Fifteen years ago on October 9, 1992, I was preparing for the biggest moment of my life by chugging a glass of wine in a church basement. A layer of hairspray hung in the air as thick as fog and I’m sure my girlfriends and I are responsible for seriously depleting the ozone layer that night. As a six-foot Subway sandwich lay uneaten in the church dining room, my husband-to-be paced upstairs in the minister’s office where he told me later, “I almost threw up.” Lucky for both of us, the only catastrophe of the night was when he accidentally dropped my personalized champagne glass as we entered the reception. All our photos show him drinking out of a beautiful crystal glass with “Jerry” engraved on it as I am sipping from a Styrofoam cup with the words, “Jerry is sorry” crudely etched on it with a toothpick.
It seemed like we barely had all the thank you notes written when our son was born a few months after our first anniversary. For our fifth anniversary, we left him with Grandma and flew to Cancun, Mexico, for a few days of fun and sun. For our tenth anniversary, I received a beautiful anniversary band and told my mother-in-law, “I’ve finally unpacked his bags. I think he’s staying for a while.”
She sighed in relief, “Great. It looks like I can finally take down that Farrah Fawcett poster from his bedroom.”
When you’re old, fifteen years is gone in the blink of an eye.
“Do we have a trip planned to celebrate our anniversary?” I asked my husband one morning this summer.
“No,” he answered as he kissed me on the cheek.
I inquired of him two months ago, “Shall I clean out my jewelry box in anticipation of a new sparkling piece for our fifteenth anniversary?”
“No need to do that,” he replied as he brought me a cup of coffee.
Four weeks ago, I asked him, “Perhaps I should clean out the garage for a new car?”
“Get real,” he answered.
“OKAY, THAT’S IT!” I yelled. “WHAT AM I GETTING FOR OUR ANNIVERSARY?”
“A new cedar deck!” he said excitedly.
I swallowed hard and stared at him as he continued, “I’m excited to embark on e my first big home project!”
“Super!” I exclaimed, “A gift that keeps on giving!”
Last week, I called my mother-in-law. “Do you want him back?” I asked.
“Don’t even think about it,” she replied. “Farrah Fawcett’s eyes aren’t following me around that bedroom any more and I’ve never been happier.”
There’s just something about embarking on a large home project together just a few weeks before you celebrate a major milestone in your marriage that makes you contemplate, “What was I thinking fifteen years ago?”
As he stood outside the other day in 50 mph winds and screwed the railing on, I wondered, “Should I go out now to tell him the railing is crooked or wait five more years for the twentieth wedding anniversary?”
I decided to get it over with. “Honey,” I said as I stepped gingerly on the deck. “I think the railing might be a tinge crooked.”
Every time I have a bad experience, I try to take something good from it. I learned a lot of new swear words that day that I may have to use the next time someone cuts me off in traffic.
Last night, my husband presented me with a small, wrapped box. “Happy anniversary, honey,” he said tenderly.
“Oh sweetie,” I said as I opened the box. “You didn’t! Please tell me you didn’t!”
Inside the box lay a small piece of cedar. A craft store jewel adorned the wood and a hole drilled in the top allowed him to attach a string. He picked up the piece of wood and put it around my neck. “Here’s to fifteen blissful years together … give or take a few months here and there,” he chuckled.
“It’s beautiful, forever lover,” I whispered. “You look great in a tool belt by the way,” I added as I kissed him.
After all these years, I know what keeps a marriage strong. It’s not a three-carat wedding ring. It’s not a vacation on a sunny beach. It’s not a library of self-help books or a weekly counseling session.
I think I’ll unpack his bags again.