A light breeze moves across her face. The air is crisp, and it alerts her senses, making everything else feel a little bit more alive. They’re sitting on a bench at the bottom of Max’s grandmother’s massive garden. Around them, the trees have been set alight with color. Yellows and oranges burn into the late afternoon sky, which is just turning from purple to dark blue. A few trees are already completely bare. A few stars shine through their branches silhouetted against the sky.
Max puts his arm around her. “So, what do you think?”
“It’s perfect. Absolutely perfect.” Her words puff white into the icy air.
He smiles. “Ok, so I know it’s not snowing now, but the snow usually comes in a month or two. Are you sure that this is how you want to do it?”
Alexis nods. Her ponytail bobs with confidence. “Absolutely.”
He sighs happily. “Ok, so then I have something for you.”
She turns to him.
He reaches underneath the bench. Leaves have matted the ground, creating a carpet of color to match the trees around them. He pulls out a blanket, a flask with two cups, and an envelope. She instantly recognizes it.
“From Grandma?!” she squeals.
He nods. “Your mom thought I should have the honor. But she said I was only to give it at the right moment. Since we’ve just decided real pearl jewelry on our wedding venue, I thought it was appropriate.”
Alexis thinks that her heart might melt. She’s too preoccupied to even notice the steaming cup of chocolate and coffee that he holds out as she carefully but hastily opens the precious letter.
This is a short message from your gran. If you’re reading this, then I’ve obviously not made it to your wedding. But I wanted you to know that I will be with you in spirit for this big event. And I’ve got some advice, of course (I can take these liberties now that I’m not there to pester you anymore! Though I’m sure your mother is doing her bit too…)
The best advice anyone ever gave me is that a marriage is a marathon, not a sprint.
I don’t know if you do a lot of running – you didn’t as a child, anyway – but my brother, as you know, was a marathon runner. And he once told me that there are several times during the marathon that you think you might be at your end now. That every cell in you is tired, and you’ve gone too far already, and that you should just stop.
But then something tells you to just hold on until the next water stop. And once you get there you think you’ll just walk a little bit. At some point, the walk turns into a trot, and that turns back into a run. And before you know it, you’ve passed another few kilometers.
I couldn’t help thinking that a marriage is just like that. There will be times that are tough – I can tell you now, there were times I thought I was going to strangle your dear grandpa! You may be so angry that you just want to march out. But then I want you to focus on just getting to the next stop. Walk a bit further. I promise you: there will come a time that you remember all the reasons you chose this person in the first place. And you’ll probably find that the more of these tough times you can get through, the more reasons there are to stay.
Because – and here’s the bit I really wanted to get to – marriage is not only like a marathon, it’s also like a pearl: the toughest times are the ones that make the most beautiful relationships. Remember this every day. You’ve got that lovely string of pearls to remind you now! And you’ll be okay, my darling.
Lots of love,
Alexis wipes a tear.
“Hey, don’t do that! What’s wrong?”
Alexis gives a smile from behind the sudden tears. Why has she been so emotional lately? She wonders.
“It’s nothing, don’t worry. I just miss my grandma so much sometimes.”
Max leans closer, placing a kiss on the top of her head. “I know, babe. Now, will you drink the coffee? I even made it mocha with some hot chocolate!”
Alexis laughs, touching a hand to the string of pearls her grandmother left her. She hasn’t taken them off since the day her mother told her to start the wedding planning. In two months, when the snow is here and the lake is frozen, she’ll be walking down the stairs of Max’s grandmother’s house with all their family and friends waiting, Max the most important of all. And despite all the anxiety that went with the planning, she suddenly can’t wait.