THIS WEEK sees myself and Mr. Allan celebrate both our sixth wedding anniversary and 10 glorious years as a couple.
I figure the ten year mark is as good as any to sit back and regroup because, in hindsight, I was only a bit of wain when we met and I was definitely a child bride by today’s standards when we got married.
In fact, when I was talking to the lovely people at Poolbeg about my book and the age of my heroine Grace, who married at 24, they wondered was it believable that women these days get married so young. “But I was only 24,” I stuttered, and they looked at me aghast. Even colleagues in the ‘Journal’ office who have passed the 24 mark themselves say there is no way they could imagine themselves settlling down so young.
It wasn’t something I planned, however. I was only 20 when I met my other half. It was a curious twist of fate. He was attending my best friend’s 21st birthday party which I couldn’t make as I was glued to my books in Belfast preparing for my final exams. It was a last minute bout of the guilts which got me on the bus back to Derry that night and the rest, as they say, is history.
Our first date was on May 29, 1997, and I still carry in my purse a picture taken of him the following day when we all traipsed to Portrush together. (In hindsight, taking a picture of someone just one day into a relationship was a bit bunny-boilerish but I was young and didn’t know better, and besides, he looks damn fine in the picture!).
When I think of me and Mr. Allan, I think of how we have pretty much grown up together. When you are 20, you think you know it all and it’s only now, looking back, that I do realise how young and naive we were. Our cares back then basically related to where the money was coming from for a carry out to take down to the beach on a sunny day and whether or not I would get a place on a Masters course in Journalism.
We didn’t live in the same country - in some ways I don’t even think we lived on the same planet. We didn’t second guess every decision and plan our lives meticulously, we just went with the flow. We were happy to live in second rate accommodation (him, a dodgy bedsit in Holyhead; me, an even dodgier student flat on the outskirts of Belfast which needed neat bleach to even start shifting the suspect stains off the floor in the kitchen).
Although we thought we were all grown up and very metropolitan, we were actually just living an extended youth. Two years later, just before I started working in the ‘Journal’, Mr. Allan moved to Derry and we set up home together while we saved for our wedding. I’m sure that, no matter what age you are, planning a wedding feels kind of surreal.
A wedding dress is just so removed from your every day apparel that it’s hard not to feel a bit like you are playing dress-up when you try it on and, subsequently, glide down the aisle on your big day. After we got married, we bought our first home, our first car (which is now just about on its last legs) and had our first child.
Those days at the beach, larking about with friends ‘til the wee small hours, are a distant memory. In many ways my gorgeous satin wedding gown is just a memory, too (it wouldn’t fit over my thigh these days, never mind my gargantuan hips), but the life we have now is so far removed from the life we had then.
We are, for the most part, responsible adults getting on with our lives quietly - doing the best we can to raise our son and keep our heads down. We both want the same things - most of the time - but ten years in, I’m sure we both sometimes yearn for that carefree summer of 1997 when we first fell in love.
A lot is written of parents needing to make quality time for their children, but surely it is just as important in this fast paced world that couples make quality time for each other. I don’t want the pair of us to become people who no longer hold hands on romantic walks, or chat about things unrelated to our offspring. I might make an effort, when we get the chance, to put the three of us on a train to Portrush soon.
We might make the same embarrassing mistake again of missing the Portrush stop and ending up in Ballymena for an hour instead. (The photo in my purse was taken at Ballymena train station). But, hopefully, we will have a nice day and set ourselves up nicely for the next 10 years of our lives together.