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We met through a mutual friend and we gave rings and hearts and lives and bodies to each other. I was an innocent twenty-three and I knew that never had there been a love like ours, never had there been a future brighter or a happiness greater and life would be grand, just grand.

It’s no longer the shine of a freshly built and painted town home, it’s the strong, weathered beams of the farmhouse on the hill that has bent under wind and snow but stands steady and warm.

Those early days were fresh and bright, like a new penny, and although money was tight and conflict occasionally reared its head, we rested in each other while the fruit of our love swelled the front of my dress and we bought a book of baby names and I stitched a quilt for the crib. He came, our firstborn, all in a rush on a rainy June morning and the midwife didn’t make it and he was lifted high in his Daddy’s arms, and that honeymoon love plunged deeper and spread wider than we knew was possible. Shared experience knocked a little of the new shine off, and plunged roots deeper.

How could we know what lay ahead? We couldn’t know that life is a beautiful mix of glory and gore and that time would take care of the stars in our eyes but that it would replace them with something so solid and strong. We couldn’t foresee a second baby, born in the shadow of the badlands on a cool August night, who four months later would fight for his life while we wept and his lungs filled with fluid as he lay limp in a hospital bed; today a seven year old, with freckles across his nose that wrinkle when he grins. We couldn’t foresee multiple moves, big houses and little houses and jobs lost and grocery shopping with seven dollars in our pockets. We couldn’t foresee long walks on country roads and hands clasped as we saw hope rise and more babies who would fill our lives with so much purpose.

That new penny love, those newlywed dreams, they tarnish, but the excitement of the new and the passion of the young give way to the beautiful depth of maturity. It’s no longer the shine of a freshly built and painted town home, it’s the strong, weathered beams of the farmhouse on the hill that has bent under wind and snow but stands steady and warm. It’s not the crinkle of cellophane and the burst of artificial flavor, but the nutty depth of homemade bread…earthy, comfortable, lasting. And his hand in mine is now warm with the knowledge of life, of valuables lost and victories won, of grit and pain and fountains of joy, shared as we’ve leaned into the harness and pulled together.

He has brought me flowers and bought me my favorite chocolate and we’ve had romantic dinners where we could say those things that need to be said over candles and wine. But the love shines through most when he rocks a feverish little girl through a sleepless night and when he lays on his back in three inches of mud under the house to fix another cracked water line. And we sit down to soup and bread afterwards and there is grey in his beard when he smiles across the table. We will spend the evening refereeing squabbles and reading stories and laughing before we fall into bed, and our sleep will be deep.

This year, we will plant a garden. We will build a deck on our home and we will teach a nine-year-old long division and a baby how to walk and who knows what curveballs life will throw our way. But we will face them side by side. And one day we will be in town and we will see an old couple…and he will wear suspenders and shuffle in shapeless blue shoes and she will have a scarf tied over her thin curls, and her hand will nestle in his as they cross the parking lot. We will look across small heads at each other and smile with the knowing that one day, that will be us. Because our roots have taken hold in the good earth and will not let go.