82. Twenty-Six Years — An Unfolding Romance

82. Twenty-Six Years — An Unfolding Romance

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Happily Ever After

Twenty-Six Years — An Unfolding Romance

“Now, who is it that’s getting married?” my husband whispered to me as we settled into our pew after being led down the church aisle by a solemn-faced young usher. We’d had this discussion at least three times. Once when I discovered the calligraphied envelope buried under a pile of discarded grocery flyers after he’d reached the mailbox first. Another when he knocked the invitation off its magnet on the refrigerator door — where I had mounted it in plain view. And a few days earlier when I reminded him we couldn’t go to the opening of an action flick because we were going to the wedding of a teaching colleague of mine.

Despite all this, I wasn’t concerned he’d forgotten the names embossed on the invitation. After twenty-six years of marriage, I’ve learned that the mere mention of the word “wedding” seems to trigger a memory lapse in my husband.

So, as we took our seats, I calmly whispered back, “The computer teacher and the Bible teacher’s son.”

“Sounds like the title of one of those romance novels you read on the treadmill at the gym,” he muttered and settled down, probably to count the number of women sitting by themselves who had left their lucky husbands behind.

The ringing chords of the organ accompanied a lilting soprano and filled the flower-scented air. It reminded me of my own wedding day and the joy-tinged nervousness that made my stomach dance with butterflies as I stood hidden from guests, awaiting my cue. I wondered if the bride was calming her own fluttering emotions.

I knew the groom was. He was a quiet man who didn’t seek the limelight and for whom, according to his mother, the anticipation of standing to face four hundred guests was daunting.

When, tuxedoed and handsome, he led his entourage to take their places at the altar steps, I looked for signs of distress. Fidgety hands. Sweating brow. Restless feet. Instead, I saw the sweet smile of a happy man as he anticipated the sweeping entry of the woman he loved. And I didn’t need the strains of the “Trumpet Voluntary” to know the bride was poised to enter. The groom’s face reflected her presence.

As we rose in honor, I felt a twinge of envy. It had been a long time since my husband had looked at me with that kind of glow. Maybe twenty-six years of marriage does that, I thought. Maybe the day we said our vows, the day he looked at me in my bridal white and his eyes said, “I love you and you are beautiful” was the climax of our own romantic saga, the best it was ever going to get. And maybe our confidence in the first blush of love became a memory buried under years of hard work to keep our marriage going.

The last strains of music faded and the bride’s glowing face, shadowed by layers of pearl-encrusted tulle, turned from her father to her groom. That’s when a little tear threatened to slip down my cheek. In the candlelit softness, they did look like a perfect couple from one of those romantic novels I liked to sneak into the gym.

A tiny part of me mourned the loss of my storybook-romance illusions as the groom reached for his bride’s hand. I wanted to be them again — partners facing a clean slate, oblivious to all but their love. I wanted to steal a piece of the mystical magic of new love and rediscover its feelings of hope, promise and possibilities — the same fresh feelings my husband and I shared on our own wedding day.

Suddenly, as if he knew my thoughts, my husband turned to me and whispered, “I like the way you look in that red dress, Kris.” His eyes filled with a warmth that still melts my heart, and his thumb stroked my palm like it did twenty-six years ago when we stood in a rose-perfumed garden and he said, “I do.”

Inching into the shelter of his encircling arm, I remembered the long-ago wedding promises we made and have honored over many good and some not-so-good years. I thought of our mutual respect, of the love that drew us together, of the sure foundation of trust and commitment we continued to build on.

All too soon, the groom kissed his bride and, beaming, they walked hand-in-hand down a petal-strewn aisle... into a star-studded night.

As the bride left to face her future, I wished her happiness. But I no longer wanted to be her. I was glad I was right where I was. With the man I love. Hand-in-hand, we followed the newlyweds into the luminous night — and a beckoning future of romance.


~Kris Hamm Ross
Chicken Soup for the Bride’s Soul

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