On April 16th, I was driving my car home from work. It was going to be a usual kind of night; piano practicing, dinner to be made, homework to be done. I drove on through traffic, eager to be home. I’m always happy to be going home to my family at the end of a long day. So there I was, driving and thinking about all that had to be done on a Monday evening, when a thought struck me. It was April 16th. Six days past April 10th. I had forgotten our wedding anniversary. Paul had forgotten our anniversary. We had forgotten our anniversary.
I dug through my purse and dialed Paul. “Good grief!” I cried to him. “I can’t believe we didn’t remember.” On our anniversary there was no candlelit dinner. No night away together in a cozy inn, no cards or gifts. Our anniversary had passed, a day like any other. And we didn’t acknowledge it in any way.
Paul and I were married on April 10th, 1999. It was a cold and drizzly evening in Syracuse. We invited all of our friends and family to a huge old inn, lit hundreds of candles, opened lots of bottles of wine, and celebrated. While the rain pelted the windows, we gathered around fireplaces, danced to our favorite band, and let the wine flow. There were tables filled with food in every room. I couldn’t decide on one wedding cake so we ordered chocolates, tarts and other sweet things to eat. At midnight, the staff brought out rolls and carved up beef for tenderloin sandwiches. I didn’t want the night to end. When an elderly friend of ours left that night, she pulled me aside. She took my hands in her own and said, “There was real love felt here in this room tonight.” Her eyes filled with tears as she said this and she hugged me. Perhaps she thought of her own wedding, some 50 years before.
As the years go on, memories of that night have faded. It’s become a little blurry, all of it. But that woman’s words have stayed with me. I remember the dress she wore, the way her husband stood by, nodding his head and smiling as she spoke.
Paul and I decided that even though we forgot the day of our anniversary, it was still worth celebrating. Thirteen years and five days of being married deserves recognition. So we planned a day together. We would take the day off from work, drive to Hudson and tour Olana. The plan was to leave after kids stepped on the bus, and be home before dinner.
I was so excited for our day together. Paul and I have long wanted to visit Olana, Frederick Church’s estate in Hudson. Built in 1870 and copying the styles of architecture and design he and his wife saw on their travels to the middle east, the house sits on 250 acres. I dreamed of us walking, slowing, through the rooms, admiring the intricate tiles and beautiful colors. We would listen to the tour guide. This we could do of course, because we wouldn’t have children in tow.
After the tour, we would take a long and leisurely walk through the wooded grounds, taking in the views of the Catskill Mountains. From the highest point of the property we would see the Hudson River as it makes its winding way toward the Atlantic. Yes, I dreamed.
Only, it was not meant to be. On the day we planned our getaway, I woke feeling dizzy and hot. These minor discomforts gave way to shivers and chills and aches. I spent the day in bed, not at Olana, frolicking with my love on the landscaped grounds. Paul might tell you that he wasn’t planning on frolicking anyway. But as I lay in bed, hot and cold and sick and feeling very sorry for myself, I was sad for all the frolicking I imagined we would have done.
Paul checked on me, made cups of tea and heated up soup as I lay in bed that day. It wasn’t exactly a page from a storybook romance. The next day, I felt better. And we were back to work, back to schedules, back to the life we lead everyday. Olana, sitting high atop that hill down in Hudson, had to wait.
We’ll do it another day, I told myself. But the days are short and schedules are greedy. They eat up our time and still, ask for more. Now, a month later, we still have not gone to Olana. We haven’t made our dreamy, romantic day trip, but we have enjoyed each other’s company. We have sat together over steamy cups of coffee, spread mulch in our garden and taken our dog for a long walk on the rail trail. Once, a few nights ago, we sat together, all five of us, at the dinner table. Zoe talked loudly about her upcoming birthday. Lucy was planning on making a video with her friends and was talking about it, excitedly. Elliot gave us a report on a science project from school. His class created compost, and each was given an earthworm for their bag of compost. He told us proudly how he named his worm “Mr. and Mrs. Squiggle”.
“Oh, I thought you said there was just one worm?” I asked.
Conversation stopped. They all looked at me, mouths agape.
“Mom.” Elliot said, slowly. “They are worms. Worms, you know? Every worm is a Mr. and a Mrs.”
And they laughed. It’s the sound you want at your dinner table. Voices and laughter among the clinking of forks and glasses. I looked at Paul just then, catching his eye. He smiled at me. It was his warm, sweet, blue-eyed smile. I knew, in that smile, how much he loves me. How it didn’t matter if we went out for dinner, or exchanged gifts or went away for the day.
What mattered was right there, sitting at our dinner table. What matters is our family; happy, healthy and together. So right now I’d like to say happy anniversary to my husband. We didn’t celebrate it in a conventional way. Instead, we celebrate it every day that we are together and raising our family. Happy Anniversary, Paul. Happy thirteen years, one month and 4 days. I look forward to the many more years, months and days to come.
Spiced Rice and Date Salad
A warm weather dish inspired, like Frederick Church was, by the culture of the Middle East. The turmeric in this dish turns the rice a lovely shade of yellow.
2 c. cooked green lentils
1 1/2 c. cooked basmati rice
1/2 c. chopped dates
1/2 c. chopped dried apricots
3/4 c. toasted and chopped almonds
1 small shallot, minced
1/2 c. olive oil
juice of 1 lemon
1 t. cumin
1 t. turmeric
1/4 t. cayenne
1/4 t. cinnamon
sea salt and black pepper, to taste
Combine the lentils with the rice, dates, apricots and almonds, In a small glass bowl, whisk together the oil, lemon juice and spices. Pour over the lentil mixture and stir gently. Taste and adjust seasonings. Marinate for a few hours. Best the next day.