On Friday, my husband and I celebrated eleven years of marriage. Thursday night we went out to dinner and spent the night at a local resort casino. While romantic, it was nothing like last year when we went to Maui for the big ten. If you don’t remember, I wrote about that trip here.
Eleven years is an accomplishment, but it doesn’t feel like one of the milestone anniversaries. Even so, as I pause to reflect on our marriage, I realize that most of what’s important can be found in a simple game played on the shore.
When my husband and I go to the beach, there are a few things you can count on. The first is Doritos. There’s something about Doritos and the beach that just go together. The day my husband proposed to me we were at The Secret Beach in Southampton. That’s not really the name of the beach, but it was the moniker my friends and I used for it. This stretch of sand was harder to find than most and therefore less crowded. It was one of my favorite spots on Long Island which made it the perfect place for him to have gotten down on one knee. The problem was that I wouldn’t stop reaching my hand into that bright red bag…and he was attempting to slip a ring on my finger. I guess his nerves got the better of him when he finally snapped, “Would you put the chips down for a minute? I’m trying to do something here!”
The engagement ring was so beautiful I am certain no one noticed that my fingers were stained orange with nacho cheese powder.
The second thing you can count on are sand castles. My husband could be a professional sand artist. The kids and I love this about him, but truth be told, he was building sand castles long before we had children. We spent our honeymoon in St. Martin and even then, his sculptures were on display. Nowadays, he will enlist the kids in helping him, but eventually they’ll get bored and go play in the water while my husband sweats it out and finishes his creation.
The final guarantee is Pro Kadima, or paddle ball.
I could take or leave most games involving a round object, but bring me to the beach and put a wooden racket in my hand and I am in it to win it. My husband will play anything and so if we are in our swimsuits, we are playing Pro Kadima. We stand in the water, no matter how cold it is, and volley that ball for hours.
Paddle ball is more than just a sport played for amusement; for me, it is a metaphor for my marriage: We are in this game together for the long haul.
I never knew that there was more than one way to play paddle ball, but apparently, there are some who adhere to the same rules used in tennis. There is a net, some form of boundary lines are drawn in the sand, and the two players are opponents. We’ve never played that way.
For my husband and I, we are teammates, competing together to keep the ball in play. We both must give it our all if we want to be successful even if that means diving for the ball and face-planting in the sand. This level of commitment does not go unnoticed. We congratulate each other while we offer a hand to pull them up to their feet.
Sometimes our volleys get so intense that I feel like we are ready for the Olympic team should they ever have one. There is a dedication to our play as I mentally count our number of passes….61, 62, 63, 64, 65…
When the going gets good, I eventually begin to laugh which inevitably hinders my ability to play well, but it wouldn’t feel like my marriage if there was no laughter.
This is usually when I start to imagine the other beachgoers watching us in awe, but I can’t look to see if we are, in fact, the center of attention; I’ve got to keep my eye on that ball. It’s too bad that no one applauds for us. In our marriage, we need to keep our focus on one another and what we are doing. Those times when we don’t, when we get distracted and look away, that’s when we drop the ball.
Not every volley is a good volley. Sometimes one of us serves and it comes up a little short; the other person doesn’t even reach for it. Sometimes we can’t even get to double-digits. Sometimes one of us wants to keep playing and the other person wants to lie on their towel and take a nap. Sometimes there is bickering, and sometimes there is blame. You could have gotten that. What kind of serve was that?
When we realize that we aren’t playing our best, we frequently decide to switch sides. This simple change in position is often all we need to see things from a new perspective. And then, we set a small goal. OK, we are going to play till we get to at least 20. With renewed energy and concentration, we change our mindset. Often, we are surprised to see how easy it is to surpass that score.
Throughout my marriage, there are distinct moments when I look at my husband and think: I love this man so much.
The day he asked me to marry him—Dorito breath and all– I felt it. It coursed through my veins after the birth of our first child. I feel it when I watch the curve of his back as he works to craft towers out of sand. I feel it when he wraps his arms around me and stares in my eyes for just a moment before offering me a kiss. And always, I am reminded when we are knee-deep in translucent waters, the sun shining down on us as we send a one-inch sphere back and forth between us in the bluest of skies.
Eleven years. One number in the volley of our marriage.