We played “Come Away With Me” at our wedding – our first dance after making a promise way too big for a couple of arrogant kids. It’s a lazy, lovely song about the easy adventure of falling in love. Nora Jones croons in exquisite alto how to let go and join in on the act of being with another person – on a cloudy day, under rain on a tin roof. We swayed in dress shoes under twinkle lights while we whispered the lyrics and conjured up a long, adventurous life together.
Those our rhythmic first steps into years of coming away with each other. To a brick boxed house in North Carolina, to a chance at a job in California, to a little city called Spokane we’d only seen on Wikipedia. But also hands held out in beckoning – join me in my trauma. Join me in my doubt, in my fear, in my questions. We’ve held each other’s hands while we’ve thrown everything into the air. And we’ve let go of each other, too, but the invitation always follows even if a tad resentful: Come With Me (sometimes fine, come on).
It’s been this series of leaps and this consistent choice on both our parts to invite and respond. What a profound honor to be led and to be followed. We’ve almost lost this, but the open invitation has been salvation woven through good times and bad. When you marry young you risk growing apart in a big way. You risk waking up to a stranger – because who can say he’s the same person he was at 20? I would assume this is true of marriage at any age, but there is something about being given a High School Diploma and a Marriage License within 6 months of each other that highlights the maturity gap.
So we sing that song over and over… Come With Me. Sometimes with the easy confidence matching a decade of “yes” and sometimes with trembling inflection. It’s good to be scared sometimes. We’re here voluntarily, we don’t have to be. We’re still choosing this, it isn’t given.
And I am glad to be holding his hand. He took this over-confident, mousey, wannabe-brave, almost woman by the hand and was the first to believe I would do scary things by my own volition.
You don’t ask a 17 year old to marry you, move across the country, and send you off to war if you don’t believe she could be remarkable. Nobody ever saw me that way: strong, brave, adventurous. He did. Even when I was scared out of my mind and rambling on the phone with him about all my demons and how messed up I was and when I tried to use him as a rock I could crawl under to die (while he was in a literal war zone, mind you), he still saw me bold. “You’re so strong,” he would say and I would roll my eyes, but hunched over in a bathroom after birthing baby number three, too weak to stand and too sore to move, I believed him. He’s a brainwasher.
And I went along because I saw brave in him, too. I saw in him the courage to do the right thing even when it meant losing everything else. I knew he would be the one to stand even if he stood alone. I watched him trade in security, pride, and mental health for that. Getting out of the Army took more courage than signing up. I would miss the things we left, but I couldn’t be surprised that his integrity meant more to him than our security. Maybe a little surprised that he wanted me with him when he had to do the hardest things. I would grab his hand again and again to come with him while he found his bearings as an unchained man and do my best to find him when he got lost.
It doesn’t get much more opposite than the two of us. We are, objectively, on either poles of personality. He follows fairies. He dreams like he’s entitled to realizing. I plan. I think long and hard and toss out things that smell like magic. But there we’ve shaped each other, we’ve almost parented each other. He has coddled my scared little heart and shepherded me toward freedom. He has given me permission to stop asking if it’s okay to be a person. And I have held him as he broke, given him the constant assurance that he will always have a place to fall and fail and get back up. He brings the wings and I bring the dirt.
So here we are ten years later – three kids later, ten moves later, 5,256,000 minutes later – and we are still Coming Away with this unshakable promise. We are still swaying to the music and dreaming up a life that looks vastly different than it did all those years ago, but the invitation stays the same.