He Who Gets Married Passes Through Everything
Plastic chairs, red, blue, pink, and purple, all lined up, well as neatly as six, seven, eight, nine, and ten years olds could get them. Some had cartoon characters like the Little Mermaid and Cinderella on them, others just flowers and stars. They were the miniature chairs, the kind you’d buy at the 99 Cents store for all of one dollar and seven cents. We’d filed them into place just outside our apartment in front of the dirty green pool gated from us by a simple black chain link fence, three rows and two chairs each. The handouts we’d all collected from school our class assignments in the makeshift classroom we’d prepared.
Usually one of us older kids would play the teacher, although a lot of times we’d fight extensively about who would take on the role before we even began to play. Most of the time I would elect myself and get to order my younger brother and sister, along with our neighbors around, ruler-slapping of their hands and all. At times my orders did become overwhelming for them and they’d gang up on me and overthrow my authority, but even then I knew once they calmed down my return to power would be almost guaranteed.
In Mexico, my cousin Elvira would play house with me. She would place a soccer ball under her shirt and lay in bed in the tiny room of sticks and shrub in my uncle’s terreno, behind the kitchen on the property and away from the bedrooms of concrete walls, hidden from all of the adults. I was her husband and it was my job to deliver the baby, which once born turned into a long cloth doll with two red braids, a simple dress, and a hand sewn smile. We’d parade around that doll in each other’s arms, she’d send me off to work, I’d hunt and gather whatever sticks and rocks were laying about for food, and bring them back to feed my family. That’s what it meant to be married for us in those days: simple logistics, no drama.
And while our innocence was sweet, charming even, especially in hindsight, as we grew older the idea of happily ever after became less real, more fantasy than anything else. For me, every heartache and heartbreak more reason to believe much less in the fairytale of love, and marriage something to be avoided at all costs. Not that I was ever rushing to get to the altar.
Yet once the nuptials were signed, and even before then when the address became shared, all fairytales aside, the real teachings of my parent’s union, the ones I was subconsciously role playing as a kid, became the lessons of true love and marriage. Through four decades we’d seen them laugh, cry, fight, love and hate, and now for the first time in my life the why of all of it began making sense to me. Despite everything they have been through, most of which they couldn’t have ever imagined as twenty-something year old newlyweds, they are still together today, and above all else their life as a couple has taught me that when you get married the very thing you should expect are the surprises.
Because the truth is nothing ever really prepares us to spend the rest of our lives with another person. As wonderful as our intentions might first be, sooner or later, reality sets in and we are forced to accept the brutal fact that marriage is actually quite, excruciatingly hard.
El que se casa por todo pasa.
Be it by choice or circumstance, once we agree to share our lives, for the rest of our lives, with another person, the road ahead, no matter how hard we plan, becomes ambiguous. The reason: because none of us can ever truly plan for the unexpected, and marriage if nothing else is always unpredictable. And while it is true that marriages today don’t last nearly as long as they used to – everyone knows it’s now until we can put up with each other instead of until death do us part – few of us enter into the sanctity of marriage with the idea that sooner or later we’ll be heading down a hallway instead of an aisle to annul our union.
Instead we do so with the idea that somehow, despite the ups and downs of life, we’ll pull each other through and find a way to stay together.