A Wedding Anniversary

Twenty-five years ago last week, my husband and I were married in this small church in Maine before fifty friends and family members. When I was in my twenties and living in New York, and Steve was in Boston, my parents’ house on Bailey Island was our favorite get-away, a patch of windswept neutral territory where we could walk and talk for hours, learning how to be together, how to share a bed and a kitchen, how to live together as a couple before returning to our separate lives in separate cities. It seemed only fitting that we marry in this place that meant so much to both of us, a place where we had already begun to create a history of shared memories.

All through the summer of 1987, we worked to get ready; our wedding would be, by design, a do-it-yourself affair, simple and modest and of our own making. We asked the elderly couple who ran the seasonal Driftwood Inn if they’d be willing to stay open the weekend after Labor Day for us. “No kitchen, though!” Mrs. Conrad said, wagging a finger at me. Whereupon I assured her we’d be happy to feed everyone ourselves.

I remember all the weekends Steve and my brother and my dad spent painting the house that summer. My mom and I gathered vases for flowers, scoped out sources for hydrangeas around the island, asked a woman down the road if she’d take the pictures and the firemen’s wives if they’d be willing to put on a fish chowder rehearsal dinner at the library the night before.

I bought my dress off the rack at Filenes, while on my lunch break from work one day, and then came back to the editorial offices at Houghton Mifflin and proudly announced to my fiancé that it was in the bag – a plain ivory lace tea dress that I adored all the more for the fact that it fit me perfectly, cost only $200, and had taken less than forty-five minutes to choose. We picked up a couple of cases of champagne at Marty’s Liquors in Newton and drove them to Maine in the trunk of our car. The morning before the wedding, Steve and a few other guys put up our rented yellow and white striped tent and laid down a dance floor. My mom made fruit salad and cheese strata. While my husband-to-be hit tennis balls with his friends, I took a long run, from one end of the island to the other, taking care so as not to cross paths with my man before we met at the altar. And then I sat down on a rock on the beach and stared up at the sky, wondering what the life we were about to embark upon held in store for us.

My memories of that day a quarter century ago are all good. I loved our wedding – loved the way my family worked with us to realize our vision, loved having all the people we cared about, from all the disparate parts of our lives, gathered together in one place just to bear witness to our vows, loved the fact that our married life began at the intersection of sea and sky, loved the long walk my new husband and I made from the church to the reception, strolling along alone, hand in hand, while all our guests drove by, honking and waving.

Last Wednesday, on our anniversary, Steve pulled the photo album off the shelf. He had taken the day off from work to celebrate with me, but our plans were thwarted. Laid flat by a stomach flu, I was too sick even to look at the pictures, let alone go out to dinner or rouse myself for a meaningful conversation with my husband of twenty-five years. While Steve waxed nostalgic, I lay curled up on the couch under a blanket, nauseated, dehydrated, exhausted, and bearing little resemblance to his radiant bride of yore.

Every once in a while, I’d make my way to the bathroom for a few sips of water and cringe at my own pasty reflection in the mirror. Meanwhile, my husband gave up all hope of enjoying a fun day off with me and tackled a few household projects. Lying on the couch, watching him push the lawn mower around the back yard, I tried to conjure in my mind the guy I married — the lean, handsome publishing executive with dark curly hair and an athlete’s build. Time was, my heart would go wild just looking at him.

What happens now is different, of course. The bright fireworks of first love settle, over time, into a long, slow burn, both darker and richer. The years have humbled us. We no longer believe, as we did on our wedding day, that we can do a better job of being married than everyone else. We’ve had our share of pain and fury, misery and misunderstanding, forgiveness and absolution.

I once read that in marriages that last, each partner can still see in the other the same person they fell in love with all those years ago. Even the physical diminishments of age or illness can’t obliterate the ever-present memory of youthful beauty, or extinguish the recollected spark of first passion. And even as bodies grow old and frail, there remains a powerful spiritual connection, an unwavering belief in the power of this union, a profound sense that each partner is far greater together than either could be alone.

That makes sense to me now. When I look at my husband these days, I see a 63-year-old father of two grown sons, but I can also easily conjure the tender young groom who slipped a ring on my finger half a lifetime ago. Still, I had to laugh, thinking that if I could have had a glimpse, on my wedding day, of the two of us on our 25th anniversary, I would have been seriously underwhelmed: an aging bald guy in a sweaty T-shirt mowing the lawn; a pale, wrinkled woman with a severe case of bed-head, sprawled on the sofa.

And yet, the thing that surprised me on our anniversary was realizing just how content I felt with the way things were, even though the day itself was hardly what we’d hoped for. The celebratory dinner out can wait. And we already have the one thing that really matters: twenty-five shared years, testament enough that ours is a love that will go the distance, for as many more years as time and fate will grant us.

Steve and the boys went out for pizza on our anniversary, and I stayed behind and sipped a cup of mint tea. When they got home, Steve sat down next to me in the kitchen, put his arm around me, called me his “bride.” And so it is that, in the best possible way, love truly is blind.

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your comments

  1. Oh, this makes me smile and tear up at the same time. What an inspiration to someone who just celebrated 12 years (the same weekend as you, a detail I love). xoxo

  2. Lovely! I had my 12th anniversary this weekend, and my husband mentioned that he no longer had his hair. I thought, “Eh, who cares? I like the shaved-head look. I’ve got lumpy thighs now…but I wouldn’t trade my life for my thighs.”

    Happy Anniversary. I hope you’re feeling better. I caught some nasty bug a few days ago, too.

  3. Happy anniversary, Katrina! And many happy returns of the day.

    Thank you for sharing this beautiful reflection on how love evolves, expands, and ultimately stays the same. xo

  4. What a beautiful wedding, and anniversary, story–although you were sick…In sickness and in health, as they say! Hope you are feeling better and Happy Anniversary to you and your husband, Katrina.

  5. Dear Katrina,
    Happy 25 anniversary to you both!Lovely sentiments and yes! even when so many marriages brake apart there are many still going strong like yours.Next year Andrew and I will be celebrating our 25 years of married bliss.

  6. Well said Katrina! Today (Sept 19th) is our 14th wedding anniversary. Cannot wait to say twenty five! Yet after all these years the wedding seems like yesterday to me, I just wish I looked like I did then!
    I have the same theory on birthdays. Love where I am in my forties and very content with my life. Wouldn’t go back to being 21 again just wish for the 21 year old body!
    Nice to know there are others so madly in love with their spouse. Thank you.

  7. Oh Katrina, I wish you knew how much I needed this today! My sweetie and I are about six weeks away from celebrating our 23rd anniversary. We married on Thanksgiving weekend (a Christmas wedding pushed up because his father was dying) and I never could have imagined the hills and valleys we’d see.
    This past year has been a hard one. Hard on our family and hard on our marriage. It’s just been in recent weeks that we’ve done the hard work by confronting the issues and seeing how to get back to that couple who were best friends -first and foremost – always best friends first.
    It’s a slow process but I’m seeing the spark in his eye again, just as I’m seeing that college boy when I look at him again. It’s such a good point, that for us to keep the love alive we need to never stop seeing that person we fell in love with in the beginning.
    You’ve inspired me to write my own version of this essay, about our wedding day, full of just as many special do-it-yourself moments and priceless memories with his failing father. I will sit down and ruminate in the special day that bound us together, so we could travel this road as a team.
    As expected, your post made me cry, but also smile and be inspired. Love you, friend. Happy Anniversary and Get Well SOON!

  8. Gorgeous. Sweetly reminiscent and yet firmly tied to the reality of today. We’ve been at it for nearly 47 years now and still, I would choose him. Our eldest daughter’s 25th wedding anniversary was last month – but her husband has been dead for 4 years now. I am so deeply pleased that she celebrated her 1st anniversary in July to a good man who adores her and adores her boys. So, I join with you in gratitude for marriage over the long haul – realizing that it is a gift not everyone receives.

  9. Katrina, that is a lovely description of your wedding. I can picture it clearly. Congratulations on your 25th Anniversary, that is definitely something to celebrate! Hope you get a chance to do so soon.

  10. Monday was my 8th anniversary. It was similarly underwhelming, but tender. I loved getting this post from you today, just two days after our day, and being able to feel a bit more warm, a bit more soft, a bit more content with my own 8 years because of your perspective and sweet words. Thank you for being the just-a-few-years-older version of me that continues to speak to the now-me and helps the now-me to dig into this present moment more deeply. I truly appreciate that from you.

  11. Another amazing essay…

  12. I love this essay!!! I am sitting with a huge smile as my eyes well up with tears. Happy Anniversary!!

  13. Happy anniversary. What inspiration. I am truly a romantic…grateful for your love story and the simple truths that endure over long relationships. My husband and I have been together for 19 years (married for 13)…may we be blessed on day to celebrate 25 years with wrinkles in t-shirts on a couch…together. And may your love continue to blossom…love to you both.

  14. Wishing you and Steve the happiest of Anniversaries. It’s the anniversaries spent quietly, even the “milestone” ones, that allow us to really focus on how far we have come. Time to reminisce, dream, and be grateful for the blessings of an enduring marriage and family. Congratulations!

  15. Congratulations! In today’s day and age, reaching your 25th anniversary is real accomplishment. My husband and I will celebrate our 41st anniversary in December and your post describes my feelings exactly!

  16. Mary Lynne Johnson says:

    So endearing…thank you for sharing your personal memories of your wedding day. I trust by now you and Steve have had that special dinner…and maybe even some dancing! As always, I so appreciate your thoughtful post.

  17. Happy Anniversary! 25 years is quite a milestone. Your wedding day must have been absolutely beautiful. We just celebrated our 32nd anniversary in August and I am so grateful for the husband I have. I love thinking back to our wedding day – it was one of the best days of my whole life. Thanks always for sharing.

  18. Beautiful, as always

  19. Just lovely. Reading this, I felt very touched. Congratulations on twenty-five years with a wonderful man! How blessed you both are. Thank you also for my sweet note which arrived yesterday! So dear of you to write.

  20. August Raby says:

    Thank you so much! How inspiring and necessary! A million thank yous:)

  21. I just love this. I love everything about it.

    I know many share this feeling of mine, but there is just something about your writing that is both familiar and inspiring, all at the same time. I think it’s that you remind us with your words to reach the deepest parts of ourselves. It’s such a gift you give us.

    I’ve been married 8 years. I absolutely love the idea of always staying connected to the spark, to the glory you fell in love with. Thank you for that reminder.

    And just think, on your 50th you’ll look back and think, what newbies we were!!

    Thank you from my heart for all you share with us.

  22. A love that lasts despite all is truly lovely. Thanks for sharing and Happy Anniversary.

  23. Oh this is so beautiful! I love the details of your wedding weekend and the heart that went into the planning. I hope you are on the mend and feeling so much better now. Thank you as always for opening my heart to the sweetness of life in every moment.

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