20 years ago, a fairy tale

Once upon a time 20 years ago today, I was the star of a really short fairy tale. Or a fairy tale wedding anyway. A white satin wedding dress embroidered with pearls. A bouquet of white roses, carnations and baby's breath flowers that resembled my mother's own bouquet she carried on her wedding day three decades prior. A handsome guy waiting at the altar of the most beautiful basilica in the Midwest to say "I do" and "death do us part" with me. Getting to watch a sunset over the ocean from a honeymoon suite in Hawaii the next day. Everything was quite perfect in my fairy tale. I never would have guessed that I wouldn't get the "happily ever after" part of it though.

I watch my wedding video every year on this date. Like an old movie I know all the lines to, I know every movement, every bridesmaid's smile, every groomsman's laugh, every silly joke made, every dance played. Two decades flew by. But I still remember vividly what things were like 20 years ago when Matthew and I were just 26, getting married on the 26th.


20 years ago he used to pinch my fingers because they were always cold. He couldn't keep his hands off me and I loved that

20 years ago we stayed out late with friends at bars dancing to Eminem and drinking rum and Cokes. 

20 years ago we ate a lot of pizza and went out to dinner too much because his new wife didn’t know how to cook anything 

20 years ago we couldn’t wait to climb in bed together despite the fact we squeezed into an itty-bitty full-size bed that barely fit into the "master" of a two-bedroom farmhouse

20 years ago we watched stars against a black sky above our farm and I wondered how long we'd get to live in this little spot of heaven

20 years ago we both cried at St. Jude's commercials and laughed at Seinfeld reruns sitting on our new olive green faux suede couch — a couch that would ten years later be donated and hauled away because it was covered in stains from four kids and a good amount of dog drool 

20 years ago we were sometimes so bored on weekends that we listened to Enya on the cd player and took naps on the couch just because we could

20 years ago he used to quip, "Just Livin' the Dream" to anyone who asked how he was, even on the day I nearly burned our house down, because we really did have it good 


Today I especially remember 20 years ago, standing on the balcony of our Maui honeymoon suite watching people come and go on the sand below us, and we made another promise. We vowed to come back to this beautiful honeymoon vacation spot on our 20-year anniversary. No matter what, we'd come back. Would we have kids? What would they be like? Smart or silly? They ought to have blue (or green eyes) like his, I thought for sure. Who would WE be? I thought about how old we'd be. I thought age 46 sounded like it was going to be ancient or grey haired at least. As all these far-fetched thoughts went through my head, not once did I think we wouldn't make it back here to reunite 20 years in the future.

All four of my children have dark brown eyes like me and all four are so smart like him—honor roll students again this year— and they all have a lot of silly in them too. They are growing into people that he never knew, but yet people that he WAS himself.

I don't have any greys quite yet and I don't feel ancient despite what my kids think. I'm a completely different person from who I ever was 20 years ago and even from the person I was when he died right after our 15th wedding anniversary. Even though I know that balcony promise was made by two people who are both long gone, I’m vowing anew to bring our kids to that spot. To see that beautiful piece of paradise in Hawaii where we spent our first days as husband and wife. I'll take them to the restaurant on the beach that served the best Mahi Mahi. I'll take them up for a sunrise bike tour at the top of that mountain that I chickened out on. I might skip the road to Hana because we'd never make it down alive the way I drive. But I will take them to see that black rocks beach and we will sip drinks out of hollow coconuts, wear flowers around our necks and watch the luau dancers shake their hips and toss fire batons up into the sky. I don't know when I'll find time and money to escape life and school and extracurriculars to venture across the ocean to Hawaii, but I will do it. I promise. And when we make it there, I'll imagine him near us as our children smile and laugh, experiencing the same beauty and fun we took in ourselves, 20 years ago.

I'll tell them their dad wanted to take them here. It was his idea to come back. I want them to know where the fairy tale began. No matter where we are or how much time has passed, my children are the "happily ever after" from my short (but ever-so-lucky) fairy tale that started 20 years ago.


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