During the last 50 days of our fiftieth year of marriage I proposed we review highlights of our 50 years with a note from me tucked inside a blank card along with photograph albums Karen had diligently compiled. Karen could write notes about memories she cherishes in each year. We made it through the first 14 days on schedule.
Why would I think we could find 15-20 minutes every day of our busy retirement to quietly review albums and jot down memorable highlights?
Blank notes and albums piled up for a number of reasons.
Photograph albums expanded to two and three per year. Our extended family gathered at high school graduations of kids and their cousins from the Midwest to Rocky Mountains to the Pacific Northwest. College graduations, marriages and grandchildren increased photographs exponentially.
As empty nesters we crammed long work hours and out of town consulting into the last ten years so we could retire in 2001. We bought a cabin to reconnect on weekends where families and friends joined us and left us with more photographs.
Karen threw photographs into shoeboxes until we retired. She created albums annotated with sporadic recall of names and faulty memories of dates, combining years across albums like random digital photographs popping up on screensavers.
Our schedules became hectic. My fantasy to romanticize memories struggled after I fell behind in my notes and she fell behind in comments. We booked a six-day getaway on the Pacific Coast to walk beaches or snuggle by the fireplace as storms crashed outside.
Unbelievably unable to understand the need to preserve that getaway, I fanaticized a romantic scenario to catch up on albums. Why not enrich the trip by reviewing two years each day and chat about the best times as I took notes?
I have to admit I was slightly afraid of being bored and thought this would fill some time and didn’t hesitate when I realized the immense number of albums we needed just to get current. I squeezed albums 32-48 into a large suitcase and plastic tub. Karen didn’t act thrilled to see them along the wall near the fireplace.
We fell behind the first day. We slept in, took long hikes on different beaches and drove up the shoreline to Lake Quinalt in the Olympic rain forest. At night we barely had energy to hold our kindles, let alone heavy albums.
Eventually we thumbed through more than half the albums enjoying Karen’s many hairstyles and my moustache, the red convertible we’d rented to drive around the small town with our nephew and his friends on the back seat, aprons our daughter made for us at Christmas and parents and family members who have passed on.
As we chatted I took notes and corrected dates in the albums. In the morning on the last day my fear was I’d overloaded another romantic time. Karen said she enjoyed the memories.
We shared our experience with our daughter in Seattle. She said pictures flash on her laptop screen while she makes dinner for her sons gathering at the table. They crowd around photographs rolling up randomly and share memories with each other.
I’ve returned the albums to the shelves and abandoned the daily review of the few remaining. I’ll probably write notes about my fond memories of the last decade, relieved to know digital photographs are surfacing on computer screens.
Our family is gathering here at Thanksgiving. When we told our daughter we have no specific plans for our anniversary date the day after Thanksgiving, she said emails are flying around about that date.
“That’s fine,” Karen said, “we’ll leave it to you.”