Hometown Lovebirds

Today is my parents’ wedding anniversary. Just look at them – aren’t they cute?

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My mom and dad were high school sweethearts, married at the ages of 18 and 20. I think they first met when Dad shot spitballs at Mom from across the school auditorium, or something like that.

They became engaged on the night of Mom’s high school homecoming, when she was (cliché, I know) homecoming queen. Dad was home on leave from the Airforce. He’d been a volunteer firefighter before he left, so when an alarm went up that night, he reported to the scene. Mom stayed at the firehouse making pancakes for everybody. (It’s quite possible that I’m conflating two stories here. The pancakes-at-the-firehouse night might not have been the same as engaged-at-homecoming night.)

Regardless, Mom arrived home too late to announce the news to her parents and didn’t want to spring it on them on their way out to door to Mass the next morning, so (you can see this coming, can’t you?) Grandmom and Granddad learned of their 17-year-old daughter’s engagement from acquaintances at church. Amazingly, they somehow still grew to be okay with it.

When Mom and Dad married a year later, they held their reception in my grandparents’ yard. Their bridal party was huge because between them they had eight sisters and three brothers. Mom’s cousin was her maid of honor; Dad’s friends filled out his side. All the dresses were homemade, including my mom’s, which her aunt (and Godmother) had provided the fabric for. Mom finished sewing her dress the night before the wedding. Various family members provided hams and roasts, etc. for the reception and my great-grandfather hired some women to serve it. Mom’s three-year-old sister was her flower girl. I believe my aunt spent part of the wedding tugging on the priest’s robes.

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Or at least, this is the story I grew up with – the background to my fantasies and the model for my own expectations. In my book, it was the ideal – probably because my parents were.

I have always known that I was lucky to be born of my parents and their marriage. They, and it, are not perfect, of course. They have their squabbles and their struggles. But in the 36 years I have known them, and it, their love for each other has always been hugely obvious. Like, neon-sign obvious. Mom and Dad are loving and flirty. They’re considerate and (sometimes underneath a few grumbles) patient. They support each other and they were always a united front in raising my brother and me.

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I guess I always expected to follow a path similar to theirs. But mine took a different route. No homecoming crown, no high school sweetheart for me. No teenage marriage. Not even one in my twenties. No, unlike my parents, I went off to college. I traveled. I saw six foreign countries and countless American cities before I turned 25. I spent my twenties not changing diapers and chasing small children, but working late hours, reading stacks of books in my tiny apartment, and taking my little cousins out for ice cream when I got lonely. I met my husband via the internet, not a spitball.

It was good – just a different kind of good from my childhood fantasies.

My marriage is different from my parents’ too. Brennan and I are less flirty, our love is not so neon obvious. But it is good. It is solid. And like my parents, my husband and I try to be considerate and patient. We are supportive of each other and we are a united front in raising our boys.

I think we have my parents much to thank for this. They’ve provided me with a lifetime’s worth of examples of a good marriage, and they’ve been eight years of wonderful to Brennan.

Thank you, Mom and Dad, for all you’ve done and for all you continue to be to us. Congratulations on what you’ve accomplished together. Enjoy your beautiful (and hopefully delicious) day.

We love you so much.

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Five Favorites (Vol. 2): Anniversary Edition


Linking up with Hallie for this week’s Five Favorites! Be sure to check out the rest!

(Updated to add that I’m also linking this post to Jenna’s “I Pray I Don’t Forget: What I Love About My Husband” at A Mama Collective. Check out those stories too!)

Tomorrow we’ll celebrate our fourth wedding anniversary. To mark the occasion, I thought I’d dedicate this week’s Five Favorites to my excellent husband, Brennan. So here’s some background on our relationship, Five of my Favorite things about B, and some of my favorite photos from our wedding. (Randomly placed and more than five, because I needed to break up the looong intro in #1.)

— 1 —

Brennan is interested in things – so many things.

Wedding Pic 1

In passing, this may seem pretty inconsequential: “Umm, big deal, Julie. Everybody’s interested in something. Even lots of somethings.” So let me back up for a minute and give you a little background on what lead up to our relationship. It should give more meaning to this and some of the other Favorites. Or maybe I just like to provide more information than anyone could possibly care about. One of the two.

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Anyway, I was single for what felt like a looong time before I met Brennan. And I mean single single, not dating-but-not-yet-married “single.” Other than three very brief relationships in my early twenties, I was alone and lonely, day-dreaming of my ideal man. (Does that sound a little pathetic? Sorry. It was what it was.) Toward the end of my twenties I had the blessed insight that I needed to adjust my outlook on single life and my approach to maybe/hopefully finding the man with whom I could share a future. All-in-all, it’s a longer topic for another day. But the pertinent part is that I refined the list of qualities I hoped to find in my future husband. I realized that, most of all, I wanted to find a man who was good and kind, moral, responsible, hardworking – and interested in the world around him. I knew that I could never marry a man who didn’t have those values. And I figured that if my husband had an interest in the world, a hunger to learn and do, then our life together would be an open horizon – something to be explored.

Wedding Pic 3

We walked to the church, which was super fun,
except for how worried I was about the hem of my dress.

When I met Brennan, everything fell into place very quickly. Good? Kind? Moral? Responsible? Hardworking? Check, check, check, check… and check. But the clincher was really that he was interested in so many things. He caught my eye on eHarmony (yep, that’s how we met) because he said he loved bees.

Bees? Who loves bees? My beekeeper of a hubby, that’s who. A few years before, Brennan had gotten to talking with a co-worker who kept bees as a hobby. B thought it was interesting, so he started to read up on it. He read and read and researched… and the next thing he knew, he was putting together hive boxes and picking up packages of buzzing bees from unhappy postal workers.

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We gave out little jars of Brennan’s honey as favors.

Brennan has done the same thing with other hobbies: skiing, target shooting, cooking, home improvement, etc. On the house front, he’s taught himself how to do all sorts of useful things: woodworking, plumbing, mechanics, painting, even pest control. Brennan identifies something he wants to know how to do and he just figures it out. There doesn’t seem to be a “What if?” with Brennan – just a “How?”

Likewise, Brennan has cultivated his interests in history, architecture, and politics by reading and reading and reading… The man loves the internet. And good nonfiction. And audio books that he can soak up on his commute to and from work.

Brennan didn’t grow up doing any of the above; he wasn’t influenced by beekeeper or carpenter or plumber or historian or architect or politician parents. He just happened upon something (many things) that interested him, he had an open mind, and he decided to pursue the new activities and ideas. With gusto. I love that. I can’t wait to see what will be inspiring my husband in ten or twenty years.

— 2 —

Brennan gets stuff done.

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Just as I love how Brennan is active in pursuing his many interests, I also love that he takes the initiative to just go ahead and do what needs to be done – even if it’s tedious or unpleasant. Me? I’m the procrastinating type. The type who avoids the things I find intimidating or disagreeable. But, big or small, Brennan does what needs to be done. Hours upon hours of schoolwork while also working full time? He does it. Paying the bills, going to the doctor, cleaning the bathroom? He does it. Doing preventative maintenance on our very old house? He does it. And not just that – he does it well, without a fuss, and with very few complaints. What a great example to set for our boys. (And, er… for me too.)

— 3 —

Brennan is a loving father and a patient teacher to our boys.

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On one of our first dates, Brennan and I visited an arboretum. Walking through the trees, Brennan spotted an insect hovering near some leaves. Very gently, he pointed it out to me, studied it a bit, and explained what it was doing. In that moment I thought to myself, “Wow. What a wonderful father he’ll be.” And he is. Brennan had very little experience with children before our boys were born, but he jumped in with both feet – doing all kinds of tedious tasks, showering the boys with hugs and kisses, playing all their wild games, teaching them about the world around them, and showing them great patience and a powerful love.

— 4 —

Brennan is a kind and supportive husband.

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This cake tasted so good that our guests gobbled it up before we could even get pieces ourselves!

I love staying home with my boys, but I am a social person by nature and I need to be around other adults. I need some mental stimulation and I need a bit of a break from the constant demands that come with having two very active young boys. I also need to feel like I’m giving something to my community. Brennan understands this, he supports me in my efforts to do things outside of the home, and he has never once complained about it. And it’s no small thing on his part: I serve on the board of a historic home an hour away from our house and I sing in our church’s choir. Both require my presence at times that necessitate B leaving work early. Sometimes hours early, meaning he has to make up those lost hours on another day. But Brennan says that if I really want to do something, I should do it.

— 5 —

Brennan has high standards.

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Gotta love the tiny spectators.

Brennan has high standards about lots of things – work, behavior, food, coffee and chocolate, goods and services that we buy – but let me feel flattered for a minute that he also had high standards when it came to finding the person he wanted to marry. When he was doing the eHarmony thing, going out on first date after first date, Brennan’s buddies at work started to give him a hard time. They’d joke about how he rarely made it to a second date. “What’s wrong with her this time?” was their standard question. One friend told him “everyone settles.” But my Brennan? He answered, “Not me.” He shared my conviction that it was better to be single than to be with the wrong person.

Perhaps this last Favorite sounds a bit self-gratifying. Certainly I’m glad that my husband didn’t “settle” for me. But more than that, I admire a person who will hold out and work hard for what he or she really wants. Too often these days, people expect instant gratification – in relationships, in their homes and careers, in their spare time. But Brennan couldn’t be farther from that. To achieve the kind of life he wants, Brennan works hard, he makes smart decisions, he sacrifices, and he is patient. He sets high standards for himself and he keeps to them.

I am so thankful that this man came into my life. I am grateful for all his hard work and careful planning. I am glad to have his love and his good company. I feel blessed to be building a life with him. Happy anniversary, Brennan. I love you.

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All photos are credited to Gordon Eisner.