Over the last several months John leveled up from a Forged in Fire enthusiast (I confess I enjoy this show too, except for the part where they gleefully test blades on giant dangling pig carcasses) to a full-blown knifemaker. He now has the forge, anvil, various pieces of the kind of machinery that looks like it may potentially come to life at night like that one Stephen King story where the industrial laundry machine went evil-sentient and start killing the shit out of everyone, the man-apron, the whole nine yards.

The kinds of knives he’s been focused on are made from Damascus steel, which is a blend of different alloys of metal that form a distinctive wavy/mottled/liquidy appearance. You know how a puddle with a film of vehicle oil can be surprisingly pretty, because of how the oil refracts the light in those rainbow-colored swirls and patterns? That’s what these blades remind me of.

Damascus steel is known for its beauty and also its strength. John sandwiches layers of stainless and carbon steel together, which get sent into the forge over and over again as the layers are stretched and folded over upon themselves. The eventual hard-won result is so lovely because of its contrast, it’s sharper and more durable because of the combination of different metals.

Three of his blades hang in our kitchen, they’re the best knives I’ve ever owned by a long shot.

I like seeing them there; they serve as a reminder that it’s possible to not only survive the fire but come out stronger on the other end.

On the day that I’m writing this, May 5th, John and I will have been married 20 years. Twenty! We have spent just about half of our lives together, which is mind-boggling in and of itself before I even start really considering all the changes we’ve experienced over the last two decades. It’s like we got in a car back in 1999 with a vague destination in mind — probably a bar — and we just kept driving, through increasingly complicated landscapes.

In many ways, I can’t believe we’ve made it this far. We were contrasting elements to begin with. We have been in the fire over and over and over again, and I don’t mean a cozy campfire where you talk out your feelings but a skin-peeling inferno that threatens to scorch away what fragile ties remain.

This marriage should be rubble. This marriage should be ashes. This marriage should not have survived so many trips into the burn.

The last few years have been the hardest, and I hope to someday be capable of writing about that in a way that’s authentic and respectful. In a deeply polarized culture that advocates for severing ties over political differences, I’d sure like to see more examples of how people manage to stay connected.

The TL;DR of our love story is pretty simple, though: we’re still here. We’re still standing side by side, and on most days, hand in hand.

Our twenty years of marriage have intertwined our lives, our two wildly different selves, woven them together and pulled them far apart. We are mixed together, combined but wholly separate, blended but not dissolved. We’re held together by love and family and shared memories and respect and a mule-stubborn refusal to give up on each other.

The other day I caught sight of John and thought how dear his face is to me. How it’s nearly as familiar as my own. How I feel a mini-rush of love whenever I see him, not the pulse-quickening kind that comes primarily from hormones and uncertainty, but a deeper kind of vibration that feels like it involves my whole entire heart.

I can see this complex love going on and on as long as our bodies hold on, this never-ending story of us that is made stronger and more beautiful not despite of, but because of our differences. Because of the hard times.

Twenty years in, what I most hope for is that we are lucky enough to get at least twenty more.


22 Responses to “20th anniversary”

  1. PD on May 5th, 2021 8:27 am

    happy anniversary… a testament to strength. And man, that is a beautiful knife. A piece of art.

  2. Susan Sanders on May 5th, 2021 10:02 am

    Happy Anniversary, what an incredible post. Totally agree that differences, hardships, and learning to rise above both are crucial for long-term closeness (course I’ve only been married 11 years, so what do I know?!). This line really resonated with me, so beautiful…..
    ‘How I feel a mini-rush of love whenever I see him, not the pulse-quickening kind that comes primarily from hormones and uncertainty, but a deeper kind of vibration that feels like it involves my whole entire heart.’

  3. April on May 5th, 2021 10:39 am

    I love this!

  4. Suzanne on May 5th, 2021 11:33 am

    Happy anniversary! This is such a beautiful post and so well said.

  5. Andrea on May 5th, 2021 11:46 am

    Happy Anniversary!

  6. Mary Clare on May 5th, 2021 1:22 pm

    I enjoy it when you write about long-term marriage and its complications. We’re not the same people we were decades ago and sometimes struggle to connect. I’m glad someone is out there acknowledging all the twists and turns. Its hard to discuss, even with close friends, and give all the nuances to the beauty and the frustrations. Even with the hardships it can be worth it.

  7. Gigi on May 5th, 2021 2:49 pm

    Happy, happy anniversary!!

  8. Annie on May 5th, 2021 2:52 pm

    What a beautiful post. Happy Anniversary. I hope you get your wish for many more. P.S. When does the Etsy shop open? I’d buy one.

  9. Juli on May 5th, 2021 6:58 pm

    Youngest learned knife making and forging a few years back. It is an amazing talent and skill. Fun fact, his instructor’s instructor, a master of the art at MassArt here in the city, was on Forged in Fire. He is considered an expert in Damascus. Our newest adventure is glass blowing. Have you seen Blown Away yet? Similar to Forged but with glass.

    Happiest of Anniversaries.

  10. Victoria on May 6th, 2021 3:41 am

    Congrats to the two of you and what an absolutely lovely post. As a side note, that knife is 🔥🔥🔥.

  11. Shes on May 6th, 2021 3:51 am

    Congrats on 20 years, that is nothing to sneeze at! We are about to celebrate my parent’s 50th, and I was amazed to learn only about 5% of marriages make it to that milestone. I wish that for you and John and more! You two are a great inspiration for moving through those unexpected twists and turns life loves to throw at us. And I like the knife too!

  12. Jeanette on May 6th, 2021 6:57 am

    Happy Anniversary!

  13. Belle on May 6th, 2021 8:37 am

    Congrats and best wishes for that next 20! Beautiful photo of you four, btw.

  14. Kristin on May 6th, 2021 9:42 am

    Congratulations! Lovely writing, as usual. My husband and I have been married 16 years, but together for 23, and I feel you. We aren’t political opposites, but we are very different people from when we met in our early twenties. Staying married is not easy–I don’t know anyone our age who would disagree with this. In fact, I have a number of friends who have just divorced, or are in the process. The pandemic really exposed those cracks, that’s for sure.

    I feel like at this point in a marriage, you take a reckoning…kids aren’t babies anymore…middle age is the “last chance” to make a big change…many people decide they’ve had a good run but it’s time for something new. Choosing to stay together is truly a choice in this day and age. Deciding you want to be together despite your differences, or how you’ve changed over the years, is really beautiful. Sometimes remembering why you love this person takes some digging…but as long it’s still there, I think it’s worth it. There is something wonderful about building a life with someone who has known you for so long. No one else knows you in the same way.

  15. Donna on May 6th, 2021 10:49 am

    Oh, sweetie, I hope that for you, too – happy anniversary! 45 years for us…

  16. ML on May 6th, 2021 11:01 am

    Happiest anniversary! I love how you said this. I am convinced that the lessons learned in recovery are the same things that make healthy partnerships succesful. I have learned a great deal from you since Riley was a baby. Thank you for your authenticity. I wish you all the beauty and strength and longevity of those gorgeous knives.

  17. sara on May 7th, 2021 6:32 am

    HAPPY ANNIVERSARY! Thanks for making me cry :) The knife (and your family obvs) is beautiful! And Riley is fricking TALL! WTF

  18. sooboo on May 7th, 2021 1:34 pm

    Happy Anniversary!! I’ve been married 16 years, together 27(!) and I also love how write about long term relationships. We change so much over long periods and also sometimes don’t change enough and all of it can be fraught! But to look at another persons face as you describe and have someone look at you that way, it is worth the price. On a shallow note, I love your Betty Page bangs!

  19. Jules on May 7th, 2021 5:38 pm

    I’m 61, been with the same guy since we were both 16. NOT a humble brag, because it’s been hard, oh so hard over the years. There’s no “secret “ to keeping a relationship/ marriage alive, a lot is luck. Mutual respect and understanding go a long way. Tenacity too. Happy Anniversary, you’re an amazing orator.

  20. Wanda Lindsey on May 7th, 2021 8:10 pm

    Happy anniversary!

  21. Sarah on May 10th, 2021 4:18 am

    YES to this! We have been together since ’98, when I was 22 and now I’m 44 and yeah. That’s half a life. We made new friends this year (somehow) and one of them told me “I heard (husband’s) backstory last week – I had no idea” and I know I had a look on my face as I reeled through all the memories & asked “Which chapter?” Because THERE ARE MANY.

  22. TravelingBlush on May 30th, 2021 6:24 am

    Happy anniversary. I’ve been here for at least half of those 20 years. How time flies.

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