Today is my mom and dad’s 56th Anniversary. On Thursday my mom told me about the start of the summer of 66…that she had turned 21 that March, and she and my dad had known each other for several years (he was a guy whose parents had a summer house here at the shore and she was a girl who lived on the island) and that they went out for one of the first of their “official” dates that Easter Sunday, to walk the boardwalk in Atlantic City, and that by May 8th they had decided that they wanted to get married…and so they did, on June 11th. In that short period of time two people, in their early twenties committed to this decision together…Last year I bought a pair of boots that I LOVED. I do not like country music at all but I really love cowboy boots, and I put them on and fell in love. They were charcoal gray and they had a star embroidered on the calf and they were so perfect for me, and I was so excited…and then, well, I did not have any occasion to wear them, and then I did not wear them out, and then when I tried them on again my pinky toes were really squished & I realized I did not really care about them as much as I had thought, and before the summer solstice I decided that I was probably never going to wear them and I could put that $268 towards something far more useful or important and so I called the store and asked what was their return policy…in a time period longer than it took my parents to start dating and get married I decided that those boots were not going to work out for me and ended the relationship. My parents somehow did what has seemed to me, always, to be the impossible…find THE ONE WHO IS RIGHT FOR YOU.
I have returned boots, heels, fancy skirts, ill chosen dressy shirts…thinking they were PERFECT for that party or event or simply just perfect for me, and realized they were not. How in less time my parents could decide on such a HUGE investment, in each other, to start a life together and then MAKE a life together, will forever be one of the things about my mom and dad that I admire the most. It was, to be VERY clear, a different time then…two people could earn enough money at their jobs to pay for rent, electricity, gas for their car, food, and have money left over EVERY MONTH TO SAVE, to buy a house, to put away for emergencies, for their future. I don’t know the last time you met a 24 year old man/boy who could afford his own house, alone, to rent, and then afford to get married, and then within 18 months have a new baby and own a house!!! Did their marriage last because “times were different?” That is an expression that I think of a lot when I think of how my parents did this…times were different.
I worked at a high end shop for more than twenty years on that same island. We had exquisite hand blown goblets, flutes, highball glasses, and these were often wedding gifts that we would carefully package and wrap beautifully for our customers who wanted to give something “more than just money” was what they often would say, as a special gift for a couple to have for always. I remember one time a customer came in and apologized for returning such an expensive gift, we only gave store credit anyway, not refunds, but she had bought 12 gorgeous high-ball handblown glasses, this was long before there were places like TJMaxx or Marshalls, this is when stores sold special handmade things, when times were different I suppose, but anyway, she had not given the gift yet, the parents were having a big celebration for the couple’s first anniversary where they were going to eat the top tier of the cake and look at pictures from the wedding and just celebrate the first year, and that is when this lady was going to give the gift of these $240 glasses…but the couple did not make it to year one, she had received notice that the party was off, and so she was returning the glasses and was going to treat herself to some earrings instead! I share this story because at the time the bride (who did not make even one full year of marriage) was also a customer as was her mother, and I knew from the mother that the wedding had cost them over $80,000 and this was in 1992 or so! THAT WAS A LOT OF MONEY to spend on a wedding on a couple that did not even make it to their first anniversary. AND I think of that story almost every June when I think of my mom and dad’s anniversary.
My parents did the impossible, well not impossible, lots of people get married and stay married and have happy lives, but statistically we are told that more than half of all marriages end in divorce. That I am THIS old and still have parents who are healthy and in love is not lost on me. I have heard people say, “I would never want a marriage like my parents had” men and women alike, and it always made me feel so sad for them, because for all of my adult life that has been what I wished for most, and never got…The gratitude I feel for my mom and dad every day is indescribable. I don’t know many people who had the same kind of childhood that I did or the same kind of parents and I know how lucky I am. My parents and I disagree on a lot, so many things you can’t imagine, but we don’t talk about divisive things or upsetting things, or the news channel and talk radio station they like, which are not, you might guess, the news channel or talk radio station I like…we talk about what connects us and we work (sometimes very hard) at having a good relationship. That my daughter still has both of her grandparents and they still love each other and that her daughters have their great-grandparents and that they still love each other is a big deal to me…some kids don’t even have grandparents, let alone great-grandparents, and that are healthy and vibrant and generous, and in love, still, is just such a beautiful thing.
My mom and dad fell in love and decided to get married in a time frame shorter than I committed to owning some boots, and in which that lady bought some highball glasses, and while it might seem silly to compare, it is not silly to me…it is BIG LOVE that I grew up with, and that I am still surrounded with. “She’s the best wife I ever had” is a joke my dad says often with a grin, as of course he was 24 years old when they got married and there was not any other wife, and when I tease my mom sometimes, like asking her what exactly she does for my father, because he does EVERYTHING for us, she will laugh and say “I let him rub my feet!” and we all laugh, because it’s true. He is so good to her that there has never been a word for it. “I am the daughter of a great romance” is a line from a song that I love and it IS my life. I am the daughter of people who chose, time and time again, to be in love, to support each other, and to be each other’s THE ONE, and here they are, 56 years later, still the one for each other…there are no two people more well suited for each other than my mom and dad; fussy eaters both, they have the same opinions about the same things, they like the same music, they find joy in their home and their yard and their chores and don’t need to travel or go to dinner or out to parties or gather with friends…they like their life just as it is, and they never needed to find out what kind of return policy came with their purchase…