laura packardFor Charlie: As Jerry Garcia would say, “our strong suit is doing what we do.”  May 11th will be 20 years strong.

My husband doesn’t wear his wedding ring.

         It bothers him while playing golf, showering, shaving, eating and simply breathing.

         I am okay with that.

         Some men are wedding band wearers and some are not. Just as some are toilet seat leaver-uppers while others put the darn thing down. You can’t take it personally. It’s part of their DNA or something.

         I don’t wear my wedding band, either.

         It’s not that I feel the need to reciprocate what is unreciprocated. It’s just after 20 years, 2 kids, 15 extra pounds – 10 more in water weight – my ring finger is swollen like the last 3 Vienna sausages glued together when pulled out of the tiny can. I’ve just gotten used to letting it breath.

         I guess neither one of us feels the need to be tethered together by an object, symbolic or not, when it comes right down to it. It’s hard enough to be tucked into 20 x 36 inches of shared cotton and embroidered thread at night without some tug and struggle.

       That’s why I never understood all of those “lovelock” bridges, like the Pont des Arts in Paris. I believe the city has taken them down now because it became quite the eyesore. Well, not to mention the weight of all of those heavy padlocked ciphers of love threatened to take the bridge down into the very Seine itself, where those binding keys of passion were tossed. Unlike Atlas forced by Zeus to hold up the world for eternity, these small bridges were no match for the mighty, metal weight of the hungry, hot-blooded thousands.

         Since we have now been married for 2O years, people are always asking us what the secret is to our success, wedding rings or not. For all of those couples coupled for any bit of time, translated this means how to not throw the box of Honey Nut Cheerios at him before bed while I listen to him slurp, chew and swallow at full volume. He, in turn, attempts to remain calm and not have an aneurism when I walk out of the bathroom and leave all the lights on… every single time I go out.

         First and most importantly:

         Shed the locks and the tethers; no one needs a key or a fancy ring. Even the smallest of weight that bears the heaviest of expectations will eventually fall if the load, this idea of perfect love, is not lightened.

         Instead, I always use the story of this particular tree we had on our property back on Saint Simons to pontificate on this thing called love. You would hardly notice this tree that grew down the little trail to the pond where our girls keep their kayaks.  It didn’t necessarily jump right out at you, not like the garbage can that sat a few feet in front of it that I constantly hounded Charlie to visit at all hours of the day with leaky, over-filled bags and then push to the curb every Monday night.  But once you spotted it, you couldn’t take your eyes off of it. 

         See, it was a curious, gnarled up, twisted bark of a thing . . . as if Mother Nature “had it up to here” while experimenting on something precious that somehow went awry, but in the most charming and unique way.  But if you looked carefully at its base, you could see how it was once two trees that conjoined almost as soon as they were both pushed out from the earth.  Only, over time, they would grow individually for a while, only to come back together, then grow out again, but never more than two feet apart. 

         For years.

         In and out. In and out.  These two little trees stretched up and into the sky for what seemed like a thousand miles, and if you followed their route in and around and through each other, it was like a hypnotic weave that isn’t supposed to make any kind of sense but somehow it does.  It makes the most perfect kind of sense of all.

           We are not the same two people who met and fell in love over twenty years ago.  I thank God for that. We have both struggled, succeeded, fallen and gotten back up many times, over and over again. We have grown up and through and around, like that odd little tree, through time and space, together, no matter what. 

         And we are both better for it. 

         I guess what I am trying to say is:

         I am not “his” and he is not “mine.”

         I want him to be him.

         And I am so thankful he lets me be me.

         Love is what sways, lightly . . . and freely as the softest of breezes . . . in between.