It was my anniversary on Monday. I had been planning on a funny/ironic “marriage by the numbers” post. For example, we’ve only spent three of our six anniversaries together. Or we’ve actually been a couple for almost 15 years. But then there was this number: four. As in the four states we drove across with a three-year-old and a five-month-old on our anniversary.
When you’re an Air Force family, most of your “vacation” time is spent visiting family. It’s not always strictly vacation. A lot of times you end up drying dishes, cleaning things, and sometimes helping your father-in-law reseat wrought iron railings. It’s not terribly glamorous. When that family is 14 hours away, it’s even less glamorous.
Pretty quickly you’re faced with a choice to overcome the lack of glamour and the incredibly long car trip and spend time with that family so your kids know where they came from or stay home. Josh and I both come from families who felt it was more important to connect with our roots, so it’s no surprise that we packed the kids into the car and drove a total of 16 hours straight through the long night and the 80 minutes of continuous baby wailing and the toddler tantrums. And as it turned out, we faced one more choice of spending an extra day in West Virginia with Josh’s 93-year-old grandmother and driving home on our anniversary. It might not be the choice that everyone one would make, especially not when you’ve spent so few of your previous anniversaries together.
Another thing you learn as an Air Force family is that the fact of being together is more important than where you are or when you are. When we found out that Josh would be deployed for our first anniversary, he took me to a five-star restaurant—one where men have to wear a coat or they won’t seat you—before he left. On our second anniversary when we were together, I asked him to take my gigantically pregnant self to Friendly’s for a sundae.
I hate that we’ve had so much time apart over the years of our relationship—five years of long distance, four deployments, a six month training, almost countless trips and trainings. But the silver lining to all of that is that I’ve learned that dates are not sacred. For it to be our anniversary, we don’t have to be at a five-star restaurant (though it’s nice). We don’t even have to be together physically (though that’s nice too). We just have to be together in our hearts. Because of that, it’s almost no big deal if we “celebrate” or not.
All of that to say that getting all of us home across those four states after ten days of traveling to visit family felt like an accomplishment. Not just the accomplishment of a day, but one of six years of taking it a day at a time, overcoming so many obstacles—some of them heart rending, laughing when we wanted to cry, laughing so hard we did cry, and coming out stronger and stronger because of it.
There are lots of nice things that I can say about my husband. But the compliment I want to pay him right now is that even after all those miles, I’d get back in the car with him and our children any day—no matter how many states we have to cross.