Now there’s a beautiful river in the valley ahead
There ‘neath the oak’s bough soon we will be wed
Should we lose each other in the shadow of the evening trees
I’ll wait for you
And should I fall behind
Wait for me
— Bruce Springsteen, If I Should Fall Behind
“The wand chooses the wizard, Mr. Potter.” — J. K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone
The song If I Should Fall Behind is forever a part of my identity, not just because it was our wedding song once upon a time, but because we’ve used it as our guiding principle. In this way, I wonder sometimes if the song chose us, rather than us choosing the song. It’s always been there in the background, whispering just how to keep this thing going year-after-year.
Relationships are built on patience and each person carrying their share of the load. Sometimes one person carries more than the other, but over time it just seems to even out. There’s no score-keeping in a healthy marriage anyway, and the sooner you realize that the sooner you get to the serious work of foundation-building. Foundations matter a great deal in happy homes.
Time is a bear that throws all kinds of bitter twists into an otherwise magical life. We get distracted by the madness of the world and spend more time than we ought to focused on a transactional life of people and titles and things that ultimately don’t matter as much as the person you committed a lifetime to. But when both of you carry on, patient and present, everything else falls by the wayside.
We built a home five years after that wedding on a plot of land deep in the valley with a large oak tree in the front yard and another out in back. Neither of us thought of the line in the song, we just liked the oak trees and the feel of the land they grew on. We’ve called that spot in the valley ‘neath the oak’s bough home ever since. It’s funny how things work out just like a song when you put the work in to make it so.