This picture was taken eight years ago today, on the sunny December afternoon when I married my best friend.

Eight years later, I have noticed that a number of the shiny new things we set up house with have broken: the toaster died last month; my pots and pans had to be thrown away because the inside coating was disintegrating (no more nonstick pans for me–my parents gave me a gleaming set of stainless steel pans for Christmas!).  The sheets are getting a little threadbare; the bath towels have already been replaced once and should be again. The ranks of the everyday dishes are slowly thinning.

But one thing that has not broken is us. We are still here, together. I don’t take that for granted–although in the December sunshine, eight years ago, I probably did. Before I was married I would have said knowingly, oh yes, marriage is hard. Now I know that it is harder than we think. You bear the slings and arrows of life together, and sometimes you wield them against each other. Looking back over these eight years, I think I can begin to see that there is more mercy between us now than there was then, and more unity. It’s hard, but it grows. And there is no one I would rather have holding my hand in the midst of it.

After eight years, he knows that I unfailingly read the ends of books first. It drives him batty, but I think he is finally somewhat reconciled to the fact that this is how I enjoy reading–and mollified by the knowledge that I then go back and read the whole book from beginning to end. I know that he reads five books at once, at inhuman speed, although he might skip anything he considers extraneous material. And we both know that we cannot read books out loud together, because fiction puts him to sleep and nonfiction does the same for me. Maybe we’ll try that again when our kids are older and we are better rested.

After eight years, he knows that it will take an unadulterated miracle to get me anywhere on time. For my part, I know that his fiendish mania for punctuality was instilled by the Coast Guard, who taught him that to be early is to be on time, to be on time is to be late, and when you’re late, people die. The poor man is scarred for life. (They also taught him to make an impeccable bed, but somehow that skill doesn’t show up in our everyday life to the same degree.)

As eight Decembers have passed, we’ve learned the things that help each other get through the days: he needs snacks at regular intervals, and I need a run to keep the gnarliness at bay. I’ve taught him to enjoy a good glass of wine and at least some parts of a period movie; he’s taught me the ins and outs of baseball and the need for some (gulp) flexibility in my routine. We’ve weathered unexpected medical problems, daunting bills, job changes, moves, difficult decisions, sorrow, and loss. We’ve welcomed three children, little individuals who combine bits and pieces of each of us: my eyes, his chin, my drama, his math brains.

I have learned that the man I married is a great junglegym for little people; that he’s a diaper-changing, dishwasher-unloading, laundry-helping kind of man. I have learned that he will be there, after the argument, to talk things through. I’ve learned that he will work hard for our family, as well as for the other causes that he is passionate to support–and I’ve learned that he has the kinds of talents and skills and energy that make people want him to join their team.

I’m glad he’s on my team. I’m glad we’re a team together, eight years strong.

Happy anniversary, my dear.