You might say this year’s summer vacation plans were a decade in the making. Shortly after my husband and I wed on August 14, 2010, we left for our honeymoon in the islands of Tahiti. While we luxuriated in our love for each other amid swaying palms and crystalline lagoon waters, we also fell hopelessly in love with the otherworldly South Pacific island nation.
There, we were surrounded by honeymooners — as well as one couple who had come to celebrate their 10th anniversary in this paradise. Right then and there, we decided to do the same when we reached our decade mark … a milestone that seemed impossibly far away at the time, as if it was not just in the future, but on a whole other planet.
Here we are in 2020, but instead of preparing for that luxurious vacation, we’re parenting 5-year-old twins in a small house (getting smaller by the minute) in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic. So much for a posh resort: We’re living in such a hard-hit hotspot, we have zero chance of feeling safe enough to book a kid-friendly dinner reservation on a local restaurant’s patio. In fact, we’ve barely left the house in 128 days as of this writing. (But who’s counting?) We’re also currently bringing in half the income we did pre-pandemic, so a far-flung, five-star second honeymoon is not only unsafe, but also hardly in the budget. (Never mind that our American passports are essentially worthless right now, anyway.)
And that idea to upgrade the diamond engagement ring my husband bought to propose in the depths of the Great Recession? If it once seemed tacky but enticing, it now seems downright preposterous.
What we do have is a 30-inch deep above-ground pool, which I’ve patched together with duct tape where it started to leak. My children are using the original snorkel masks we got for our honeymoon to dive for toys in the backyard. Comedy, tragedy. Sunrise, sunset.
And what we also have — forced now into the sharpest relief ever — is each other. Most days in quarantine, we're having no fun at all: It’s drudgery, close quarters, sustained stress, and shared anxiety. We’re deep in the trenches in the biggest test of our union. Sure, it’s easy to fall in love (again) in a tropical paradise — but amid all this?!
Actually, it turns out, yes — somehow, there’s romance in this, too. This pandemic has the effect of a giant mirror held up to our relationship, one that asks, “Sure, you made those vows. But what are you really made of?” You might say that what this occasion lacks in joy (and fresh coconuts, and spa treatments), it offers an abundance of reassurance that we picked the right one. We may not be 4,200 miles across the sea, but our roots feel at least that deep.
Hanging on the wall in our bedroom is our ketubah, the traditional Jewish marriage contract, which my artistic sister drafted for us in modern egalitarian language we could fully get behind: “We, as beloveds and friends, will comfort and challenge each other through life’s sorrow and joy.”
We were looking forward to the kind of joy that comes with swiping the key to an overwater bungalow in a tropical paradise. It’s easy to feel connected in that kind of dreamy environment. (See: a zillion seasons of The Bachelor.) But instead, we’re enduring the sorrow that comes from grieving plans we made, and the anxiety that comes from wondering whether the life we used to know is ever coming back. And that’s not so easy.
But there’s strength, and even pockets of joy, in the struggle. Because — 10 years later — we’re still in it together.
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