Hiyo, Silver!

Who is this stranger — so familiar after 25 years together and yet in some ways completely unknown to me?

To celebrate our 25th anniversary, my husband and I decided to go to Italy. It was something we had wanted to do for many years, but until now we could never make it happen. Between raising our children, being small business owners, financial constraints and just the business of living, something always got in the way.

So off we went on the first Really Big Trip of our marriage. We would be traveling together by train, plane and (manual transmission) automobile and it would just be the two of us. No tour group, no friends, no children bickering in the backseat — just us.

The day we made the five-hour drive from Tuscany to the switchback mountain roads of the Amalfi Coast was quite a journey — and not just the car ride. There were long stretches of silence when I would stare out the window, lost in thought. There was conversation about things both consequential (our son's upcoming college graduation, our daughter's all-consuming job, our parents' health) and nonsensical (trying to decipher what the road signs meant).

We ate divine Italian chocolate bars and salty, delicious popcorn that we bought at a road stop off the highway, along with big bottles of water. We didn't count calories or carbs — we just enjoyed.

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I spent a lot of time looking at his profile, overwhelmed by how much older he looks now than when we got married, and yet how handsome he still is to me. I imagine he has similar thoughts when he looks at my aging face.

I wondered how in the world we ended up together, considering how utterly different we are in so many ways. For a few moments, I couldn't fathom who this stranger was sitting next to me — so familiar after 25 years together and yet in some ways completely unknown to me.

Twenty-five years is a long time. So much has happened, and yet … nothing much has happened. Two children were born and raised. Both our fathers have died. We bought a starter house and stayed in it, bought a business and cursed ourselves for doing so. We were madly in love and we barely spoke. There have been countless dinners cooked and eaten around the dark stained pine table I found years ago, with chairs that are still a little uncomfortable.

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Cars have been bought and sold, rooms painted, a pool added, trees cut down. Some friendships have lasted, some have faded away. He's grown more gray; I've grown more blonde. We went from the youngest people on the block to among the oldest. It's been mostly good.

Our hearts have grown kinder and our beliefs grow stronger. We've been passionate and adoring, mean and hurtful. We've listened and talked and cried and yelled. We've stared at each other at our worst moments, incredulous that we could be married.

And yet, we are. We are because we want to be, because we can't imagine things any other way. We are because we love each other. We are because we're lucky. We know that.

It's not every year that I get to go on a trip like this. It's not every year I get to celebrate something as momentous as 25 years together. And when we returned home, I felt almost as much of a thrill as I did when I first saw the Amalfi Coast, historical and colorful and gorgeous — because that's how my life sometimes feels, too.

Tags: aging