Thursday, May 10, 2007

All in the Family

My brother (the elusive sibling #3) got engaged last weekend to his long-term, very patient girlfriend. He is 29. I got the news right as I was sitting down to dinner on Saturday night and I think I was beaming for the next six hours. His bride is already a part of our family and a great member at that. She just fits and is an ideal sister-in-law. Despite whatever pessimism I may have about marriage, I have no doubt about them. She has the patience of Job and my brother knows just how lucky he is to have her.

I got married at 23, having met B when I was just 21. At the time, I don't know that I even really thought about marriage in any substantive way. We basically moved in together a few months after meeting. I was housesitting (aside: remarkably cool place. Converted maid's quarters at an old Seattle mansion) and he stayed the first night and never left. We got our first apartment together after the housesitting gig ended and bought our first boat six months after that. We became engaged about a year after our first date and married a year later. We lived together in close confines (a 30' boat) and worked together every day. When he asked me to marry him, it was less of a question and more of a given. I didn't really think twice about it - it just seemed like the natural next step. A no-brainer.

I have often said there is a grand canyon between the ages of 23 and 28. I was 28 when I started law school and my classmates were almost all around 23-24. Had nothing in common with them, especially since most had lived pretty different lives than me. I had been married for five years. I had run two businesses, lived on a boat, grown up overseas and been living off the family dole.

One of the things that my brother's engagement has had me pondering is whether I would have made the same choice at 29 as I did at 23 (or, to be accurate, I said yes at 22). Hindsight is 20-20 and I can see all of the red flags that I apparently ignored back then. As close as we were, we had distinctly separate lives, particularly when it came to family. I jumped into his and his mother and I became fast friends. The same was not really true for B, although to his credit, he didn't balk when sibling #3 came to live with us, on the boat, after only a year of marriage. Having just typed that, I have to give him credit, as that was just one of the many unconventional parts of our marriage. We were two young adults who grew up together, and although he was 28 when we got married, he was still just becoming his own man. He had had his own interesting past and was just learning what it meant to be a responsible adult.

We taught each other a few things along the way. There were a host of things I just didn't know about living in the US, let alone about being an adult in the US. B had common sense and "street smarts," which was something I was sorely lacking. I had organizational and academic skills that balanced that out. All in all, we were sort of a complement to each other back then -- two young adults, partners in crime and just figuring it out.

What prompted this dance down memory lane? I realized that we kind of lived in a bubble, B and me. Or, perhaps more accurately, I moved in and out of the bubble. Our life was firmly established in the bubble, but I kept a lot outside of it. My family, for one. I have a great family -- stellar siblings who are the best part of my life. My primary regret in my marriage is that I ignored them (or at least back burnered them) for the sake of the bubble.

I don't know if I would have done that at 28. I know I won't at 36.

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