Dr. Marry and Me,  Personal Writing

This little kitchen in Burnham, England, Spark and 16 years ❤️

I have four houses that I consider with immense fondness when I think about “home.”

My grandparents’ magical house in Bowman, ND, where I loved to be as a child but found stifling when I lived there briefly while I was pregnant.

The old, drafty house I lived in, in Wyndmere, ND, until I was six. A house of angular staircases, dormered closets and my favorite childhood memories.

The house we currently live in, which I bought in 2006 and added Dr Marry to on May 31, 2008, when we got married, he moved in with us and it became “our” house.

It wasn’t actually a home of much consequence to me, however, until Mazz came home from rehab in March, 2017, and I witnessed its healing powers in action.

That little house brought us back together, slowly but surely, as we carefully danced around and with each other, mending the hurts and traumas of the past years; its small doorways and rooms gently forcing us to reach toward each other versus apart until we’d (re)discovered and built upon our initial attraction to create an abiding love.

As he and Quinn laid down a cork floor in the basement that May while Quinn was home from college, that house project began to heal their fractured relationship, too.

And the house that holds the kitchen in the photo—a little house in Burnham, England, where Mazz grew up and where I’ve been lucky to visit so many times that it now feels like my home, too.

I sat in this chair at this counter the night before we left to go back to America in October, 2003, Ronan Keating’s “When You Say Nothing at All” playing on the radio, tears gathering in my eyes because I couldn’t believe I had finally made it to England and it had been as glorious as I’d always imagined it would be.

But what if I never got back again? What if this relationship, which I felt quite confident in but not absolutely certain of, didn’t last, and I never got to be in this kitchen, in this house, in this country again?

But that hasn’t been the case. I’m lucky to be here so much that I now know where things belong in this kitchen. I keep a pair of rain boots in the hallway for our many soggy trips around the country. I have a family here whom I feel a deep love for. My brother-in-law jokingly calls me his “favorite American sister-in-law,” and I counter that he’s by far my ”favorite English brother-in-law.” Never mind that we are the only of these for both of us—it’s the sentiment that counts.

But actually, this house represents the strength, the joy and the Spark of our marriage. We come here to relax, explore and connect with this side of our family. I’m thrilled to say that I’ve introduced all of my living parents to England on my faith in this home base. Quinn goes out of his way to stop in Burnham when he’s in England because he values this home and these people who took us both in all those years ago and made us part of their family, too.

We now come here for work as well. We successfully held two (re)Discover Your Spark travel experiences earlier this month in Bath, England, and they were just the beginning.

Today Dr Marry and I celebrate 16 years of marriage, and we’re doing it from this house that I love so dearly.

But far beyond my love for this house, I love my life with this man.

I’ve said before that I didn’t realize I was taking my marriage vows so seriously when I said them in front of a tiny group of family members, including two from this side of the pond. But whether I considered the weight of them in the moment or not doesn’t matter now.

What does matter to me is that we’ve lived them all these years.

We’ve tested their strength, and they’ve supported us, fostered us and helped us grow, together and independently, into the people, couple and family we are today.

This morning, I sit once again at this counter, the day before we leave to go back to America, considering all that has transpired on this trip and in these years since my first time here.

I imagine Dr Mary as a skinny, tow-headed boy named Andrew, rushing through the doors of this house, tearing up the narrow staircase to his tiny bedroom.

I wish I could whisper in that little boy’s ear that his life is not going to go at all the way he’s dreaming of: it’s going to be so much more, of every emotion, than he can fathom. Painful loss, immense adventure, crushing disappointment, personal and professional triumphs, glorious love and more await the little boy who sat in this kitchen.

And I realize I wish I could say the same thing to the 30-year-old version of me who first sat here, too.

But life doesn’t work like that.

We don’t get to go back and offer comfort, warning, or insight to our younger selves. And if we did, the course of our lives would be immeasurably changed, so it likely wouldn’t be true anyway.

Today, I’ll consider the beautiful memories I have of our actual wedding day. I’ll reflect on this trip to England and all that has transpired. I’ll honor that little boy and that young woman who had such journeys ahead of them. And I’ll look forward to the next time I sit at this counter, likely just some months down the road, knowing that I’ll be further along on this path that I anticipate but can’t truly see.

Dayna Del Val is on a mission to help others (re)discover the spark they were born with through her blog and newsletter, her professional talks and the (re)Discover Your Spark retreats she leads. Dayna works with people to help them not just identify and articulate their dreams but to develop a framework to get going on the pursuit of those dreams—today, in the next few months and for the years ahead. She's at the intersection of remarkable and so, so ordinary, but she knows that pretty much everyone else is, too. She's excited to be sharing this extraordinary journey with you.

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