This post could be called either of those two titles, because both so absolutely apply to the topic: my twenty-fifth wedding anniversary, which is February 14, 2012. Yep, Valentine’s wedding; and not at all for the reasons that immediately pop into anyone’s head, when we tell them it’s our anniversary. Let me be very clear about this: 25 years ago, Smart Guy and I were not romantics who wanted a pink and red wedding, and heart shaped reminders each year, as to why we got married. We did not anticipate fighting for dinner reservations each year, when our anniversary comes up. We did not think about the pressure that would be incumbent upon both of us, to keep up with the rest of the world, who sees this day as: a chocolates, flowers,
over-the-top syrupy romantic Valentine cards, dinner out and love-filled day. We were practical students- he in medical school and I in graduate school- who got tired of our families messing with our wedding dates, debating over who should/could/would come, and so we just flipped the table and picked a date that we both had three days off from school. The facts that we decided that less than two months before the date, that our parents were both unhappy about these changes, and that we would be forever linked to Valentine’s day… did not occur to either of us at the time. Seriously.
Smart Guy came back to our apartment one day, found me on the floor crying (over yet another wedding snafu with parents) and said: “I’m off on February 13th. I have three days off. Let’s do it then.” I opened my black planner (which was my lifeline to all things planned) and noted: A) That I had that date off too, and B) That the 13th was a Friday. “I’m not getting married on Friday the 13th. That’s bad luck,” I told him. “I don’t believe in superstition. We’d have four nights away.” I knew that Smart Guy and I were different, on too many levels to list here, but I was not going to test the theory of Friday the 13th on my wedding. “I won’t get married on the 13th,” I told him firmly. “Ok, the 14th then.” He said it; I agreed, and neither one of us gave a single thought to Valentine’s day… until we started telling people that we had a final, final date. By the time they all started saying “ahhh, that’s so sweeeet!” or “you guys are soooo romantic,” it was too late. We had put our feet down and taken the reigns regarding our wedding, and now, Valentine’s be damned, we were following through. But, we were not romantics!
We were practical, driven “twenty-somethings,” who got married on Valentine’s Day and didn’t have a clue what that would mean, year after year. It is the first big understatement: to say that each year since, we have both fumbled with this initial over-site. We aren’t Valentine’s people, either of us, but we do celebrate our anniversary. It’s something to be married this long, and we do know that it deserves proper acknowledgement. However, we are both inherently last minute people too (hence the first mis-step: waiting until last minute to take those reigns and being stuck with February 13th, 1987 as the first date we could nip all the familial stuff in the bud)… So each year, we are fighting an upstream battle to get a dinner date, for our anniversary, and not let Hallmark overshadow us. All the really cool places are booked long before we think to call; and by the time we find something, we’re often pissy about the hassle of it all. Cards, candy and flowers? Feh.
Once we put our collective feet down, we ran with the Valentine thing. We picked “My Funny Valentine” as our dance song, and hired a local music school major to play piano all night. We trusted him when he told us he could “play anything,” and that he’d learn Funny Valentine. But the boy was no Ella Fitzgerald (which is what we had in mind), more understatements, and he lied. He could not play our song, and we got “Lady in Red,” instead. Ok, the color was at least right. Right? Red, Valentine… we are not romantics. It wasn’t actually a bad song, and it worked. We danced.
(My Mom walked me down the aisle. Mom, my sister and I. Man and Wife. The Bride)
It would be another understatement to say that neither of us thought of how flipping cold it might be in February in Connecticut. The day dawned crisp and Cold. Capital C, Cold. By the time of our nuptials at 5 PM, it was 17 degrees, with a wind chill of minus 7. Seriously cold. And boy did we hear about that! For years, when the topic of our wedding day came up, inevitably someone would say: “Man! It was so damned cold that day!” We were married in the (200 yr) Old State House, in Hartford, CT. Walking to the building, I didn’t dare put a coat on, lest it ruin my dress or my wet hair (once a last minute girl, always a last minute girl), which my sister had braided so nicely. It was cold! That is no understatement… or maybe it is? It was freezing!
Twenty-five years later, there are endless understatements that strike me. We were young. We were idealistic. We had no idea what we were in for. We had no (real) idea that the people we loved so much, who shared that day with us, would not always be there. We were young. When I look at the photos, in our neatly organized photo album, oh how I wish I’d known just how fast the time does go by. I wish I’d known to stop and take it all in a little more. Take all of them in, a little more. That time flies, that twenty-five years seems unbelievable, is one mega understatement! One slow, lazy blink: Three kids. Blink: Three kids grown up. Blink: We are now older than our parents were in those wedding pictures… and they seemed so old to us then. When I search the picture of my mother and I, that day, I can’t help but compare lines and wonder what the next twenty-five years will hold. I don’t have Huntington’s (as she did) and I don’t smoke, and while I don’t work out
at all much, I’m in better shape… maybe there’s hope that I won’t age as quickly? It’s scary to see how much I looked then, as Principessa (our daughter, for new readers) looks now… and then see the difference jump out from the mirror. Hard not to make that other leap to my mother and what another 25 might look like on me. It’s actually not a vanity thing, really. It’s a mortality thing. Seeing those photos is a hard copy reminder of my mortality… understatement. (I’m now 6 yrs. older than Mom was then)
But perhaps the understatement of the Quarter Century (I’ll keep you posted on the century), is that marriage is hard work… and the kids in those photos had no clue. No clue. Get married? Sure. Valentine’s Day? Well, if we have three days off, sure. Make it work for twenty-five years, raise three amazing humans, keep working at it, keep trying to smooth the edges… no clue folks. I had not come from a long line of long marriages. On my dad’s side I do, but I wasn’t raised with them. My dad’s sister, my aunt, and her husband are no doubt THE most romantic, cutest couple I’ve ever had the privilege to know. They’ve been married forever and still call each other “lovey,” and fit together like two halves of the same magic coin (see the magic here). If I’d grown up around that, well, I might have gotten married on Valentine’s day, to be romantic… rather than practical. On my mom’s side, divorce was not a foreign word. I couldn’t imagine twenty-five years, I was barely twenty-five years old at the time. For the record, Smart Guy’s parents were married 52 years, when his mom died two years ago, but I don’t think Smart Guy was any smarter than me, then (or now, for the record. Wink, wink). We were in love. That was it.
We are very different people, Smart Guy and I. He’s Nerdy and science minded; I’m Artsy and emotional. He’s athletic; I am not. He’s practical; I’m passionate. We’re both driven, but often in different directions. He’s an organized planner; I’m a fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants, impulsive, free faller. He likes to climb; I need to fly. We’re both- these things to a fault, and to our credit. Perhaps we compliment each other, otherwise, we might not still be together. No doubt we’re both tenacious, because we’re celebrating twenty-five years, and that takes tenacity for sure. There are those golden couples, who reach this milestone much more easily. They are still “best friends,” or “madly in love.” I am always impressed with those people. As I said, my aunt and uncle: Blow. Me. Away! It’s a beautiful thing to see. But, I think Smart Guy and I owe tenacity for our longevity. We have worked at this thing called marriage. There have been some very rough times along the way. No sugar coating that. No making it sound better for the sake of a blog post, or for the sake of this big anniversary. “Our Song” is With Or Without You, for a reason. It fits us well. We chose it because of a very romantic night, and I can say with absolute certainty, that when that song plays, we both could tell you most of the details of that night. I was deeply in love, and that was one of the greatest slow dances of my life. Still. (live video) But the words do suit us. We (often) can’t live with or without each other. (^ Us, the year we got married. A good friend who I modeled for in Cambridge, MA, took these when Smart Guy came by to get me that day… We were babies.)
Around the time of our wedding, Smart Guy’s grandmother had given us a “living inheritance,” money given while you’re alive. She said: “Don’t just pay your bills, do something really special that I can hear about and enjoy too.” We were poor students at the time with a 7 year residency ahead of us, where we knew Smart Guy would be making less than a full-time McDonald’s employee (yes, really). So, we took some of the money and took a no frills honeymoon trip (right after we both graduated, a year after we got married) to Hawaii, and then used the rest for our move to Chicago and to pay our bills for a while. Grandma Fritzi was happy, and we knew that someday we’d be able to do the things we were missing then. On our honeymoon, I met a really cool dude in the baggage area in Kauai. He had just returned from Palau, near the Phillipines. His stories so amazed me, that I said: “For our twenty-fifth anniversary, we should go to Palau.” I think Smart Guy thought it was a joke, frankly. But for all these years, I’ve been saying… Palau, Palau. This year, for our big twenty-fifth, we had actually planned to go to Palau. We started working on the details late last summer… researching the location, the prices, etc. But life happens. We ended up with two amazing exchange students and life got a little more complicated. While we were in Chicago in October, it occurred to us that the logistics of going to Palau with three kids, two of whom are not our own, were just not realistic. Palau will wait. Smart Guy and I decided that we will go when life is a little quieter again (as if)… Blink.
A few slow, lazy blinks and here we are. It will be our twenty-fifth anniversary. We won’t be in Palau, but we will be with good friends, no doubt laughing about how we’re still together, and celebrating our tenacity, our effort, our love. I’m sure you thought I’d overlooked that: love? Look, whatever the details, in the end we still love each other. It’s not an easy love. It’s not that “best friend/madly in love/life is so perfect” marriage, but it’s lasted. Marriage is hard work. Damned hard work. That is indeed the understatement of this quarter of a century. We have spent these twenty-five years building careers, raising children, laughing, fighting, growing up, growing older, figuring some things out, missing some others… and trying to get a reservation on Valentine’s Day.
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