When I went to France in 1989 to study abroad, I never expected to meet my future husband there, let alone meet him the first day I arrived. And yet that’s exactly what happened. For the next five years, we survived many obstacles: one year of trans-Atlantic separation, another 18 months commuting between Paris and Talloires in the French Alps, and perhaps most crucially of all, a couple of years cohabitating in a 200 sq. ft. studio apartment without a TV (much to my grandparents’ horror and dismay). We married in 1994 when we were 25 years old. Today marks the milestone of our 20th wedding anniversary.
Many of my American friends had already tied the knot by the time we got around to saying our Shakespearean sonnet-infused vows at the mayor’s office in the small French town where my husband grew up. The impending expiration of my French work visa precipitated our decision to make it official – had we not been faced with my certain return to the States, our 20th wedding anniversary would likely still be on the horizon. We organized our wedding in a swift four months. And we were extremely fortunate because we had two parties, which afforded me the opportunity to wear my dress twice. The first party, on our wedding day, took place at the ruins of a medieval castle outside of Paris. We financed it ourselves. Six months later, my parents hosted the second celebration in the U.S. Being a bicultural couple definitely has its advantages.
The ensuing years have brought much joy, many challenges, some heartbreak, countless arguments and lots of laughter. Most important, we cherish two beautiful and amazing daughters who are by far our greatest source of happiness and pride.
When we quit our jobs in Paris, sold our meager possessions and boarded an airplane in 1996 to move to the States, we thought we’d stay for a couple of years at most before returning to Europe. But my husband quickly found employment, despite his rudimentary English (which has since vastly improved, even though he has studiously retained his charming French accent), and he remains at the same company to this day. I found a job that eventually led to law school. Before we knew it, several years had passed and Chloe was born. And a few years after that, Sophie was born. We leased a few cars and bought a couple of cars. We rented a couple of apartments before buying a condo and then a house. And one day we woke up and realized that what was intended to be a relatively brief sojourn in the U.S. had transformed into something more permanent.
I’ve been spending a lot of time over the past year contemplating the trajectory of my life, thinking about the different paths I could have taken and what my life would have looked like had I chosen any number of alternate routes. But in all of my imaginings, my husband is by my side. He patiently puts up with all of my nonsense (and believe me, there’s a lot of it). He’s a source of unconditional and nonjudgmental support. He makes all of us laugh with his puerile behavior. He’s a willingly equal partner when it comes to raising Chloe and Sophie, and indulges them with love and attention. He’s laid back in every way that I’m uptight. Deciding to say “oui” 20 years ago is by far the best decision I’ve ever made.
We drive each other crazy on a fairly regular basis, especially as we get older. Our arguments tend to rehash the same issues we’ve been fighting about since we met. After all, it’s hard to teach old dogs new tricks. But we’re both willing to acknowledge our faults and apologize when we act like fools. And I am certain that learning not to hold grudges has contributed to our longevity as a couple.
On that incredibly sunny and warm spring day in 1994 when we exchanged our simple wedding bands, 2014 wasn’t even a blip on our radar. Our life together today is different from what I would have predicted all those years ago. But it’s a pretty amazing life, indeed. And while I may hem and haw about little things that sometimes cloud my perspective of the bigger picture, I know how lucky I am.
Thanks, mon chéri, for a spectacular 20 years. I hope the roller coaster ride continues for many more decades to come.