ides of march

by Elizabeth de Barros

THE FOG IS FINALLY STARTING TO LIFT and the chill is almost gone.  One reason we decided to get married in April. Having both grown up in New York, March is still the dead of winter in our book.



To marry was a decision that led to the million and one other decisions we’ve made as a couple. Nobody told us it would be a trip to the moon. But we had no idea it would take nearly twenty years to find our stride.

Having spent our fair share of days standing knock-kneed in the wind, we can vouch that marital know-how is achieved by neither dummies nor the faint of heart. Marriage is a hands-on lesson in love based on the practice of acquired skills over a long period of time. Namely, learning separately how to walk in lockstep together. Every decision made, seen and unseen, is for better or worse. Brave souls need only apply.

Some decisions we’ve had to make on the spot, like when our youngest needed to be rushed by ambulance to Children’s National Medical Center in the middle of the night. We didn’t waste time arguing with paramedics over ambulance capacity. I rode shotgun while strangers cared for our son in the back and my husband trailed behind in his Honda, white-knuckling it down 14th Street in D.C. with a lump in his throat.

Other negotiations have been more impulse-driven, for grander purposes — as when we bought our first cherry wood dining set. There was nowhere to put it but the entryway of our one-bedroom apartment. It served as honoree of all other hopes. Posterity held sway something fierce back then. But good decisions are the backbone of a solid marriage. The table is now in the kitchen, every nick and stain ours. After a while, even the gash turned meaningful.

Picasso once said, “It takes a long time to become young.” I say it takes a long time to learn how to love. Wedding bells and a fistful of dreams a marriage does not make. Behind tufts of tulle and cake-smeared smiles stand masked two selfish beings God has joined together for the purpose of reflecting His glory. That’s the ultimate high wire act everyone wants to see.

How does a couple go about making that happen?

All I know is that it takes time. Better throw away the watch. Time is what allows the “mother”  to collect at the bottom of the wine barrel while everyone is at the party next door and you’re stuck at home duking it out, stirring up all that good bacteria to make happen things like love, growth, and understanding.

A healthy marriage needs gobs of time and a measure of obscurity for these things — a place where every angle and odd-shaped feeling can be discussed in full. How else does agreement form? And it takes grace. Can’t forget grace. Without it, we are truly motherless, lacking culture and cure. With it, we’re more than halfway home — we’re home free.

Song of Songs says love is as strong as death. I never understood that passage until a friend told me of when she walked down the aisle to greet her groom, she saw it as more of a death march. A bit older and on her second marriage, I listened to her. She was ahead of the curve. I was never quite the same after that conversation.

Another reason we didn’t marry in March. We knew to beware. Besides, April is when things come into bloom.