Just as the sun sank behind the mountains, the earth was illuminated with a pink tinge that fell on the faces of those assembled beneath an open-air shelter facing the creek. With candles glowing and sounds of the water cascading over rocks and rushing to meet other streams flowing down from these lovely hills, the valley was surreal. The smell of rain lingered from earlier showers and mingled with the scent of pine and spruce trees that formed a backdrop to the shelter. This place, this blessed and holy spot had been such an integral part of my life. For years, I had gathered under this shelter with other campers as we sang songs and recited verses about the goodness of the Lord. For a decade, I had traveled to Camp Nathanael in Emmalena, Kentucky, to enjoy a week of summer camp.
But on this evening, I was here for another reason.
Excited, nervous, scared and uncertain, I held my father’s arm as he escorted me down the lane to the shelter. The people I loved most in life were sitting on green, wooden benches under that outdoor tabernacle. I had attended many events during my lifetime where these friends and family members were the center of attention. But this evening, they were here for me. It felt weird somehow. My favorite songs were being played and sung; Lionel Ritchie’s “Endless Love” and Kenny Rogers’ “Lady” were among those melodies.
Just as we reached the back of the shelter, standing in front of the fireplace I could see him. The man who had swept me off my feet when I was only 14. The day we met, he wore penny loafers and no socks, blue jeans and a red Izod shirt. His hair was auburn with red highlights from an abundance of time in the sun. He sported a mustache and I thought (in my infinite wisdom) that he was absolutely the finest thing I had ever seen. Add to that, he drove a white, British-made MGB convertible sports car and I was in Heaven. I introduced him to my parents that night and told my mom I would marry him someday.
Suddenly, that day was here. We were so excited, optimistic, energized, and oblivious to all that the future would hold for us. After our vows were recited, the cake was shared, and the gifts were packed away, we began a journey that has carried us from that shelter to this day.
Twenty-five amazing years we have shared as husband and wife.
Michael Parris is many things to many people. He is a son, brother, nephew, uncle, co-worker, friend, church member, and daddy. To me, he is more than all of those relationship. He is my soul mate. He knows the real me. The me that doesn’t wake up nice in the mornings. The me that forgets to iron his shirts. The me that isn’t Martha Stewart in our home but has good intentions. The me that can be cranky without reason, can cry at the drop of a hat, takes charge too often and procrastinates relentlessly. And yet, why I will never understand, he still loves me and puts up with me.
We have traveled many roads together literally and figuratively. We have seen so much of the world together. He has taken me on some amazing journeys and shown me places I had only dreamed about. We have also traveled many emotional roads together. We have sat in ICU units with two of our children, counted minutes in surgery waiting rooms dozens of times, stood side-by-side at the cemetery as we buried our son, held hands as we’ve lost 3 other children, vowed to stay together when we both made mistakes, traversed the roads of the special needs world together for our daughter, and just lived a myriad of other daily events. We’ve laughed in early days as cars ran out of gas and we gathered changed for oil to keep motors running. We’ve cried when family members we loved passed away. We’ve tried to be wise in purchasing houses and making employment decisions. We’ve kept our family in church and tried to do waht we believed God would have us do. We’ve strived to have date nights even after all these years. Too many roads to recount in one place.
I love this man of mine. As evening comes today and my sentimental heart remembers, I think I understand why we have anniversaries. Yes, it is to celebrate another year of togetherness. Indeed, it causes joy and gratitude for a common love. But, perhaps the greatest benefit of anniversaries is the chance to remember; the opportunity to reflect on the goodness of God in our lives.
Michael, thank you for twenty-five incredible years. Not all perfect, certainly not all pain free, indeed not all chosen or predicted, but all shared with an amazing man who, yes, still has a convertible and wear shoes without socks. I love you, Hot Shot!