It’s been fifty years since my parents were married- fifty years to the day, actually. Tonight they’ll celebrate their golden wedding anniversary. And that’s pretty amazing. Congrats are in order for them, and some grateful reflection is in order for me. With divorce rates what they are these days, I realize how incredibly lucky I am to have been brought up in a pretty stable, two-parent home. Heck, we never even had to move when I was a kid. I suppose if my worst trials were being forced to mow the lawn with a manual mower and sheers, then I had it pretty good.
But the milestone has had me thinking about marriage lately, and the kind of love that can stand the test of time. I’m reminded of this excellent excerpt from James Joyce’s The Dead (you knew there was a literary angle coming), where a husband looks back on his married life and recounts a few simple “moments of ecstacy” the’ve shared:
“She was walking on before him so lightly and so erect that he longed to run after her noiselessly, catch her by the shoulders and say something foolish and affectionate into her ear. She seemed to him so frail that he longed to defend her against something and then to be alone with her. Moments of their secret life together burst like stars upon his memory. A heliotrope envelope was lying beside his breakfast-cup and he was caressing it with his hand. Birds were twittering in the ivy and the sunny web of the curtain was shimmering along the floor: he could not eat for happiness. They were standing on the crowded platform and he was placing a ticket inside the warm palm of her glove. He was standing with her in the cold, looking in through a grated window at a man making bottles in a roaring furnace. It was very cold. Her face, fragrant in the cold air, was quite close to his; and suddenly she called out to the man at the furnace:
“—Is the fire hot, sir?
“But the man could not hear her with the noise of the furnace. It was just as well. He might have answered rudely.
“A wave of yet more tender joy escaped from his heart and went coursing in warm flood along his arteries. Like the tender fires of stars moments of their life together, that no one knew of or would ever know of, broke upon and illumined his memory. He longed to recall to her those moments, to make her forget the years of their dull existence together and remember only their moments of ecstasy. For the years, he felt, had not quenched his soul or hers. Their children, his writing, her household cares had not quenched all their souls' tender fire.”
When he’s not blabbering incoherently, Joyce can write just as touchingly as the next guy.