I’ve been sick the past few days and haven’t written a thing.
I “missed” our anniversary — spending it mostly in bed — not that we had planned anything “big” for the actual day — we aren’t those kind of people. We were going to get a nice meal out at a long time favorite hangout to which we haven’t visited in an embarrassingly long time. Instead I drank fruit juice and sweated out a fever. Not an auspicious start for our 51st year together but hey — we’re both still here and both still in love and that’s what matters more than any single day or moment.
But that brings to mind a much more important topic and here I am writing on December 23rd…. a day of the year that (for me) has often been a breathe of fresh air. Between our anniversary and Christmas which coincides with my parents anniversary. I’m not big about celebrations. I like them but they usually mean extra people around and people tire me out. So, December 23rd has long served as a moment of calm in the flurry that is December in the United States.
When we first got married I wasn’t much into “holidays” or “anniversaries” at all. Oh, don’t get me wrong — I didn’t thing it was bad or anything, but I did think that it was stupid to wait a whole year to express love, or thanks, or appreciation to someone else when they were with you all the time. For the first few years (as far as I could with my very limited income) I tried to bring home presents to Peggy to show her my love and devotion on “regular” days — non-holiday days — on “just because” days — cuz that’s what they were — just because I loved her.
In the interim I started to make more, and the number of anniversaries and holidays starting adding up and now we’ve been together for a whole half of a century. To be honest, I can’t comprehend what it means to be with someone half of a century even though I’ve done it. I have no concept of what a half of a century is. I have a hard time understanding a year — if I’m honest about it. TIME is something I’ve always had a very loose relationship with. My dad would ask me for help (we lived in the same apartment complex), I’d agree under the provision that we wait 10 minutes so I could finish what I was working on and 4 hours later he’d stop by and ask “are you ready yet” knowing that I’d completely forgotten about the time — and I had. I lose myself in what I’m doing and there’s no easily bringing me back until I’ve finished what I wanted to accomplish.
But I digress…
It’s the non-holidays, the non-anniversaries, that show the people we love just how much we love them. All the rush of the holidays is static. Traditions can end up just being social crutches for the way we ought to be treating our family and friends all the time but we know that we get carried away with life and need a holiday to guilt us into taking the time to say what’s in our heart and what should be there all the time. Of course part of it is that we all, pretty much, buy into the selling of holidays, and the selling of anniversaries. We dare not forget that we are all part of a great Capitalist society and we have a civic duty to consume — so we are taught from early on that we should increase consumption on certain days so that it’s easier for factories to plan their inventories and have products ready for our “demand.”
I love that Peggy and I can still sit and talk about nothing. I love that we DO sit and talk about nothing. It’s not the life changing decisions that really matter in a lifetime. It’s the comfort and the love of knowing someone well enough that you anticipate when their coffee cup is empty, it is still saying please and thank you like civilized people, it is the thousands of tiny actions each and every day that make people strong and that cement bonds.
It’s true too with children. Buying the “latest and greatest” Christmas toy/doll may make you a hero for a couple days, but being kind to your kids, LISTENING TO THEM ALL THE TIME, smiling at them, showing them you love them and care about them in little ways, all the time –those are the important times. We build our relationships with our kids not by the holidays but by the ‘unimportant’ days when they need encouragement, or a shoulder, or maybe even a loving push forward.
I was thinking yesterday as we moved around town running errands. It was my first day outside after nearly a week of being indoors and it felt good. Everyone was in the Christmas spirit, I could see holiday attire even if they were dressed for the chilly temps. I was reminded of the years at work when I would wear my Santa hat to work. I did that for a few years. I was usually the only one who did. I hated wearing that hat — it didn’t fit me right and it irritated my brow but I always had so much fun wearing it. It caught people off guard. It made them smile. I didn’t have to do anything else — though sometimes I did “ho, ho, ho,” just for the fun of it, but it was always a fun day, or several day that made people happy. When I had a desk job and it was just company people who saw me, I usually did it on just one day. But other years when I had jobs out in the public I’d do it for a couple or a few days depending on the job and the weather — just because I was tired of seeing holiday shoppers with scowls on their faces.
One year, (or was it two — I forget), I was working for a motorcoach company and they were doing a civic thing called the Christmas Bus — It was a nice posh coach that made a couple mile long circuit through Downtown Milwaukee stopping near all the shopping destinations — (I scarcely realized you could log up so many miles driving through Downtown Milwaukee, but I did) — and it was alway fun to see people approach the coach with sullen looks, see me and begin to smile. I got them singing Christmas carols while we drove around — it was fun!
The thing is, we can take a moment to do something nice for people any time of the year. We don’t have to wait till our wedding anniversary to tell our partner how much we love them — assuming that we do.
You see, that’s something that bothers me. For a few years I did wedding photography and I have to say I will never understand the thinking about weddings today. Ours was small. At the time we were active with two churches, helping out at each. Each wanted to do showers for us (ideas which we most impolitely quashed) and we could easily have had a wedding with 400 or more guests — there WERE that many people in our lives. But we settled instead for a family wedding in a private home with 30 guests and a receptions a few miles away in a local restaurant with 38 guests. It was perfect. We could enjoy our own event and the people who mattered most to us were the ones to witness that most important event.
Today we see tens of thousands of dollars spent lavishly on what amounts to a big party – and still nearly half of the couples will find themselves in divorce court. I don’t get it. When I had my photo studio I’d have 4 hour blocks of time to get to know my models and I was amazed at how many of them had been married more than once — in their 20’s and 30’s. And more than twice…. And…. ‘nuf said. I don’t know what people think marriage is about…. or for…. or whey they do it… Surely a lot of folks don’t think it can, or should, or ever does last for a lifetime. But they are the ones who lose out.
And they lose out on the unimportant days. They begin losing out when they take their partner, or their child, or their parent, or their friend for granted. When they don’t bother any longer with “please” and “thank you.” They begin to lose out when they refuse to sacrifice the littlest thing for the other party: refusing to get out of the car without an umbrella, setting arbitrary rules for who must do what, and a gazillion other little insults that say, “you can sacrifice for me, but I’m not going to sacrifice for you.” That is the beginning of the death of 1,000 knife cuts. We initiate it ourselves, and most often we don’t even realize that we have signaled the end or our own relationship at that moment — but we will continue on down that road until we reach an ugly Dead End sign.
AS I say… December 23rd is often a break between storms and I hope you are using the day well. Our daughter will be back from Minneapolis tonight and we’ll have her and her hubby over to ours for Christmas day. I’m sure it will be lovely. But it’s the unimportant days that matter most. The days like today when no one expects you to do anything out of the ordinary that are the best days to do something lovely. I’ll leave it to you….