On my fifteen year wedding anniversary I spent it at my neighbor’s house eating empanadas, sopaipillas, and roasted lamb. Emma and Lucas ran around all day riding four-wheelers with their friends. We had two girls staying with us from an orphanage, so I was busy making sure they were happy and eating, and whether they needed anything. Rodrigo and I hung out, meandering around with all the variety of people – laughing, toasting to marriage, toasting to life in Chile, feasting together. All in all it was kind of a wonderful way to ring in fifteen years.
When I got to Temuco two years ago, I didn’t know how life was going to turn out. I didn’t know who would become our friends, where we would live, or if we’d like it here. I only knew that it was time to move to Chile and more particularly, that it was time to risk something. We’d grown stagnant in the States and it was time to move out of our comfort zone and feel insecure, feel naked and vulnerable. And do something new and good for our family.
Fifteen years ago, I risked something as well. I gave some promises to a very handsome latino man whom I had fallen in love with. I was happy to make those promises and happy to make them to him. But they were scary, sacrificial, and in some way in this have-to-be-happy-all-the-time consumeristic culture they were downright daring. To make a promise to be someone’s other – no matter what comes – is one of the greatest gifts we’ll ever give. To promise to love that person as a verb and a noun. To hold unswerving to those promises even when everything in you wants to throw their laundry out the second story window and burn the underwear they can never quite get into the damn laundry basket is downright amazing.
I have two children from my marriage. Two children whom I love with every breath in me. This is because I loved another first. To give life to another human being because you and this one person have somehow figured out how to become one flesh, in spirit and in body, and want to bring a baby out of your love is one of life’s every day beautiful miracles.
It’s no small feat to make it fifteen years. We married young and have grown and changed and have had to find our way back to one anther on a couple of occasions. We’ve had to choose to make it work even when it wasn’t working and stand still and wait, choose love, choose to yield and choose to be for one another when almost everything begged otherwise. And here we are.
There have been a couple of times in my marriage when those promises we made were what held us in place. Till death do us part … kind of encompasses it all, doesn’t it? I’m not a stickler about marriage. Marriages end and break apart all the time in today’s world and there are reasons for this – some necessary and some incredibly selfish. It’s not my place to tell a person what they should or shouldn’t do, or my place to tell a person when it’s right to leave or stay. These things are personal. And private. There’s a whole world behind the closed door of a marriage room. We best be careful not to judge that which we cannot see.
However, I think it’s okay for me to say that if a person can stay and it’s safe to stay, if your life isn’t in danger and there’s some kind of mutual love and respect, even if small – it’s in your best interest to try and make it work. To hold to the promises you made, even if very young and even if very difficult. We can be a hard lot to love, us people. But love over time, heals wounds and gives one a safe place to grow.
The other night my neighbor, Sonia came to my house and told me her story. She and her husband live down the road from us. It’s obvious she absolutely adores her husband and he loves her. They’ve been married over thirty years. She told me that when she got married she didn’t love him. She only wanted to escape her family home and he seemed a good route to go. Her father didn’t like him and she decided that was good enough reason to marry him. They started dating on November 7th and got married two weeks later. I asked her how long it took to love him and she said a few months. Apparently, she went home for a visit about six months after they got married and she spent the entire time in the bathroom crying because she missed him so much and so she went home and told him she’d never leave his side again. I thought this precious. They are together every day. And when she was sick from surgery he was the only person who took care of her and she says, it was with the kindest care.
(The picture below is Sonia’s husband. I think she did well, don’t you?)
There is a great mystery to marriage. To watch the intermingling of two lives become one flesh is sacred stuff. And how they become a family, a whole unit, is a lovely thing to see and a lovely thing to be a part of …
I love Rodrigo Bustamante and I am so thankful that fifteen years ago he said he would love me. I hold his promises to be some of my most sacred gifts.