When Luck Comes In

We were too young.  Who the heck lets 22 year olds get married anyway?

We were doing it for all the wrong reasons.  I was on the rebound and wanted to prove to myself and the world that someone still wanted me, really.  He was escaping a zombie relationship.

He had the name (except for two letters) of the boyfriend I’d imagined to myself at 14.  (Hey, I was a very lonely geek girl.) Our engagement announcement caused at least one old friend to tell me I’d finally gone around the bend and needed to be committed.

When he proposed I intended to say no.  I had a lot of experience saying no.  I’d done it 6 times since turning 18, and that was the serious proposals, not the ones that came out of nowhere and where the guy was a little strange and scary. And there was every reason to say no — every rational reason — No matter how much I loved the US from my year here, marrying him meant losing all the credentials I’d worked so long to get; it meant losing very good job prospects; it meant losing the emotional support of my family; it meant leaving the city I loved; it meant casting everything to venture and going to a strange land and becoming someone else.  (You can’t acculturate and remain the same.  It’s not possible.)

It was the worst possible time.  Saying yes meant that I would leave before I finished my degree, and I only had six months to go.

But I couldn’t say no.  The possibility wasn’t there.  The words wouldn’t come.  Something grabbed hold of me and showed me that while life would go on if I said no, it would be flat and curiously empty.

I said yes. I said yes and said goodbye to security and certainty, not knowing what I was getting instead.

Our best man and matron of honor thought we were out of our minds. Our friends expected me back within the year, to the point they made plans that included me for the following year. My mother tried to talk me out of marrying while buying my wedding shoes. His family decided we had slighted them by not sending them a paper invitation and refused to attend.  (Actually because we got married in a civil ceremony six months before, then waited for my green card and went over to get married with two weeks notice, we didn’t see the paper invitations until we were THERE.)

We were of different religions, wildly different backgrounds.  We had different tastes in music. He’d never read my favorite books. I’d never watched his favorite shows.  (Except Columbo.  We could bond over Columbo.)

Our first few years were rocky. I had grown up in the expectation of being a career woman. (Who in heck would marry me, anyway?) My entire effort and orientation was towards work.  I’d grown up in a noisy house, full of the comings and goings of an extended family.  I defined myself by my degree, by my high grades, by doing well at the one thing I was sure of.

I am not one to take risks.  Not that kind of risk.  I like security.

My career prospects and certification died when I moved to the States (though I did go back and finish my degree, the next summer, by examination, a risky way to do it.)  My teaching certificate meant nothing because the NEA only accepted degrees from a couple of foreign universities, both in the United Kingdom.  And the NEA controls the certification exams.  I could have passed them, but I didn’t have a code for “institution attended” so the test would be discarded unmarked.

As for translation, there were maybe two openings a year for a full time translator in the US.  Neither of them in North Carolina.  Neither of them for one of my languages.

He didn’t QUITE make enough for two. Certainly not in the style I’d been accustomed to.

And I knew no one but him.  Sometimes while he was at work, the long hours of a beginning programmer, I got so lonely I turned on the TV for background, just so I didn’t imagine all sorts of noises in the house.

I couldn’t cook — thank heavens for cookbooks — and I certainly didn’t know how to manage a household. A couple of times we ran out of money and food a week before the next paycheck, and survived through luck.  (His company had parties, and he brought the leftovers home.)

He had no idea how foreign I really was, let alone his being completely ignorant the trouble of living with an incipient, beginning writer, all mood swings and undirected inspiration.  Heck, he didn’t know I was a writer.  I didn’t either.  I thought I’d taken my muse into the woods and shot her dead at fourteen.  I was a sensible woman, studying for a sensible job.

It’s been twenty nine years.  We only managed to be “financially unworried” for about a year and a half of that time.  We’ve moved 8 times, once across the country to a place where neither of us knew anyone. We’ve sacrificed a lot for the sake of my so called writing career with no better excuse than that it makes me saner, compared to what I would be without it.

We’ve adopted too many strays, animal and human. We’ve given up any pretense to fashion. We buy our cars used, then drive them to the ground. We know every thrift store in a hundred mile radius.  We know most greasy spoons.  If there’s a two-for-one special, a free special or a discount around we probably know about it.  It’s how we save the money for the three days 100 miles away that we call “vacation” when we get them, once a year or so.

We’ve never been to the Bahamas.  We’ve never taken a cruise.  That European tour we meant to do, really soon, when we had the money?  It’s been 29 years and we still aren’t even close to having the money.  Ditto on visiting our friends in other places, around the world.

What have we done instead?  We’ve created a family.  We’ve laughed all the laughs.  We’ve read a million or two of books and talked them over, endlessly.  We’ve discussed EVERYTHING, starting with those early years when we’d stay up till all hours discussing — of all things — religion (not that his co-workers believed that’s why he had dark circles under his eyes.) We’ve tried cooking new stuff. Some of it even worked.  We turned looking for pieces of furniture into the equivalent of safaris, to find just the right thing at a price we could afford.  We’ve found museums, ogled dinosaur skeletons, walked in parks where we nicknamed the ducks A L’Orange and Peking.  We discovered obscure movies, and books and songs and restaurants, and friends.  We’ve watched documentaries on fascinating subjects.  We’ve learned to remove and install cabinets.  And paint walls.  And fix drains.  And do royalties for indie publishers. And write novels.  And make covers.  And… and … and…  — we’ve learned ALL the things.  And had fun doing it.

We’ve got lost then found our way.  (Yes, metaphorically, too.)  We’ve held hands though a million romantic walks.  We’ve raised two boys, now men. Nice men, I think. We’ve researched…  everything.  We made friends.  We’ve lost friends, to distance and to change, and unfortunately to death. We’ve talked.  We’ve been silent.  (Remember, my love, all those times we saw an older couple next to us, saying nothing, just holding hands across the table at a restaurant, and we felt so sad because they had nothing to say to each other anymore?  Now we’re that older couple, and our younger selves had no idea, did they?)

We’ve painted and scraped and built and created.  We’ve plotted together over restaurant tables, and the breakfast table, and the middle of the night, when I wake up and go “I’ve got it.  That poor character.  I have to kill him.  But then… what does that last scene look like?” and he turns on the light, and is ready with the smart questions and the probing thoughts.

Our life, had I been alone, would have been… okay.  But with him, it’s been… amazing. Surprising. Exciting. Interesting. Unimaginably happy, even through the tears that come — they always come don’t they? — when life hands us not-so-pleasant surprises.

I pulled a hundred lifetimes worth of luck on the day, twenty nine years ago, when he claimed me before G-d and man.  A million cosmic jackpots lit up. Three lotteries worth of good fortune were sucked in.  A billion universes died, unborn, drained of life, probability, luck.

For that one moment, that one decision, we sucked in the energy of a googleplex of possible futures, full of flying cars and trips to other galaxies.

And then we did it again, and again, for each of the boys. To have them at all, against biological probability — given that my biology is what it is also known as the fertility of a small rock, in the Sahara, at noon — and to have them be who they are: steady and solid and brilliant and, like our marriage, both very much ours and utterly, wildly, wonderfully unexpected.

Galaxies, universes and futures were well lost.  I’d sacrifice them again, without a second thought, without a glance over my shoulder, for even the merest chance at what we have had. I’ll ruthlessly sacrifice them again for the chance at another thirty, forty, fifty years. (I’m greedy you see.)

Even if we never hit the big time it will be okay.

I won the cosmic lottery, against all odds, when I married Dan.

Happy anniversary, my love.

82 responses to “When Luck Comes In

  1. WOW! Happy anniversary!!

  2. Cool.
    One nitpick, though. I don’t think you raised nice men. You raised good ones. (Given your previous writing, do not capitalize that in your head.)

    • Roger Wilko on not capitalizing. Well, as their mother, they’re nice to me. I think they’ll spend the rest of their lives learning to be good.

      • Nice, defined:
        adjective, nicer, nicest.
        1. pleasing; agreeable; delightful:
        a nice visit.

        2. amiably pleasant; kind:
        They are always nice to strangers.

        3. characterized by, showing, or requiring great accuracy, precision, skill, tact, care, or delicacy:
        nice workmanship; a nice shot; a nice handling of a crisis.

        4. showing or indicating very small differences; minutely accurate, as instruments:
        a job that requires nice measurements.

        5. minute, fine, or subtle:
        a nice distinction.

        6. having or showing delicate, accurate perception:
        a nice sense of color.

        7. refined in manners, language, etc.:
        Nice people wouldn’t do such things.

        From what I have gathered, your laddies nail five out of seven with at least a glancing blow on a sixth.

      • Happy anniversary! (trying to see through little cat walking back and forth in front of me at work.)

    • I dunno – I think the concept is pretty variable. To quote Captain Solo, “I’m nice men!”

  3. Congratulations! I feel the same about marrying Steve even though the details and number of years differ.

  4. Congratulations! And isn’t it wonderful? I feel exactly the same way about being with Rhys. I joke that I used up all my life’s luck, when he and I got together. He goes ‘Nah.’

  5. Happy anniversary! And congratulations!

  6. There’s the love of passion and imagination we feel in youth, and then there’s the love that develops from long seasons of shared hardship and joy.

    If you’re lucky, the first will grow into the second. Sounds like you were one of the lucky ones.

  7. Great to hear, Sarah. Happy Anniversary.

  8. I wish this page had more then one Like button. It was a lovely post, and on the feast of the Holy Family to boot!

    • Holy Family? It is Holy Innocents in the Church of England with a very weird epistle from Revelation about 144000 virgins. The gospel is of course Herod’s massacre of the innocents

      • It’s the Feast of the Holy Innocents on Dec. 28 (aka Childermas).

        It’s the Feast of the Holy Family on the 1st Sunday after Christmas (unless that Sunday falls on Jan. 1st, in which case it’s the Feast of the Holy Mother of God, aka the Feast of the Circumcision of Jesus if you’re in a parish using the old calendar, and don’t get me started about not celebrating Jesus’ bris, so annoying).

        So yeah, it should be Holy Innocents today, but this year we’re celebrating Holy Family instead. So we get the readings where parents and kids get to poke each other, and where you find out whether Father is wimping out and not running any Paul readings about wives obeying husbands by reading the “short version” instead.

        • Now I REALLY am sad we were in the Sick Babies room (all five of us are sick babies at the moment… whimper, whimper).

          Today we had the Mini Samoan priest (he’s only about six three, six four) doing the service, and he is really good at brazening stuff out– explains what at least one of the laugh lines for his sermon was, the only question is if he worked the Seahawks into it or not. 😀

      • But anyway… yes, the Feast of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph was not instituted until 1893, because Pope Leo XIII thought modern life was doing bad things to the family and we needed help. At that time, it fell on the 3rd Sunday after Epiphany (during Epiphanytide). Pius X got rid of it in his new missal. Pius XI put it back in 1921, on the 1st Sunday after Epiphany. After Vatican II, it got moved to the 1st Sunday after Christmas.

        And while we’re at it, the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God used to be the Feast of the Maternity of the BVM, starting Oct. 11, 1914 in Portugal (so yeah, Fatima-connected), and Pius XI okayed it for everybody later. After Vatican II, it got moved to Jan 1 and had its name changed to sound more like a Feast of the Theotokos (although if you want to be more inclusive of Eastern stuff, you don’t nerf the Feast of the Circumcision). So it’s not that I hate the feast; I just think it was stupid to move it, and most priests don’t have a clue what to preach on the day, because post-Vatican II weirdness makes it hard to think straight.

        This has been your Too Much Information correspondent, signing out.

        • Well I find it interesting anyway 🙂

          Cof E is
          26 St Stephen
          27 St John
          28 Holy Innocents
          1 Jan Circumcision
          First Sunday after Xmas is just that. Nothing special and subject to being taken out by any of the others if they supplant it (as today)

          THough in the newer versions thay may have changed that latter to copy the romans… what do I care? usually when I go to church its 1662 in all its glory (as it was today)

          • My usual place of worship had a potluck brunch (leftover exchange?) and a sermon kinda looking at New Years, with prayers based on Holy Innocents. *shrug*

        • Well, since after Vatican II most places wind up displacing Epiphany, it could get Very Confusing to have a feast marked out for the first Sunday after Epiphany. You’d have some places doing Holy Family on the day when others were doing Epiphany.

          Almost as bad as Ascension Thursday Sunday.

  9. Congratulations to both of you.

  10. Congratulations to Team Hoyt and to the lesser Hoyts as well. Lesser only in that they have so much room to grow.
    On this anniversary of your leap into the great unknown I can only offer:
    Dum vivimus, vivamus.

  11. Congrats! May you have as many great memories before you as you do behind.

  12. Christopher M. Chupik

    Happy anniversary, Sarah. May you have 29 more.

  13. Congratulations! I am happy for you, and for the rest of the Hoyt clan. 😀

  14. Congratulations! Many happy returns.

  15. Happy Anniversary. Ran into a saying once – Life is what happens to you while you are making other plans. And a good thing, too. Our thoughts are too limited to see all the good that can come from other paths, so we need a Guiding Hand.

  16. Happy anniversary, Sarah and Dan! And it wasn’t ‘luck’, you know! It was a lot of hard work and growing together! I hope you will have at least another thirty years together (my grandparents made it for 65 years together, so it can be done).

  17. Happy anniversary – the two of you know what I mean when I say I married my best friend … may you have many more years together.

  18. Wow — um — *clears throat* — Hm.

    Aren’t I the sappy one…

    Happy anniversary and wishes for a joyous celebration!

    I’ve put in the order for 29 more with the bonus 20-pack (combined discounts, they’re grand). Starts tomorrow, mind the warranty.

  19. Patrick Chester

    Happy Anniversary!

  20. Congratulations to you both. May you be blessed with many more years together!

  21. Richard Greenacre

    Happy anniversary. Our 30th is tomorrow.

  22. Happy anniversary sis, an many more.

  23. Congratulations to you both! Heck, to all four of you. 😀

    (And: entire galaxies? This just confirms to me the utterly ruthless, bloody-minded sadism that is so very much a part of being a writer. 😉 )

  24. Congrats, Sarah and Dan. . . our 17th is coming up next year. . .

  25. Congratulations to you both and may you have many many more years together.

  26. Larry Patterson

    Thanks for sharing. Wish I had been as good a husband as Dan.

  27. Parabens e felicidades! May G-d pour out continued blessings on you both.

  28. Happy anniversary.

  29. Congratulations and thanks for the reminder that the greatest folly of youth is imagining the future can be planned. Or should be. How little we understand of what we observe is a caution.

    This coming year Beloved Spouse & I will observe our first anniversary for the … (2015 minus 1975, allow for windage and adjust for drift, account for leap years and accommodate drunken stupors) … 39th time. While the waters haven’t always been placid, neither of us could ask for a better-suited first mate.

    • “The wise old fairy tales never were so silly as to say that the prince and the princess lived peacefully ever afterwards. The fairy tales said that the prince and princess lived happily ever afterwards; and so they did. They lived happily, although it is very likely that from time to time they threw the furniture at each other.” ― G.K. Chesterton

  30. We celebrated our 32nd the day after Christmas. Happy Anniversary, Dan & Sarah!

  31. I thought I’d taken my muse into the woods and shot her dead at fourteen.

    Too young — muses still have too much life in ’em at that age. You have to let them get into the mid-twenties to kill ’em if you want a muse to stay dead.

    We discovered obscure movies, and books and songs and restaurants, and friends.

    Here’s to obscure friends! There is a lot to be said for the oblique sort, too.

  32. Happy anniversary, and many happy returns of the day!

  33. Congrats! My parents had 63, so you can too.

  34. We’ve tried cooking new stuff. Some of it even worked.

    *salutes with her bowl of Taco Fajita O’Brian*

    • For my parents, the dish of disaster was kidney stew. Not sure where my mom even encountered the recipe.

      • Tofu Meatloaf. TofLoaf actually tasted okay, but who wants seconds. If a marriage can survive that ….

  35. Excellent testimonial!
    Just let us know what you think when the test drive is over… (jes’ kidding)

  36. PLease accept my Most Ebullient and Extravagant Congratulations, Don and Dona Hoyt, on the Occaision of the Anniversary Celebration of your Nuptuals! May you enjoy many many more (celebrations, not nuptuals)!!

  37. Sounds like two lives well lived. May you have many many more anniversaries

  38. Innumerable congratulations! We’re sneaking up on our 42nd in a few months. Gauging from our experience, your next 20+ won’t be boring; we just found out that we’re not too old to restart almost from scratch, but with two of us, and backed by our family and friends, it looks more interesting than scary.

  39. My congratulations on your anniversary. I met mine at twenty-nine, her thirty and thirty days free from the last one. One week later, we’re on the front porch watching grass grow, in New Mexico, it’s kinda slow. I said “You know that I’m growing fond”, six weeks later we’re married and living as one. Forty-five years later, most with more month than money, she still called me honey. Five days later, the first of November, they called cancer throughout the body. After the fifth of December, only memories. Though, there was stress, mainly because there was no money, I wouldn’t trade a day of that forty-five years.
    (Yeah, I know- corny, but felt right)

    If my wishes are affirmative prayers, I would wish you and all the Hun many, many more anniversaries.

    • Nothing corny there, sir. Nothing at all.

    • We’re facing that issue right now. Thankfully (!) during a work trip she developed vertigo, and they took her to a local hospital. That’s when the tumor was discovered and we’re in treatment now. Never so scared in my life. I cannot imagine living without her. And frankly, knowing it is possible, does not make it easier. My condolences to you.

      • Mom has had cancer 3 times, and defeated each time. It was scary the first time, when I was 9 or 10, it was scary when my sister died from it 5 years ago, and it was scary the last time Mom was diagnosed with it a few years ago. It never gets unscary.

        Hold on to your faith, your love for each other, and never let despair darken your door. Keeping a positive attitude isn’t always easy, but the best thing that happened to Mom the first time was our pastor pissing her off – she was depressed and wallowing in self-pity and he asked her if she was going to fight or give up. Both of you are going to have days you want to give up. Don’t. And don’t let her, either. And, you probably already do, but make sure you tell her how much you love her every day.

  40. Congratulations, and here’s wishing you many, many more years of happiness togetther.

  41. Congratulations and happiness for the next 30 and for a set of best sellers.
    My son got engaged yesterday.

  42. Congratulations!

    And thank you for sharing this post. You’ve brought me, not just a smile, but joy, and hope as well.

  43. Happy Anniversary! Hope you’re not spending it at home all day.

  44. Congratulations. With regard to cookbooks, my “first three” for single/handicapped are ready to go to commenters, with reviews due back Feb. 28. If you, or anyone else here want a review copy. Email fbngroup@earthlink.net. It’s three books in one file, 277 pages (246 of them recipes), and 2.4 MB in size. I’m looking for experienced, neo, food sensitive, and allergenic types to check recipes. I’ll send you a copy as an anniversary present.

  45. That’s beautiful, Sarah.
    Congratulations on a continuing, enduring marriage, and may your sons find equal happiness.

  46. Congratulations! That was beautiful writing.

  47. Happy Anniversary!

  48. Belated, but happy anniversary!

  49. Well, at least now we know why we don’t have flying cars… 🙂

    Congratulations to both of you!

  50. 🙂

  51. Congratulations, Felicitations, and Adulations. I had 18 years before my first wife died (18 years ago) and am now at 6.5 with #2. I expect to live to get more than 18 with her. You should look forward to #60 and #70.