Today we’re celebrating our fortieth wedding anniversary and we forgot to make plans.
I turned to the internet for guidance. The ruby is the gemstone for the fortieth and the nasturtium is the flower. Unfortunately, my nasturtiums are a month away from blooming and I didn’t allow time to drop by a jewelry store to pick up a passel of rubies. In fact, we’re headed to Costco to buy new electric toothbrushes. However, gladioli are an acceptable floral substitute for nasturtiums. They represent “infatuation,” while the latter signify “victory in battle” or “conquest.” I’ll display them in a red vase and we’ll toast with a dark red wine, two stand-ins for rubies.
I decided yesterday — another late brainstorm — that I wanted to celebrate with friends. I called the couple who were our witnesses on the application for the marriage license and who stood up for us at the ceremony, but they had another commitment. At first I felt sad that we hadn’t made earlier plans with others. Forty seemed too special to ignore.
Then it hit me that defying tradition has typified the last forty years, starting with the decision to marry at the King County courthouse, with Judge Charles Stokes officiating. (We jumped one party ahead in the wedding queue because the couple before us was too intoxicated to legally consent to anything, let alone a marriage contract.) Afterwards, we took a few friends out for Chinese dinner. That was about it. We couldn’t afford a honeymoon, so I went back to work the next day. Some years we forgot our anniversary entirely. In 1980, Mt. St. Helens alerted us by blowing up. This led to annual reminders of the eruption by the local media, making it easier to keep track of the date. But these days they note the event in six-point type, now too small for us to read.
I feel comforted that our ongoing failure to observe conventions hasn’t hurt us. We still enjoy spending our days together, still laugh, talk, miss each other when one of us is gone for more than a few hours, enjoy a bounty of friendships, and look out for each other. When you marry in your twenties, the thought you might be celebrating forty years later doesn’t cross your mind. You’re never going to get old. But it happens.
I’m hopeful that our spectacular history of missing the milestones will propel us to our fiftieth anniversary. Did I mention that we often overlook birthdays, too?