They say it takes a village to raise a child, and I agree with that statement wholeheartedly. As the mother of a young brood of three now young adults, I do thank my tribe, my neighbours, and my village for their support in helping me survive their rearing over the past 24 years.
On a similar note, this week marks my 25th wedding anniversary, and with this milestone event, comes much reflection. If it takes a village to raise a child, I can’t help but wonder if it takes a village to grow and sustain a marriage.
As a mere 20 year-old young, impressionable girl leaving home for the first time, getting married to the man of my dreams was the most exciting event of my life. Amid the love and laughter of newlyweds, reality quickly set in with the arrival of bills, cooking, cleaning, laundry, and a whole new host of responsibilities. On more than one occasion as a young bride, drowning in dirty laundry consisting of men’s briefs, men’s athletic socks, men’s hockey equipment, men’s baseball equipment, men’s workout clothes, and men’s dirty towels, I felt as though life had taken a turn.
Things certainly didn’t look like this in those glossy honeymoon brochures of couples bathing in heart-shaped pools, sipping champagne, somewhere in the Pocono Mountains. I couldn’t help but wonder where those couples are today. Are they still married? Who did their laundry? Did they seek the sage advice of older, wiser, more experienced married couples?
Suffice it to say, I have been one of the lucky ones. Husband lived away from home on more than one occasion, and that meant learning how to cook, clean, and do his own laundry. Today, he is the main grocery shopper, meal planner, cook, and in charge of the laundering of all sport-related equipment, including athletic socks, jock straps, and sweat-laden articles. Could this be the key ingredient to a happy marriage?
Sharing the household duties, from hunting and gathering to raising the young, married couples could learn a lot from looking right outside their door. Birds of all species, cats, rabbits, all kinds of wildlife share the duties when it comes to survival and raising a family. It also helps to have somebody older and wiser to look to when things get tough. For me, the husband’s 80-year old grandmother arriving to Canada the year we got married was the best wedding present I could have received. Newly-widowed, my grand-mother in-law soon became my advisor, confidante, and best friend. Thanks to her, my Italian improved ten-fold, and my “how to cope with the Italian husband” skills improved a thousand times.
I learned that being “in love” isn’t a stage in life reserved only for the young. I learned that “patience and understanding” often meant “blind eye, deaf ear”. I learned that expressing your true feelings works best over a delicious dinner of eggplant parmigiana, a pan of lasagna, a pot full of meat balls, a flask or two of Chianti. Of course, an Andrea Boccelli or Luciano Pavoritti CD playing in the background doesn’t hurt either.
Seeking solace in one’s own passions, interests, and friends is another skill I learned from my sage Italian advisor. This is where the shoe situation came into play. I cannot count how many hours I have spent over the past 25 years looking at shoes, shopping for shoes, trying on shoes, compiling a collection of shoes, organizing, storing, cataloguing, photographing, and finally, showing those shoes to many, many family and friends.
This time away from the husband gave him the opportunity to divulge in his interests – cooking, beer, football, hockey, basketball, baseball, beer, cooking, burping, and more beer. I tell you, it’s been like a match made in heaven.
I now look forward to, God willing, the next 25 years ahead, and growing alongside my mate, my companion, my husband, my best-friend. Thanks to my dearly missed, beloved grandmother-in-law, I’ve learned that a husband and a wife don’t have to like the same things, share the same interests, or even shop for shoes together to have a strong relationship, a friendship, a bond. I’ve learned that chemistry will get you through the toughest times, and I’ve learned that laughter is worth is more than Dr. Phil’s latest book on relationships. I’ve learned that forgiveness is the greatest challenge, and at the same time, the greatest ally.
Here’s to the next 25 years!