As hubby and I celebrate our 31st wedding anniversary, I ask that you visualize the following: a massive cathedral, a radiantly coiffed, designer-gowned bride and elegantly tuxedo-ed groom, a ballroom reception with a champagne flowing fountain and a diamond studded wedding cake. Now, let’s talk about our big day. A ceremony at my parent’s house, mail-order wedding gown, the wedding march playing on a squeaky tape recorder and a reception following at the local firehall with about 150 of our closest friends and relatives. The food was buffet style (delicious-made by the women’s auxiliary, naturally) and included beef on weck (or is it wick? to hell with it—it was roast beef on rolls) green bean casserole, seven-layer salad and all your usual hometown wedding day buffet offerings. The bride was barely 24 with the roundness still in her cheeks and big, banana-colored eighties hair, with a heart filled to bursting with happiness. The groom was also 24, mustached and handsome, sure that he wanted to be married, a little less so about the wedding, but willing to muddle through it to get to the rest of their lives. Which is where we’re at now: the rest of our lives. Gone is the big haired girl with the wide-eyed expectations, and the mustached young man with the self-assuredness that comes from being in your early 20’s and certain that you know it all. In it’s place stands a pair of road wearied travelers, humbled by the events that have happened throughout their lives. Sharing joy in the blessed events they have witnessed and sorrow throughout the trials they have endured. There have been times of complete love and adoration when it seemed impossible to get enough of each other, as well as moments of intense anger and hatred so real that it seemed impossible to get far enough away. There have been moments with the quiet peacefulness of looking up at each other over something, anything, with a smile and knowing what the other is smiling about because you’ve grown up together and you know the other’s story. The young bride of my past would have been heartbroken if she’d known back then that it wouldn’t be perfect, but 55 year old me is finding out, as she must continue to find out, again and again it seems, that that’s because what’s real and worthwhile is also messy. Life is messy. And then you step back, you clean up the mess, you put your best foot forward and you keep going. If you’re lucky, you’ve got a partner on the other side of the bucket. I got lucky. Happy Anniversary hubby. Sign me on for another year.