We said “I do”, and then went on a three week honeymoon. A year later, we had lived in one house, one apartment, and a tent. We lived in Portland Maine and Fuquay-Varina, NC. We had traveled the coast of Maine in our kayaks, guided rafts down the Pigeon, led a bike trip for teenagers, whitewater kayaked in the NC mountains as guides, and taught sailing and surfing. Between the two of us we worked as an office assistant, a substitute teacher, summer camp counselors, a lifeguard, target cashiers, Santa’s elves at the Mall, the Easter Bunny, and the manager of the Easter Bunny set. As crazy as it sounds, I never felt like were were living a crazy life. I just felt like Bethany, who loves Dan, and who was finally his wife. Here is how it all happened…
The three week honeymoon was a mandatory time frame, since we had to wait for our home to be available. You see, Dan’s best friend Luke’s parents had a special house that they used simply to bless people that they knew needed help. During the winter, their parents lived in it to escape the winters in Minnesota, and the rest of the year, they would rent it out to people that they knew needed a place to live while they got their feet under them. Having experienced an attempted break-in while I lived in a house in college, I was (and still am) very careful about where I choose to live. Dan and I were struggling finding a home where I could sleep at night without fear, and that we could afford on our meager hourly wages at the time. Luke’s parents offered us their helping house to stay in for the summer while we sorted out what was next for us in life. We needed to stay on a three-week honeymoon because we were essentially homeless until Luke’s grandparents moved back to Minnesota.
Dan carried me over the threshold into a three bedroom home, with a garage, a yard, and two full bathrooms. We paid under $400 a month for it. We were surrounded on all sides with walls that symbolized the support that our family and friends had promised to give us during our wedding ceremony. It wasn’t a perfect house, but it is still to this day, the biggest home we have lived. We lived there for four months, four happy, newlywed, crazy, exciting, planning months. I made dinner and baked cookies. We had a bible study there. We slept on our new mattress, which was our wedding present to ourselves. The home was furnished for us by Luke’s parents, and I did my best to make it into our own home. We had a birthday party for Dan there and I learned that he didn’t know how to start a charcoal grill, so I cooked the burgers on the stove top. It was a sweet time, and all the while we were brewing up a crazy idea that only Dan would have come up with, and only I would go through with.
One day, driving down Holly Springs Rd, in Cary NC, I told Dan that I wanted to help him follow his dream of kayaking from Maine to Key West. I wasn’t exactly ready for the reality of what that meant but I knew one thing for sure, that this man, who I loved more than anything in the entire world, would never ask me to do this, even though it was the one thing he wanted to do more than anything else. I knew that he thought he was letting that dream go when he married me, and I knew that there was no way I would watch him let something like that go. I said, “Let’s do it!” and so we started planning.
Four months after we said “I do,” we left our starter home, and drove to Lubec, Maine with two kayaks on the car, and the back was filled with a tent, two sleeping bags, clothes, and food. We got in our boats, and we paddled.
It was just one month later, after paddling the coast of Maine, that we decided to winter over in Portland. The weather was getting to cold, and we knew we would never come back if we went home to NC for the winter. I remember the day we decided to go for it and move to Maine. We were in our tent, and the rain was pelting the roof, winds were 10-15 knots, and it was very cold outside. I could not stop crying and Dan simply held me while we sat on the cold tent floor with our gear half-way packed, unable to pack it up the rest of the way. We fought. We cried. We prayed. He held me. We decided to “stop this COLD situation, but not admit defeat. Here’s to the ongoing adventure,” as my trip journal so aptly put it. We paddled to Portland Maine the next week, and began an entirely different adventure.
We lived in Portland for 7 months. The apartment we had was tiny tiny tiny, and we furnished it with an air mattress, two card tables, a chaise lounge and two folding chairs. We both worked at Target, the Santa Set at the Mall and later, the Easter Bunny set too. We ate Ramen noodles, watched Survivor on CBS.com on our computer, and Dan would read me Redwall before we went to sleep. We dreamed about the rest of the trip that was to come, and went to a local church every Sunday to see the people that we were starting to know as friends. Our clothes lived in a blue duffel bag, and came from goodwill, the same store our kitchen plates and forks came from. We kept warm in each others arms, and dreamed of the house, dog, and front porch we would one day have.
That means that we celebrated our one year anniversary in Maine, far far away from our lives in NC. On our anniversary, we woke up to see the sunrise, made a photo album of photos from our first year of marriage, and went out to eat. It was normal, everyday life.
Twelve months can hold a lot of memories and a lot of accomplishments. You can have a baby in less time than that! The first year of marriage for us was a wild roller coaster clearly. We chose to have a year like that and I would not ever trade it for a year that was less challenging. The problems that we solved were many, as well as the tears I shed, and the hours Dan spent telling me that it would all be ok and that he would always always love me. Our first year of marriage does one important thing for me every time I reflect on it. It made us acutely aware of our blessings and our love. It showed me that its not about what is happening, or what is surrounding you, but rather what is inside of your heart. Our marriage is rooted in one another, and a faith that it will always be ok, even when it feels otherwise. I will never doubt Dan’s love for me when I remember the countless times he landed his kayak first, and then ran back to the shore to pull mine up too. He made me breakfast in the morning even when it was raining outside the tent, and held me close every night. The funny thing is, that he still does the same exact things, and I’m pretty sure he always will.
Now isn’t that what is supposed to happen the first year of a marriage?