No expense was too great to spend on my grandparents’ 50th wedding anniversary celebration, and mom went all out. She’d rented an event room at La Fonda, invitations had gone out to (I think) most of Santa Fe where they’d lived for, then, 45 years or so. A band was hired, food trays ordered, napkins and matchbooks (remember those?) engraved with the name and date and a friend with a camera enlisted to record the happy occasion
We spent hours making “dressy” dresses for the girls in the family which was no mean feat. Mom was a less-than-enthusiastic seamstress and I had a kindergartener to get off to school every morning and an almost new baby who demanded a fill-up every hour. Finally, the date arrived. Resplendent in our new attire, we caravanned to the grandparents for the drive across town to the elite “venue.”
To be met, at the front door, with a re-enactment of the Battle of Bunker Hill. Voices were raised, Grandma’s hair was on end and she was still in her “housecoat.” Poppa was across the room, waving both arms in the air. “Do YOU want a divorce, Mrs. A.?” “Yes, Mr. A., I do!!” Oh, Lordy, what next? I’m not sure we ever discerned the origins of the battle, but mom finally got Grandma hustled into the bedroom to finish dressing while Poppa stormed off to his room and slammed the door. They didn’t speak all the way to the hotel. But once greeted by a room filled with old friends and other family members, everything came up aces.
When we finally left them once again in their living room many hours later, they were sitting together on the sofa, going through all of the cards they’d received, ooh-ing and aah-ing over gifts like the whole pre-game skirmish had never happened.
Over mid-morning coffee the next day, my mom made me PROMISE that I would never, not ever, plan a party to celebrate her 50 years with dad (there were a few times I didn’t think we’d even have to work on 30 or 40 years). As it happened, dad left for greener pastures before they got that far. When that anniversary date rolled around, I’m not sure mom was sorry he wasn’t there, or relieved that she didn’t have to go to a party: she just knew I’d go back on that promise.
About every other week, there’s an announcement in the Courier that another happy couple made it to the 50-year mark. I remember when Oral and Katherine Cooper had their 70th and, literally, danced the afternoon away! Maybe not every day was a bed of roses, but the Coopers had a relationship that grew better with every year, with every kid and every grandkid (and great-grandkid.)
Some people are just “cut out” for marriage; others are not but get pushed into it anyway for one reason or another. My track record is pretty pathetic and I honestly wouldn’t have even made it 10 years with ol’ Cince Parming, but, well, the kids needed a dad. I tried to talk them into trading him for a dog, but they were adamant so I stuck around a short while longer. There are several dozen reasons why I never ran in a substitute, but the short of it is nobody applied. Except the one who made it sound more like an ultimatum. “My way or the highway” didn’t work even when I was in high school so it sure wasn’t going to fly then: I learned to drive and, as Dennis Schoenfelder’s t-shirt from the Center track program suggested, “Things in the rear view mirror don’t matter.”