Eighteen years ago today, I awoke from a scarcity of sleep to a generously sunny May morning. Around me were friends that had come to usher me into a new life. Before me was a future I couldn’t have imagined. Outside the door that contained all of us sloppy, sleepy girls, the smell of pancakes pulled us into full awareness. It was Saturday, May 15, 1993. This was it. I was getting married.

At that time, I had no idea what Todd had been up to with a much less savory band of boys in our new duplex. Did they smoke cigars? Would the place look and smell like rancid sardines when we returned from a California honeymoon? Did they shave his legs the night before our wedding? I was already worried about things I couldn’t control. I was already trying to bridle a horse I didn’t even own.

The day went on like an old waxed over jar of honey. I was anxious for 7 p.m. and yet I had too much to cram into the creeping minutes. Things like a trip to Gayfers (I’d like to meet with the people who sat around a conference table and decided this was a good name for a department store) for help with the hair and make-up, last minute packing for a trip to San Francisco, snacking because I didn’t feel like eating, and tiny spurts of conversation with the man I wouldn’t see that day until I looked down a very long center aisle to see him waiting at the end of it. These conversations were hard to squeeze in, in a world without cell phones. I made a phone call from the Gayfers reception desk to our new home. I finally caught him home. It was a different world in 1993.

I remember being very concerned with the details of the day. Would I know what to do with my bouquet when it was time to hand it off? How would I turn in my dress to light the unity candle without getting twisted into an awkward wreckage of sequins and lace? Would I light my dress on fire, thus upstaging the entire event? Could I eat little smokies at the reception without smearing my lipstick? Who did I need to say goodbye to? So many details.

Since then, the details have faded and backslid into corny memories of 1993. The dress was donated to charity during my 2nd pregnancy after I attempted to take flight using only the puffy sleeves. When I determined it was not aerodynamic, there seemed no reason to further store it. Also, it was yellow. And ugly. The engagement ring was lost at the beach the summer of my final pregnancy, whenever that was. If you think I haven’t grieved over that one a time or two or 316, you can rethink. Gone are the details, the dress, and even the diamond. (Bless the man, he got me a new diamond this past Christmas! I love it.) Gone is the red, red lipstick that was applied by a stranger and almost made me cry that heralded my arrival like a flashing emergency signal. Here are the children, the blessings, and the vows that are stronger than they were that balmy day 18 years ago. Here still is the proof that we were indeed meant for each other and for the children God would someday carefully hand to us to raise. Here now is the much more mature understanding of what it all means and what it needs to look like. And here with beaming clarity is the realization of what I have and my dedication to treating it delicately.

I married Todd because he was smart, because he REALLY made me laugh, because he loved God, and because his family was everything I wanted. I couldn’t know what the choppy waters would feel like or when they’d come. I’ve been blessed to discover that Todd goes from good to amazing when faced with grim circumstances. These are things you can’t know when you are 22 and so stupid you think you are smart.

“I do” are very short words. My young sons can spell them and they think they know what they mean. I thought I knew too and I’m thankful for the mercy of 18 years. This has given me time to realize what those words don’t mean and how to re-file our family flight plan for the umpteenth time. And though my sharp-witted Todd has promised,yay even on his life, to never stand before humans again and renew our vows, or sing Devoted at a rehearsal dinner (what were we thinking?), or dress up like monkeys in sequins, there are a lot of things he has promised and he’s come through on them all.  Also, I still think I can talk him into a Hawaii vow renewal. Maybe for our 20…

One Todd + one Missy + eighteen years = an Andrew, a Brady, a Lucy, a Jenna, a Flipper, a Tiny, an Olive, and a Claire. At one time, it really mattered where I was going. Now all that seems to matter is the ones I’ve got going with me.

To be continued, on the North Shore of Oahu. In 2013. You’re all invited.