Sixty years ago today ~ June 8, 1955 ~ my mom and dad stood together in a small, white clapboard church pledging they would love each other for better or worse, rich or poor. Don slipped a diamond ring on Erma’s finger, then lifted her veil to kiss her and everyone smiled, as they do at weddings. Outside, the world was new and hopeful, and the lilac and apple trees swayed with their own glorious, fragrant wedding finery.
Sixty years is a long time. 21,900 days, if you were scratching them off on a calendar. Things change. Gravity shifts. People buy sneakers for comfort, not for good looks. But, I love that my folks still hold hands.
Two weeks ago, my own husband (of only 9753 days) and I took ten of those to help my parents celebrate the coming milestone. The four of us wedged ourselves and our luggage into the car and, packed in tighter than corn kernels on a cob, we headed west where we had rented a two-bedroom condo in the Green Mountains of beautiful Vermont for the week.
We wanted to give them a stress-free vacation to commemorate this special anniversary. We did the cooking, dishes, driving and deciding. They just had to show up and do the looking good. Which they did.
When we reached Vermont, they had a room with a king size bed and two-person hot tub. They may never be the same again. I suspect there must now be a king bed in their future.
While our mornings were lazy, our afternoons were spent traveling through sweeping farmlands and steep mountain passes, visiting waterfalls and water mills, and browsing cider, chocolate and cheese shops.
Vermont is a beautiful state that respects its past, protects its nature and promotes local. It’s important to know where you come from. Both parents grew up on farms, so seeing the farmlands, dairy cows and small, but thriving villages invoked their own childhood memories of community and working together. Mom and I browsed shops; the boys sniffed out foodie places.
As we traveled, mom kept meticulous notes about where we were,and what we saw in a small lined notebook, and they recalled previous trips to New England, keeping watch for the places they had stayed and dined.
Our evenings were quiet, and it was nice just to be around my folks. We read good books, watched bad movies, or sat on the deck watching the sun sink behind the mountaintops. One evening, my mom and I stood in our pajamas in the dark, watching fireflies dance through the trees. It felt like stars were falling all around us.
And we talked. And told stories…and remembered. I learned that my grandfather was too nervous to walk my mom down the aisle and told her he couldn’t do it, but my dad convinced him otherwise..
Their escape following the wedding was an orchestrated subterfuge that would rival any action-packed Hollywood movie, and dad was pretty pleased with the drama. He had $75 in his wallet when he took Mom on their honeymoon to Cape Breton and returned home with $5 remaining.
After the honeymoon, his ‘cronies’ finally tracked them down for a shivaree at my grandmother’s house. When the boys were done, the marital bedroom was in a shambles, drawers emptied, clothes tied together, and a mat was smoldering at the back door. ‘I think it was retribution,’ said mom. ‘For your father’s past deeds.’
And at the end of our week, the night before we packed to leave, my dad thanked me with tears in his eyes.
It was an emotional week for me, too. Because I’ve had to face the fact that my parents will not always be with me. And that’s a difficult realization for an only child to hold in her heart.
But there is a gift to be found underneath that realization. Gratitude. My heart could not have been more filled with gratitude for this extraordinary couple whose love created and nurtured my life. They were the rocks that gave me an anchoring security and rootedness that allowed me to grow into my own person.
It’s no secret that marriage has its share of twists, curves and obstacles. Navigating this tricky road requires skill, wisdom, patience, and forgiveness. It also requires countless daily choices, made by both partners, to do whatever it takes make it work, and to do so with respect, forbearance and dignity.
Because of their daily choices, I have the beauty of my own incredibly happy 9758 days with an extraordinary man. My ability to choose love, to feel love, to give love, and to hold love in my heart is the gift they gave me…and there can be no greater offering than this.
So, Mom and Dad…thank you for every one of the 21,900 days of living and loving that you’ve shared, and for the 19,994 that you invested in me.
Love you both. I am so proud to be your daughter. Thank you for hanging in there through it all.
Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.