What Lasts Seventeen Years

I mix up pancake batter from memory and count off the ingredients in my mind. Four dry: flour, sugar, baking powder, salt. A dash of cinnamon, which doesn’t count because I added it to the recipe myself. Three wet: oil, eggs, buttermilk. That should do it.

I throw in frozen blueberries, and ladle the batter onto a hot griddle.

This griddle. Hm. It has seen better days, and no wonder. It’s one of our wedding gifts, from seventeen years ago today. Still works fine. Sometimes I wish it had sides, so it could deep fry, but it’s okay. I have used it weekly for a dozen years or more. Fried eggs en masse, grilled cheese sandwiches, slices of meat, French toast.

It’s a good griddle.

What other wedding gifts do I still use? A wooden stool, handmade by an old man named Sterling. As newlyweds, we named it “The Puppy,” in hopes it was the only small four-footed being that would ever grace our home. (We were wrong. I loved puppies in a big way, later. Brought them in the house, too.) When our children came along, and we wanted them to fetch “The Puppy” to use as a stepstool to reach the counter, we didn’t think they would understand, so we clarified by adding “Stool.” The Puppy Stool. Which – oy vey. Probably not very forethoughtful of us. But it is The Puppy Stool to this day, and as our children come of age, they ask us why. It’s a good stool.

We still use the dining table we bought as an engaged couple, forty-five dollars used, complete with four chairs. And our king-sized bed with its box spring and Sealy mattress, nearly new, garage sale find, $125 for all, still lovely. My fiancé lay down on the bed to test it, there in the suburban yard, and I thought How inappropriate. No way am I lying there beside you.

For our wedding, we were given an ample supply of washcloths and hand towels. For many years, it didn’t occur to me that I could buy more, as ours wore out. I wore them threadbare, and then thought. Oh. Walmart. Hashtag lightbulb.

In the past two months, I replaced our original wedding-gifted broom. The top hanger hoop broke off years ago, so we pierced the upper handle and put a wire loop through it, so we could hang it in the stairwell. It was a rough edged top, though – you had to watch out not to knock it against anyone or it probably would have drawn blood. Good broom. Then the bristle guard broke, and we dealt with that for many months (years?) until I got sick of it falling down on my hand when I turned the broom upside down to sweep the cobwebs off the sky. So I bought a shining new one, white and green and gorgeous. Just ten dollars.

Ordinarily, we are not tightwads, nor strapped for petty cash. We like having nice things, and don’t mind paying for them. Why do I wait so long?

Habit blinds us to the faults of what is.

It’s just The Broom. Go get it and sweep up the flour you spilled. Grab a washcloth and get yourself out of the tub, kiddo. Mind the holes.

Why are we doing what we are doing?

Husband wakes up an hour before Wife each morning. Habit. Wife remembers all of Husband’s sins every time he arrives ten minutes later than he said he would. Habit. And makes him pay for those sins for the next three hours. Habit. We run out of time on Sunday mornings.

Struggle toward each other has always been part of our life. We’ve worked hard on our marriage, grown close. But some of our systems are broken and in need of replacement, and we don’t even see it.

We avoid topics that always come back to bite us. We settle into the incomplete but workable. We are pretty comfortable with our level of self-disclosure. Vulnerability recedes to early marriage, and small secrets build between us nearly unnoticed. We have the things we share and the things we do separately. We are comfortable and happy. Habit.

In the seventeenth year, we break, and our eyes fly open. What has lasted seventeen years?

Love. Hope. Faith that we will make it.

Intimacy that grows richer in a big way, always.

A griddle, a broom, three glass bowls. A bed and a table with four chairs. Bodies that are a little worse for wear but more enchanting than ever because they have matured, and because they belong. To us.

Some things are worth keeping for always.

Some aren’t, and when our eyes open, we lay them down. Our neat categories of his jobs and mine. The way we think he connects versus the way we think I do. Which parts of our history we discuss. We acquire new skills, new systems. We bring back vulnerability and discard secrecy. I take a look at the emotional tools I use when I’m displeased. Yup, time for replacement.

Who knew that we would always love the silly game we started before we were engaged? Who knew that after seventeen years, we could find whole new ways of Being with each other?

I love the things that lasted. I love the parts that are brand new. I’m going to keep it – it grows better every year.

It’s a good marriage.

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3 years ago

Beautiful and profound words! Congratulations on 17 years together. Here’s to the next 17, with your old and new tools. God bless!

Priscilla F.
3 years ago

That was lovely. Anniversary blessings to you both!

Tabitha Schmidt
3 years ago

This is so good. So much truth and wisdom, spoken from real life. Thank you.

3 years ago

Just got an idea for my Christmas wishlist… washcloths! Thirteen years have not improved them… at all! I always like the thin ones for scrubbing ears, but even thinness has its limits… at least that’s how i justify this maturing body which, unlike the cloths, has not thinned with the years. Happy Anniversary!!

Grace Lapp
3 years ago

Garage sale mattress testing ???? probably a good idea actually but I’d be too self conscious. Happy anniversary and wishing you many more! Really enjoy your writing ????????

3 years ago

Love the thought of discarding some of those old habits that we find aren’t worth keeping & forming new, better ones! In a few weeks we’ll be celebrating 23 years & we’ve recently also discovered things we can change to help make our marriage greater!

3 years ago

Oh because it’s early here and I haven’t had my coffee yet, I think forgot to hit the post comment button. Let’s try this again.
Congratulations on seventeen years of marriage. God has brought you both through some rough times but He is still is still on the throne. And those people in the above photo are so cute together!????

Danette Martin
3 years ago

Wonderful post, Shari! So many good things for us to ponder and learn from, too, even though we’ve nearly doubled your years of married life. Happy Anniversary!

Mom Coblentz
3 years ago


Ruthie Fisher
3 years ago

I like this so much, maybe because yesterday we also celebrated 17 years.

3 years ago

I really like this. So much truth. Real life. Real growth. Real honesty. Real grace. Real love.

But really….sweeping cobwebs from the sky!!??! WOW.

3 years ago

Oh my. This describes us so much. I am just like you…I make do with old wedding gifts and old brooms, if they still work why bother spending money on replacing them? I think I must have the most outdated kitchen gadgets in the country. I always marvel when I go into other kitchens and see all the latest and greatest! But if I can whip out delicious food with what I have, and the broom gets the floor clean, and the towels from 28 years ago still dry our skin, who cares?! have to talk myself into spending on anything new if the old one still does the job! I also loved your description of the habits and the ways we fall into patterns of relating. Somehow the year 2020 has brought new areas of conflict that I never knew we would experience. Life continually changes and how do we adjust and grow? Sometimes it is more challenging than others. hopefully we will figure it out

3 years ago

I admit we are kind of in the habit stage in too many areas… it feels safe for him, but it’s getting heavy and distancing for me. I’d love to know better on how to invite my hubby to look at our habits, and that together we could do some replacing.

3 years ago
Reply to  Renita

❤ Love you, dear. Sometimes it takes a major shake-up – Maybe it feels too threatening otherwise. I will be thinking on this more, and welcoming hearing what you learn along the way.

[…] are going to make it because I painted a big project last week – a table and chairs for outdoors. We bought it used for $45 before we were married, and finally outgrew it with a family of eight. We upgraded to a nice one […]

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