It was at a busy Christmas party when my Grandpa handed me the white envelope containing their Christmas card. I opened it the following morning over coffee and lost my breath. I still do when I see it on the fridge.
It’s two pictures, nestled side by side, one labeled 1949 and taken after their wedding, and one taken in 2013 taken on a wooden chair in their condo.
63 years of marriage… and counting.
In the first picture they’re all black and white smiles, arms around in each other in long dark dress coats. My Grandmother is wearing a sort of pillbox hat with a pearl pin cheated slightly to the right.
In the second picture they’re sitting on a chair in the corner, her on his lap, both clad in Calvin College sweatshirts, likely on their way to my cousin’s basketball game.
I’m not sure I own anything else that brings as much perspective as this Christmas card.
63 years, 5 children, 14 grandchildren, 15 great-grandchildren with one on the way.
These days I fly around the house upset over messes, worried about taxes, obsessing over buying a new house and ranting over the scarcity of time. Wishing that different things defined my day.
My grandparents have 56 years of marriage on Kel and my 7.
In 56 years I surely won’t even remember this tax season and if I don’t get my act together it’s likely I’ll regret my bad attitude toward mess and time. Maybe I’ll even see it mirrored in the lives of my own children.
In 56 years 2014 will likely be reduced to just a few memories, flashes and photographs that managed to survive the years and somehow get off my iphone.
In 56 years (I pray) it will be Kel and I in sweatshirts reflecting on a lifetime of memories that may likely be trying to escape around the edges of our eighty-eight year old minds.
Whatever we’re doing this year is building a legacy, it does matter, it is seeds that will surely blossom into fruit we won’t see this side of heaven.
Yet then again, it’s just taxes.
It’s just laundry.
It’s just writing.
It’s just a car repair.
It’s just a new house, a place to do the good work of living well and on purpose.
When you zoom out suddenly you realize that there is a lot more romance in the sweet right now. Because at a distance you’re not in the fray of minutia, you’re on an epic journey, you’re dancing a dance that means so much more than anything that could possibly be getting you down in the moment.
There is deep romance form this perspective, you’re in-between photographs weaving a tapestry that will not leave the world unchanged with it’s richness.
There are markers in life that change the trajectory of things, there are defining moments… but so often it’s just life, it’s the small sustaining stuff, the pixels that compose a bigger picture.
So often those pixels seem like all there is but if you can breathe the romantic practice of zooming out, of remembering who you are and what’s really going on.
Then suddenly you become not the woman freaking out about taxes, but the maybe-someday matriarch doing the good and true work of building a family, sustaining a generation.
Giving life to something that will sustain deep familial love… always and forever inviting the world in.
“Come see, Come share, Come acquaint yourself with the source of love and sustainer of life.”
Remember who you are and what you’re doing. You’re the bride and you’re the matriarch in the middle of the story, a romance that is composed of small things that will not leave the world unchanged, guaranteed.