“Alabama, Arkansas / I do love my Ma and Pa / Not the way that I do love you”
During the spring, those lyrics seemed to bounce out of EA’s sewing room at least once every day. The song is “Home” by Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros. It has popped up in commercials and many TV shows, so there’s a good chance you’ve heard it somewhere. It’s a back-and-forth love song that sounds like Johnny and June Carter Cash by way of late 00s indie rock. Besides the first line above, it’s the jubilant chorus that always gets stuck in my head:
“Home, let me come home / Home is wherever I’m with you”
The first time I traveled to Italy (and Greece), I became truly and totally homesick. I had a great time and saw a part of the world about which I had only dreamed. But about midway through all I wanted was home. Like any sort of sickness, homesickness saps the energy around you. It seems to desaturate the colors you see and make time slow to a crawl.
This time? I certainly missed people and things. I missed our boys. I missed our bed. I missed not having a street vendor shoving a selfie stick in my face every fifteen feet. Yet I never felt homesick. The reason why I never came down with this malady was obvious. She was right beside me the entire time. Despite the fact that I was nearly 5,000 miles from my house, all I really had to do was to reach out, grab EA’s hand, and I felt at home.
EA and I have been married ten years. In fact, we’ve been married ten years today when this post is being published. And I don’t want to paint some unrealistic fairy tale of our relationship. We aren’t perfect. There are times when we argue and squabble and unintentionally hurt each other. There are many times when I speak without thinking, act like a moron, or don't listen as I should. Yet in spite of our imperfections, I love EA and she loves me.
The two of us are a team. Over the last decade, we have laughed and cried together. We have stared down adulthood together. We have explored new places together. We have—without having to prove that we were ready for it—brought two lives into this world together (though she did all of the heavy lifting for that one). Moving and life changes, grad school and seminary, unexpected bills and late night parenting chaos; we have faced it all together. It is not necessarily us against the world, but it definitely is us.
We didn’t plan it this way, but our strengths typically cover the other’s weaknesses. I used to joke that between the two of us, we made one excellent adult. Yet EA and I are not halves of a whole. Both of us bristle at the term “better half.” Each of us is a whole person, but we’ve committed ourselves to look out for one another in every situation.
On this trip celebrating our tenth anniversary, it was wonderful to realize that home was in a person. To know that it is not a building or a plot of land, but a living, breathing, beautiful human being. Of course, that realization is slightly terrifying as well. I worry that something may happen to EA one day or that she may stop feeling like her home is with me. There’s part of me that worries—even though I know that she loves me fully—she’s going to wake up one morning and think, “I’ve made an enormous mistake.”
That’s why marriage is a risk. It’s a leap of faith. To commit your life to another person is, depending on your perspective, wonderfully frightening or frighteningly wonderful. Yet the leap has been worth it. Sure, there has and will be times of difficulty and we’ll always be a work in progress. But I cannot think of anyone with whom I would rather share that journey than Elizabeth Anne Cox.
We were sitting in our hotel room in Venice. I can’t remember what we were doing. As I am writing this, I don’t even remember if we actually were in Venice. Yet I remember telling EA that I hadn’t felt homesick at all on our trip and it was all because of her. Then she smiled at me, the kind of smile that lights up the world for me, and said, “I like you.”
And I like her. This trip has only affirmed that. There is no one I would rather talk to or sit in silence with. I loved seeing new things with her and trying to hash out our experiences over meals. She makes me laugh and smile. Just like she did at the Vernazza train station, she perseveres at encouraging me even when I’m a mopey grump. She pushes me and challenges me to be a better man. I am so blessed that I get to go on adventures with her; that I got to hold her hand and kiss her on the other side of the ocean.
Ten years simultaneously seems like a long time and no time at all. Yet I’m ready for ten years more. Then ten years after that. And another ten after that. And on and on until our time on earth is over.
The first time that I told EA that I loved her was the night before I left for that foreign study trip in college. We had been dating for about half a year at the time. She was worried that I was going to fall for some random girl on the trip. So I told her that I loved her and it was true. I wanted her to know that. And I wanted her to know that I was going to choose to love her each day. I haven’t stopped. I have no intention of stopping. I won't stop for many reasons. Yet I also won't stop because one night in Italy, I looked across at her beautiful face and realized that my home is wherever I’m with her.