On the 29th May this year, hubby and I celebrated 16 years of marriage, a good fourteen-plus years of which have been spent living as expats in New Zealand; on the opposite side of the world from our birth place of England and our dearly loved (missed and thought about often) families and friends.
It felt like a really special, milestone-celebration; particularly after the past couple years – which have been full of change. Last year we were celebrating in California, where we were resident at the time; the year before we were celebrating in Wellington, knowing our lives were about to change, with a move away from our home in New Zealand, to Santa Barbara, California.
Two years ago we didn’t know what the future really held for our family. Hubby had sold his business and was now working for a big international tech firm, that had bought a product off him and his colleagues. We had a three year work visa for the USA and were pulling our three daughters (then aged 3, 7 and 10) away from their birth place and a home they loved (of particular concern was taking our oldest daughter out of a school she adored).
We didn’t know how any of us would adapt to life in the USA. On the one hand, we envisioned our daughters and us settling into it and then we’d have to decide on the next 5-10 years; on the other hand, we saw it as a ‘working holiday’, of sorts, and returning to New Zealand thereafter – or maybe even journeying back to the UK to live, where my husband and I grew up.
It was a time of huge unknowns and indecision. It was a time of emotions riding high. It was a time when love between a couple was tested and strained. But, we pulled through it all and now, on reflection, it has definitely made us stronger.
In the end…
We made the right decision to treat our time in California as a temporary experience. The first months, where we tried to integrate our daughters into a USA school, were painful and hard. Once we stopped trying, made the choice to follow a path of unschooling / home-learning and make the most of the opportunity to travel and bond as a family in a new place, we were flying.
Our oldest daughter, in particular, still caused us some concern, as she was quite withdrawn in the first six months – but once she had a date set on her calendar, to return to New Zealand to live, she perked up and made the most of her time living overseas. We ended up spending fifteen months living in California and don’t regret any of it, but moved back to New Zealand knowing it was the right decision for our children.
So, after nearly eight months of living back in New Zealand, my husband and I celebrated our wedding anniversary with a delicious dinner at Tirohana Estate in Martinborough, knowing our three daughters were being brilliantly looked after by a couple of our friends and happy to be home. It was a dinner of flowing wine, sumptuous food and easy conversation.
I couldn’t stop smiling throughout the dinner and have felt a smile deep in my heart ever since.
Marriage is a path of undulating years, of highs and lows, just like life, and right now we are on a high. Seeing our three daughters all finally settled in a school they adore, living in a home where we feel happy and safe, and finding more opportunities to enjoy moments together as a couple (without the pain of sleep deprivation from the early parenting years) we are in a good place.
Even in the middle of winter, I feel happier than ever (and that’s saying a lot for me – I am not usually ‘good’ in winter!).
My darling husband, that I first met when I was just 18, over twenty years ago, makes me smile now in a way I couldn’t imagine was possible. Love is an evolving feeling, changing and growing in its essence, becoming deeper and etched with the experiences of life, like the contours of the land are always changing with the elements. Sometimes, when life is pulling us in so many different directions, that love is tested and hard to connect to – but a true love is ever present, its embers forever burning, to be reignited into a heated flame of passion when life is less demanding.
I feel, right now, that the smile on my lips is thanks to a window in our lives opening wide to let in the passion. Whilst that window is open, I shall value every precious moment.
Happy Wedding Anniversary to my darling husband and friend xxx
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