This past weekend, my husband and I celebrated the anniversary of our engagement. And, to be clear, celebrating really means acknowledging the fact over our Sunday coffee and laundry folding marathon. Fifteen years have passed, that seems to be a big deal, but you know, laundry is not going to fold itself. The weekend before, we had a lovely overnight stay in Boston because my mother is really the best ever and takes the kids without hesitation. We walked to the site of our proposal, a bench in the Boston Common, one of my favorite places in the city and the bench was gone. Of all the benches in the entire park, ours was gone. A tinge of sadness flitted in my heart, but then, as always, my snarky husband said, “Well, I guess things do change.” We chuckled, laughed at the irony of us walking on a freezing Sunday morning to see this bench rather than enjoy a cup of coffee in a nice hotel bed and only seeing the screws that held the now missing bench in its place.

I’m not sure what it was, but I could not shake that bare space from my brain. Was it a metaphor for my marriage? Is my marriage now really just reduced to screws? (And not the fun screws, the rusty metal ones.) Has the figurative bench of our relationship disappeared? Has that invisible space of hope, desire, and adoration also disappeared?

The answer to those questions are simply complicated. Yes, that bench is indeed a metaphor for my marriage. Whereas it once held two young and hopeful people with lofty dreams and sappy love, it is now bare. That bench is gone but the foundation is still there. We were so young when we got engaged. It’s not that we did not want to by any stretch of the imagination, but we were on a tight time limit. My grandmother was dying of cancer and it was her dying wish to see me walk down the aisle. The proposal was sweet but timely. It was freezing cold, snowing and I had an idea. The sentiment was never lost on me, but my husband and I both agree, it was not ideal. However, it was real. I think that statement sums up our marriage. We have been through the ringer as a couple. We’ve survived devastating loss, financial quagmires, career changes, long absences, and kids. Yes, I put surviving kids, because let’s face it, they put serious stress on a marriage.

The rusty, worn screws are what remain. Yes, it sounds terribly tragic, doesn’t it? But, really, I’d rather find romance in the corroded joints. What binds us together is not what some may think. It is because of our conflicts, tragedies, and crappy circumstances that forced us to find our strength both individually and collectively. We have not grown together, we have grown side by side, kept together by the bolts of trials and loyalty. I promised to be loyal to this dude, through richer or poorer, sickness and health, but what has me appreciating those vows the most is the missing bench.

As we walked back to the hotel hand in hand in complete silence, I knew the city of Boston would put a new bench where our bench was missing. I’m not sure if it will feel like our old bench, but that is okay. We don’t feel like the starry eyed twenty somethings anymore, either. This new bench will probably look the same but by the looks of those tarnished screws, it will have the same foundation. Like our marriage, we’ve entered a new stage, our kids are fairly self sufficient and craving independence at every turn. I’m happy to give it to them, I have a new bench to tend to, a new chapter to write in the evolving story of my marriage.

Meg Grant

Meagan Grant is a writer, teacher, mother to three and drinker of champagne. She first fell in love with words at the age of four armed with a flashlight, a blanket, and Beverly Cleary's Ramona and Her Father. Meagan's work has been published in The Ma Books, Chrysalis Journal, Real Simple, and Clean. Her vices in life are thrift store shopping, dark chocolate, books, and champagne.