There are days I didn’t know if we’d make it to today, yet there was never a day I imagined being able to untangle my story from yours.

There we were: playing together as children, running through your backyard grass, eating pizza on the living room floor, having no idea it would ever be us someday — our stories sewing themselves together before we realized it.

There we were: spending one early college summer as best buds, nights of swimming and friends circled around a bonfire, days of folky playlists and every Minnesota sports game.

There we were: our first official date under a sky soaked with stars on Vivian Lane, the words tumbling out of my mouth faster than I could realize how untidy they were: I know you’re going to marry me.  I said it with such ease it didn’t feel wild.

And two and half years later, you did — with snow falling quietly on a new years weekend.  Under the midnight sky, in a tuxedo and beaded dress and the promise of a new year and a new life together: love felt effortless.

There are many things I loved about you then, certain I knew you wholly.

What I have learned since then is that I’ll be learning until the end.

As in the truest love stories, we were drawn to each other’s differences.  You were bold and adventuresome and messy and I was neat and cautious and quiet. And when the dress was put away and we had settled into our first little green home together, seeds of resentment began to bury themselves under my skin.  Seeds I was planting myself, actively nurturing, feeding them all the bitter thoughts they need to grow.  I judged you for being different than me, thinking that someday you would figure it out: how to feel with your heart rather than your hands, to build with words and emotion rather than cement and reason.

I’ve hurt you badly in our time together.  There was a chapter of weeks in our story where I thought the I’d never see the embers burn in your eyes again–the fire was gone and I was cold.  It was scary and it was my fault.

There were days I was hurt too — days I ran because I didn’t know what else to do. Days our differences seemed too heavy to carry, but it turns out carrying them while running is even harder than bearing them together, unpacking them slowly, day by day, dinner by dinner, heartache by heartache.

Time is changing us, and I’ve never been so grateful to be learning the longest lesson of my life.  It turns out I’m not always right and it turns out my compassionate heart could use some practice in our own home.  It turns out parenting will break you down in the most beautiful of ways and braid you together under the flesh of three beautiful souls.  It turns out we are hopelessly, madly in love with this family of ours.

Nine years later, that certainty and resolve of yours that I used to find immature and infuriating?

Now, sweetheart, I find comfort inside the fortress of these walls.  I am grateful they are built with cement and not paper.  I have found my safety in you and your fierce protection.  

I have grown deep roots in this beloved, guarded heart of yours. 

And as I gently bury myself further into your story, I am getting to know the soft soul beneath it all — and there’s no place I’d rather land.  There’s no safer place I’d rather raise this family called ours.  You are home to us.

Cheers to nine years, babe.  Here’s to learning and loving for as long as we both shall live.

“Loving someone is like moving into a house. At first you fall in love with all the new things, amazed every morning that all this belongs to you, as if fearing that someone would suddenly come rushing in through the door to explain that a terrible mistake had been made, you weren’t actually supposed to live in a wonderful place like this. Then over the years the walls become weathered, the wood splinters here and there, and you start to love that house not so much because of all its perfection, but rather for its imperfections. You get to know all the nooks and crannies. How to avoid getting the key caught in the lock when it’s cold outside. Which of the floorboards flex slightly when one steps on them or exactly how to open the wardrobe doors without them creaking. These are the little secrets that make it your home.” — Fredrik Backman