent in the whole of it? I would soon find out. Here I set out to reminisce the old, grieve the losses, attend the now, create the new. And, even hope for a re-do, when and wherever necessary.
Call me a hopeless romantic, I want to celebrate “us” without erasing (rubbing out) or glossing over. And yes, unlike marriage, this account is written from primarily one point of view–mine. One should keep that in mind while reading.
Thirty Years sounds like it might fall neatly into categories or decades; it doesn’t. Rather our story bobs and dips with the rise and fall of idealism, then hardship and its residual great and terrible loss, and finally resolve, before starting the arc all over again, and yes, with romantic overtures threaded throughout.
As with any marriage, we find markers identified by homes, children chapters, college years and careers, (and for me, books written)—some memories are worthy of telling, and a good many we hope to forget. Yet, as is true of all adventures, ours is the rise and fall, the push and pull that creates the tension of plot; this is ours. Thirty years… or forever.
Spoiler Alert – You’ll find no tidy three-act structure here. Rather, like star-gazed lovers investing in a hillside vineyard, we step out each morning to see what the day offers. In reflection, we find the years fall more into a pattern of 1) planting and growing, 2) making mistakes and Do Overs, 3) pruning/harvesting/crushing, 4) mixing/fermenting wine… with hopes of one day distilling and sipping; each a decade or more in the making.
DECADE I – Maiden Love – Growing/Planting: Identity/vocation together and apart. “California dreamin’” epitomizes our sunny days of long-distance courting and eloping, then making our way to the land of perpetual summer where we found adventure, made babies, and the dean’s list.
DECADE II – Making Love – Making Mistakes – Do Overs: as our relationship rounds a corner, about taking hold of ideals of what we wanted to believe in. What matters to us? We were accruing, building, floundering, and we were believing and fighting. The fight was a necessary part. Who am I? Who are you? Who are we? What are we here to do and be? How do we steward our time, our children, our belongings, our love?
DECADE III – Mending Love – pruning/harvesting/crushing/: proves to be a season of relinquishing, letting ideals die, the testing of beliefs… a season of winter… so that spring might come again.
Afterward – Five years into Decade IV – Mindful Love – Mixing/ Fermenting
 In reference to an earlier chapter of living with Joey, our housemate, who in his mid-twenties delighted in playing and bartering with, and sometime besting our daughter who was then three years old. He was a bachelor and often ate pop tarts or microwave popcorn for dinner. Every time he “cooked,” the aroma filled the house and Cierra eagerly asked if she might have some. Her mother always said, No, that we would be eating a healthy dinner soon. One evening when Joey didn’t take his meal up to his room, he sat and teased and ate his popcorn all the way to the bottom of the bag before handing it to little Cierra of the bouncy curls, asking if she’d like some. Her little soul soared…until she reached deep inside the greasy popcorn bag only to find kernels left. Trauma.
Her mother was ready to kick Housemate Joey out to the curb. Memory fades about how the scenario actually played out. Months later, long after we adults had forgotten, Sis was enjoying the rare treat of microwave popcorn when Joey ambled through the dining room. “Sissy, can I have some?” He asked sweetly. To which she replied, “Joey, you can have the yucky parts,” offering a kernel between thumb and chubby finger, and without one sign of emotion.
 Author Marianne Williamson writes in, Everyday Grace: Having Hope, Finding Forgiveness, and Making Miracles, “Every ending is a new beginning” (120).