So … today is Chandler’s and my 50th wedding anniversary. We said “I Do” in our apartment, the minister who lived upstairs (with dubious mail order credentials), presiding. Our parents and a couple of friends were the only ones to witness this moment of historical import. We don’t even have many pictures to commemorate our vows, since they were all taken with the 1970s Instamatic camera that cast the entire world in shades of beige, and even those colors have faded over time. I wore a scratchy pink polyester dress my mother had sewn with love, and he wore a loud wide tie and sideburns, and we were oh-so-young.
We both had a bit of a hangover that day, having celebrated the night before with my mom and stepdad in the only restaurant we could find open in Dallas on Christmas Day. Then on to a nearby club populated with humbugs who either had no family to celebrate with or had eschewed the family conviviality in exchange for a mediocre band and a bourbon and coke. We closed the place down, and upon arriving at our tiny apartment, we awakened the preacher upstairs, who worked part time as a mall Santa, inviting him to don his Santa suit, make his sleep-deprived way downstairs, and perform a rehearsal. Why he consented and didn’t just tell us to f**k off and go to bed, I ponder to this day.
Shortly after our modest nuptuals, we took off for a week in New Orleans, stopping off the first night in the romantic metropolis of Bossier City, Louisiana. Thereafter, we returned to our honeymoon city on our anniversary for a few years, celebrating with a couple Chandler had befriended in college (who still live there). We have revisited countless times over the decades, most times with children and/or grandchildren in tow. We never grow tired of the Paris of the South and the memories it holds, and we look forward to the day we can return to once more the navigate the flagstone sidewalks and narrow streets of the French Quarter.
We discovered very quickly, possibly our first anniversary, that we had chosen the worst possible day of the year to get married. The day after Christmas you’re broke, fed up, literally, and just plain worn out after all the preparations that go into the biggest celebration of the year. We always PLAN to go to our local cinema for a marathon of movies – one after another – and then have dinner in a nearby restaurant. And we usually do make at least one movie, but then we decide we only have enough energy left for dinner – sometimes even skipping that in favor of leftover chips and dip and an early bedtime.
In recent years we’ve speculated about the best way to celebrate this momentous juncture in our marriage. A big party? Not our style, and who would come? A return trip to the Crescent City? How about someplace new? A cruise? Hmmmm…maybe, but we’ve done that before, too. A trip to London and Paris? That would be marvelous. But then, we’re old - remember? Can we handle the long flight and the interminable walking? And then – COVID 19. Even the marathon movie tradition is a no go, since the theaters are closed, and we’ve already watched all the ones worth watching on Netflix and Amazon.
So, 50 years, three kids, six grandkids, two apartments, and five houses later, our celebration will be modest: dinner out in a one-of-a-kind steakhouse facing the picturesque courthouse in Granbury, Texas – fifteen minutes from our new home of less than two months.
And that’s just fine. After all, it’s just another day in our lives together. What’s important is that we’re in a very small percentage of married couples who have seemingly raced through a half century of wedded bliss and reached this milestone. And, of course, it has often been far from bliss – because that’s real life. We’ve suffered through the deaths of our parents, the near death of a child, taking on the responsibility of raising three grandchildren, health crises and disappointments aplenty, our evolution into polar opposite political convictions, and untold disagreements that strained our marriage into a taut, unraveled string that consisted of a single thread, threatening to snap at any moment. But we have also shared the most spectacular of ecstasies life has to offer – topped by the births of our children, perhaps made even more incredible to us by the fact that neither of us had siblings. Just yesterday, realizing that most of the people in our house celebrating Christmas would not even exist had we had not come together once again boggled my mind.
I’ve been asked more than once, “What is your secret? Why have you stayed the course when so many have not?” I just don’t have an answer. Perhaps because Chandler and I laugh every day. Because we give each other permission to be ourselves and to be alone if that’s what we need. Because we know each other intimately but also frequently wonder what the hell the other could possibly be thinking. We’re both puzzled that an introvert and an extrovert have survived 50 years sleeping in the same bed. But perhaps that’s why we have stayed the course – because we keep each other guessing. Or perhaps it’s because we both have the same philosophy that dissolving a marriage because you think there’s something better out there is foolish. Barring abuse and addiction and irreconcilable differences, the newer-model trade-in comes with a bundle of imperfections just like your own. Yet, I have never understood those who say you have to work on a marriage to make it last. I think it’s more that you have to tolerate, compromise, be open to change, and of course love each other too much to want to be apart. But who knows? It could be just pure luck.
Regardless, we’ll have our dinner out, drink a toast, and tomorrow will be another day – the start of the next fifty years. Here, or in another realm, odds are we’ll be together. Happy anniversary, Chandler Sisco.