It has been a less than stellar week for romance in our house which wouldn’t normally matter but we did have our 20th wedding anniversary and from what I have gleaned, it should be acknowledged in a loving way. I tried to care but I was so sick on Tuesday that nothing mattered except sleep and more sleep. My poor husband in the meantime was living in his own hell at work. He ended up in Urgent Care that night. (By the way, he rarely gets sick so I think there is something psychological in this!) Were it not for our children, there would have been no celebration at all. Which got me to thinking as my twelve-year-old dismantled the kitchen in search of the perfect meal for us, why is this day so important? And here is what I came up with.
Marriage is eternally a challenge. When two people “rub up” against each other for a life time there will be good times and less than good times. The anniversary assures you that you are living up to the challenge in some way. Since all marriages are not created equal, this can represent so many things. Several of us got married in the same year, for a couple it has been a struggle almost from the “get go” and for a couple of us, it is has been pretty smooth, albeit, with normal challenges. I joked with a dear friend who wasn’t entirely sure she would make it to this point the day before her own 20th Anniversary and said, “You’re almost there! One more day!” Mind you, the fact that their marriage is the struggle it can be, is also a testament to the level of love, integrity and commitment that they have for and to their family and as I often tell her, she is a far better person than me. Simply put. Which is why I love her.
It matters to the people around you. I think that, in this day and age, when divorce is so rampant, it is a comfort to people who see that things can last. My own parents are divorced, but my grandparents were married for 50+ years so I witnessed, as a child, a formula that worked. My husband’s parents celebrated 50 years this year…we get to see them grow closer all of the time. We have always cited our “porch swing” time as one of our goals. (The time in our old age when just hang our on our porch swing together. In our workaday lives this is a goal that comforts us.) Our children witness their friends whose families go through divorce and it makes them mindful of the importance of cherishing what they have. But, as I have told them, there are times when for the sake of sanity and/or well-being, divorce needs to happen. I just remain grateful this isn’t our situation.
Some moments really matter. Imagine if we didn’t stop and reflect on what it means to still be married? If we aren’t taking time to do some self-reflection then how are we ever going to grow. For a marriage to grow, we need these markers that allow us to see where we were and where we want to go. My husband and I joke about not being much more financially ahead, (now that we are sending one to college) than when we started out, but when I joked about this to my mother, her response was, “Oh, I don’t know, I think you have an awful lot to show for your 20 years together.” And she is right, as mothers always are. We are not the young kids were, just starting out, we are mature adults on the edge of 50, we have, in a sense “been around” since we have lived in different cities, owned a couple of homes, are raising three kids, have finished various degrees and lost and gained employment. For people who have known each other since high school, this checkpoint helps when we don’t feel we have gotten very far. So these moments matter to us as we make our life assessments.
It’s fun. Every year, except, ironically, this one, we watch our wedding videos. We have been watching them with the kids and it is hilarious!! Both videos are done by family members and we are so grateful for them. The value isn’t just humor, but also seeing people who have passed on, people who were in budding relationships, kids who are now professionals…my niece who was my flower girl is now a doctor and our ring-bearer is now a pharmacist. We are able to relive the joy of the day. And it was so full of joy. One thing I love most is that the people who were there, the friends, are still here. What a gift.
It’s a reminder of my vocation and I am living up to what I am supposed to. Pope Francis has been highlighting the importance of family and of marriage as a vocation. I have always viewed it as such. My first passion and my first focus are the people who have been given to me in this life. My husband and children come first as far as my attention but my extended family falls under that to. I wouldn’t know what I was supposed to do, if it wasn’t this. My purpose and my being is wrapped up in the people around me (How un-American! How Un -Vogue! I know!! Right??) It is who I am. I am good with that.
So even though my husband and I weren’t exactly up for celebrating, we did look at each other as we do, in that space that defines our world, and said, “Happy Anniversary! Better luck at 25!!” and just started to laugh. After all, what is the point of any of it if we don’t laugh?
Footnote: My children saved the day with a beautiful and delicious dinner and dessert. My youngest made us a story of our time together and framed it, it is beautiful and I will cherish it! My other daughter is sending us for massages…we are not comfortable with her spending money on us like this, but she was almost in tears when I suggested an alternative gift. Our children made the day special and really, isn’t that the point?