Monday is my 30th wedding anniversary. I’ve been leafing through several photo albums, reminiscing about my life as Mrs. Harl. The wedding, which took place on a Friday evening, was the second for both of us. We had a private ceremony at the church. I wore hunter green. The gal who stood up with me wore white (go figure!). I had my hair cut the day before at the barbershop downtown. It wasn’t more than a half-inch long anywhere on my head. My groom had beautiful blond, shoulder-length hair coiffed into a pageboy.
The reception was at a local hotel. About 50 guests were invited. Looking at the pictures, you might think we had a costume theme. My older brother, who was a security guard at the time, came during his dinner break and was in uniform. Another guest wore a scarf around her hair — kind of a peasant look. There was one gentleman who wore the loudest plaid sports jacket I’ve ever seen. It gave him the air of a used-car salesman (although he was a police officer by day).
The photographer was my next-door neighbor who was in journalism school. He forgot to charge the batteries for his flash, so he would take a picture and then plug in his flash, wait 10 minutes and then take another. In one photo, his flash went right through my dress and undergarments, leaving an X-rated image. (That one never made it to the album.)
Our honeymoon was planned as a three-night stay at the Lake of the Ozarks. It turned into four because a blizzard hit on the last day.
I brought three children into the union. My new husband brought four. So we never really had time to catch our breath and take a year or so to slip into married life.
The first decade was spent making two families into one. Our children stair-stepped in age from 3 to 13. We thought about an even eight but decided we had our hands full raising seven. The first few years are a blur. I just remember using gallons of milk and buying in bulk. I could have used a warehouse club back then. We had two cars, and one was always in the shop. My butt was shaped like a front seat, as I basically lived in the car, driving kids to and from practice and games. One particular summer, all seven played on seven DIFFERENT baseball and softball teams — I don’t remember sitting down to dinner for three months.
It was also the teenage years for six of the seven. You’ve never lived until you have three girls who find living difficult and have a “major” trauma daily in addition to three very hormonal boys who cover for each other.
Then there was the time we had four in college at the same time. We became poor again overnight.
The second decade I call the wedding march. One by one they each chose a mate until, at the end of 20 years together, my husband and I were finally alone. Now that took some practice. I had to learn how to cook for two. At first, it seemed a waste of time to broil two chops or make a mini meatloaf, but after a few years I adapted. I rediscovered television (something my husband wishes I had not), and we had time to do things together without worrying about where the kids were or what they were doing.
This past decade has been devoted to the population explosion, at least in our family. It’s when the number of grandchildren doubled from seven to 14. I had to relearn to cook for the masses and curb my tongue. Although I was allowed to babysit my grandchildren, Lord help me if I gave advice.
Throughout this journey, my husband has stood beside me (and sometimes behind, especially when I was crazy). He has been the rock that has kept this family planted firmly on the ground. He rarely raises his voice and seldom uses profanity. He knows when to step in but mostly watches and silently guides. There have been more ups than downs and more good times than bad. There were times when money was tight, but we have always been rich. We helped each other in sickness (mostly me) and health. I know what the next line is, but I’m not ready to end this journey. As the saying goes, the best is yet to come.
If you have a comment or want to nominate my husband for sainthood, please e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.