Late October in the Midwest can be tricky, but the day was unseasonably warm. Gold and scarlet leaves skittered across the grass. The gray, overcast sky gave off the kind of light perfect for photographs. Really though, the weather didn’t matter – my world glittered. The swirl and rush of the morning – the hair, the makeup, the dress – cloaked me in a fine dust of sugar and spice and everything nice. Clutching an astounding bouquet of blood red roses, I floated down the aisle, the air buzzing with expectation, like in the moments just before the sky lights up with the most brilliant fireworks.
When I met Josh a little more than a year before, he had a beard – a neat, close cut, reddish beard. Back then, there were a lot of must-haves on my “Husband List,” but facial hair wasn’t one of them. Funny how falling in love gently edited that list: blue eyes no longer seemed necessary, but being six-foot-four was now the new perfect height. “Knows his way around food and wine” wasn’t on the list, but I quietly added those things once I discovered how much Josh loved to cook for me, savored good food and reveled in the deep aroma of heady wine. Kind, passionate and creative – those musts held fast and were fulfilled. Six months was all it took for me to say “yes” to a man with a beard.
That autumn, my parents walked me down the aisle at the World’s Fair Pavilion in St. Louis. I kissed them both, then turned to face Josh for the first time that day. The beard was gone. I knew he was going to shave it in honor of our new life together, but the change still caught my breath: we were about to begin. The ceremony was a blur – did we hold hands? Did we grin at each other like fools? The rabbi spoke, we circled each other, we made our vows. We kissed.
Champagne and chopped liver followed. We honeymooned in Asia. He started a business. I freelanced. September 11th happened. Ella was born, then Ruby two and a half years later. I stopped working. He couldn’t stop. We sold, we bought; we sold and bought again. Deals were made and lost. Lilah arrived a few years later than expected which was somehow at exactly the right time. Fourteen years went by.
We never talked about what our life together would look like. Instead, our joining came loaded with blissful assumptions that didn’t include who would do the laundry (me) or who would fix a flat tire (him). Now we spin our wheels in mundane roles that mostly make sense, but aren’t always what we want or need. We laugh, we fight, we make up. We pass the baton as we run from kids’ soccer games and tennis lessons and ballet to work, the gym, Girls’ Night Out and Boys’ Ski Weekend. He sails. I meditate. He makes wine. I write. We still dream about what we want to be when we grow up.
Yesterday, Josh announced that he is growing back his beard, just in time for our anniversary. I raised my eyebrows at him in the bathroom mirror, my mouth full of foamy toothpaste. I didn’t protest or ask why. He has his reasons. Maybe the beard is about going back to the time just before we married, when the possibilities of what we could be together were wide open. Maybe it’s about taking time to think, letting ideas and dreams come to us, considering and reconsidering the choices we have – because we do have choices, bright, burning choices. We have to remember that. Or maybe the beard is just a beard, grown on a whim simply for the sake of changing it up.
Whatever the reason, I’m caught up remembering that day in late October 14 years ago when everything changed. “Facial hair” may not be on my list, but the guy with the beard sure is.
Happy Anniversary, baby.