When we celebrated our 49th anniversary last November we decided to celebrate 50 special events during yearlong journey to our Golden Anniversary. We’re well over fifty spontaneous and scheduled events.
Naturally as a retiree who loves math and goals, I wanted a new goal to spice up the rest of the year. The visual journal of our marital journey from 50 photo albums and digital photos she’s kept gave me an idea.
Wouldn’t it be exciting to look at those albums and celebrate one year on each day of the last 50 days of our 50th year of marriage? I proposed the idea to Karen. She signaled a de minimus engagement.
“It sounds like work,” she said.
Jotting down major memories was work. Early photographs provided irrefutable evidence of people and places without dates. I emailed the family asking for help on dates I couldn’t verify.
For example, I asked what years we went to Hawaii and Puerto Vallarta as a family. Karen’s response confirmed the de minimus effort she was willing to thread between her weaving and volunteering.
“I think we took the family to Hawaii in 1991 for my 50th birthday and PV in 2001 for my 60th,” she said. “Or was it 1981 for my 40th in Hawaii and 1991 for my 50th in PV?”
This process has strengthened my distrust of accurate family memories and any memoir that doesn’t verify recollections.
A wide range of emotions arose from the albums. Favorite photographs float up warm memoires, such as the determination in our oldest daughter’s face as she learned how to hula hoop.
Other images draw out different feelings at different ages and stages of my life. Seeing my curly hairdo wrung from a hair-salon’s dryer during the Age of Aquarius has been funny at times and humiliating at others.
Sometimes the process was painful as I remembered the many moves and career changes I’ve put my family through. I was comforted to know I’m not alone with mixed feelings about fifty years of marriage. I congratulated a fellow church member who’s been married almost twenty years more than we have. He smiled, but was melancholy.
“It’s wasn’t always easy,” he said.
My melancholy made me work on forgiving myself.
The journaling process didn’t overwhelm me because I didn’t require a perfect record at this point. It’ll get more accurate as we share it with family and friends plus give me a starting point to write memoirs.
Our family memories include a surprising number of adventures despite being on tight budgets until our children graduated from college without debt. After I finished my Ph.D. without debt and set aside money to move, we asked the kids what they wanted for their sacrifices while I earned my degree. We had several thousand dollars in a savings account to spend on something.
They wanted to see New York City. We wiped out the account by attending Broadway musicals and cruising in New York harbor with waves splashing against the hull as we sailed underneath the Statue of Liberty.
Afterward, I had to borrow money from my mother to buy a home.
Those extravagances are part of the bond that’s held our family together through our ups and downs.
October 10 was the first day of the last fifty days until our anniversary. I wrote a short paragraph of 1963’s highlights and included a sheet of 1963 headlines and popular music Karen had saved from Norwegian Cruise Lines on an anniversary trip. I inserted them inside a blank card.
She instantly remembered the king sized bed her parents gave us for our small apartment. We had to slide between the bed and walls to get into it. I noted her thoughts in the card.
The fifty day countdown has begun another journey for the two of us. It took a little work but it looks like we’ll enjoy it.
That’s been the story of our whole marriage.
Photo by Steve Kaminoff