...a 20-something, pushing-30 couple stood in front of a magistrate judge in San Francisco's City Hall. They were there to pledge their loyalty to one another "until death us do part."
They had opened a gallery less than three months ago. The start-up costs had sucked their savings dry and so they had no money for wedding bands. In one month, they would discover they were pregnant with no maternity benefits. He would take a job selling Volkswagens. She would work the gallery with the most debilitating morning sickness in the history of the world. One day soon, overcome by nausea and fatigue, she would retreat to the gallery's back room to lie on the sofa. Hearing footsteps in the gallery, she would rush back in, only to discover the phone had been stolen. She would discover she had high blood pressure, that her pregnancy was considered "complicated" and so she would have to close the gallery three times a week, squeeze her colossal girth behind the wheel of their Ford Courier, and negotiate the hills between Convergence Gallery and UC Med Center. The doctor would inevitably be late for their appointments. When he would appear, his would be the same stale joke: "No wonder you have high blood pressure--you closed your store to come see me, you're thinking about the sale you're missing out on, and here I am, always running late." San would feel like she was trapped in a never-ending cycle of financial stress, nausea, malaise, and abject terror.
That day 22 years ago, had San seen what lay in her immediate future, there's a very good chance she would have run to the nearest taxi, grabbed a ride to the airport, and flown to any destination that might be readily available. Some place safe like Poughkeepsie. Or Antarctica. Or Saturn.
San, however, was not clairvoyant. Business was picking up a bit. She, with the untested optimism of the very young, assumed the real difficulties were a thing of the past. So she married Bennie. Anyone with any "common sense" would have told this young couple they were behaving in a perfectly irrational manner, that they were headed towards disaster. But no one with common sense was around that day, so they headed, blindfolded, right into the disaster of their life together.
Things turned out remarkably well. Flannery was born 10 months later. The labor went so swiftly and uneventfully, San didn't even make it to the delivery room. The doctor who'd declared her pregnancy "complicated" now declared San a woman who was "born to breed." Apparently, this was the case. Oakley arrived 26 months later. He actually arrived before the doctor arrived. Bennie had a vasectomy. Then he had another one, since the first one didn't take. Seems that San wasn't the only one in this couple who was "born to breed."
Bennie and San had not planned on being parents, and they were simply amazed to discover they LOVED being parents. Flannery and Oakley were these huge gifts from out of the blue--unasked for, unanticipated, and absolutely awe-inspiring.
The arrival of my children taught me the biggest lesson that my life has ever offered up: You don't always know what you want. Life, or The Universe, or God--whatever term you use for whatever's beyond your power--often has much bigger things in mind for your life. Things that are much more profoundly satisfying than any goals you might have imagined in your very limited perspective. 22 years ago, I never would have been able to conjure such incredible young adults as the two I just shared Christmas with.
I would never have fathomed that, 22 years later, I would be living in the stunning high desert landscape of New Mexico in a cozy little home looking out on the mountains, that I would actually be making paintings myself and sending them to wonderful homes around the country.
Life is an unfolding surprise, a feast.
And I am filled with gratitude that I am sharing it with the love of my life.
Happy Anniversary, love!