“No one had seen such a big linden tree anywhere else, and we thought of it as an aberration, but superb, with all the exotic majesty of the unique and the unrepeatable.”
-Cesar Aira from The Linden Tree
His eyes catch mine across the stale air of the storage unit. He pulls down a small, black box with the words Harriet Wilde inscribed across the side in silver, embossed lettering.
“Smells like our wedding day,” he smiles, handing the box to me with the lid cracked open.
I receive his offering, hesitant to let more of the precious scent out into the open air. The memory beckons me like a scratch and sniff. I peek at the delicate lace slippers, gilded with Swarovski crystals on the short heel. I remember how it felt to slide my silk stockinged feet into each shoe in preparation for my walk from the historic Fairmount Hotel to the small, limestone church across the plaza at La Villita near the Riverwalk downtown. I hear the bubbly giggles of my bridesmaids as they tie up the corset on the back of my dress, and affix the cathedral length veil to the crown of my head. The scent of roses blooms from my body, gently spritzed by the fine perfume of Chloe. With each step towards my wedding ceremony, I feel more and more like a queen.
My heart aches a bit, then fades with the memory as I re-seal the box. I marvel at how light and endless my heart felt on that day, our life glowing before my eyes like a pink and purple sunset. This heart has walked the rocky road of the “unique and the unrepeatable,” tempered by the whack of a less than magical reality–medical school and multiple moves are rarely kind. But this heart has also lived the unimaginably gracious presence of the God who never leaves, and that truth can travel anywhere.
I smile wistfully and hand the box back to my husband who places it on top of the other items we are leaving behind for now.
“I love that smell,” he whispers before letting go.
All the ways I thought our marriage would unfold accompany me back to the van where our three children are eating pizza and employing mischief. My right hand subconsciously finds my ever-swelling belly, where baby number 4 eats, sleeps, and wiggles.
Pregnancy and moving seem to go hand in hand for us.
But this time, some stability meets us on the other side of the cross country journey. An entire year in one location looms like a freshly cut bouquet of garden blooms. Each place I have called home materializes in my mind, the life we have lived in unison looking at us like a peculiar Picasso painting. The more I let it be what it is, rather than what my mind wants it to be, the more it makes sense; the more my body can feel the truth of what is being communicated.
This is the beauty of Cubism, and what I love about the seemingly disparate. Our marriage is less about linear narrative and more about images; fragrant petals revealing the story in pieces. Understand the picture is 4D: there are sights, smells, pictures, repetitions, and rhythms, all adding up to the wild and beautiful “us” we have been building for the last 7 years.
It is not simple. It is not easy, but it is good. I no longer need the security of a well-plotted map. The man who walks beside me, the Word that walks before me, and the Spirit that burns inside me, are like stars in the inky night sky. I am not alone, and the somewhat circular or repetitive or even backwards way our marriage has moved and evolved does not mean we are lost or wandering aimlessly.
We are embodying an eternal reality that is too wonderful to be bound by straight lines.
So we build. We trust. We walk. We hope. We love. We work. We pray, in whatever directions God wants us to, knowing it’s all a part of the art.