On February 2, 2012 my husband and I hung side by side at the start of the zip line at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park. The feeling I had at that moment steals back as I write these words. Pure terror. Pure bliss. The inching forward until the moment arrives in a rush. The platform seems to fall away and there is nothing between us and the earth below us but way too much air and the straps of our sling beneath our butts. He’s laughing. I’m laughing.
We never planned to celebrate our eleventh anniversary by leaping into the air and sailing over the heads of rhinos or giraffes. It was one of those thoughts that just morphed into action after we decided to use our soon-to-expire zoo passes and, while we were at it, celebrate Groundhog Day or, as we also know it, our anniversary.
As our choice of wedding day may indicate, neither of us has any aptitude for event planning. Even if we did, no amount of planning or orchestration could adequately commemorate moments like this:
A belch rips through the companionable silence that accompanies reading in bed before turning off the lights.
Him: “That’s okay. As we get older, I don’t expect we will make fewer sounds.” Pause. “On the bright side, as we get older, we probably won’t hear them.”
Him: “You know what? I’m sick of you.”
Me: “I’m sick of you too.”
Tense silence. Then both of us dissolve into giggles that nearly make us stop the car.
We are half-way through our three and a half-week drive from New Jersey to our new home in California by way of Charleston, Savannah, and a great swath of Texas. Until that point, we believed we’d figured out how to spend most of our time together. We work together and live together but we’ve never spent 24 hours a day wedged into a car loaded with our computers, bags, china, pillows, soap, a mop, bags, a case full of AAA books, and trepidation about the move we are making.
An expensive anniversary dinner out somewhere would be wonderful but it would never yield the memory of the time my husband finally nailed the art of sautéing baby artichokes. “Try this,” he says, plucking one from the small mound of crispy, glistening baby chokes. I do. I want more. I want to remain in that kitchen and be fed artichokes by this man for the rest of my life. He smiles, turns back to the stove, and says:
“Stick with me little girl, I’ll make you fat.”
A huge party would never drown out the memory of the ringing phone on election day 2004. The doctor’s name shows on the caller ID. I answer but my love is already there in the room holding out his hand for the receiver. I hear the doctor’s words clearly even though my husband clasps the phone to his ear and turns away as if to shield me. Positive is one word. Cancer is another.
We no longer care who wins the election.
Even though we celebrate our tenth anniversary with a trip to Kauai, we don’t need the ocean, the waterfalls, the whales, the coconuts to celebrate every day we’ve had since that phone call and the successful surgery that followed. We celebrate that with moments like this:
Him or me: “Hi, I’m home. Where are you?”
Me or him: “Right here.”
Here’s how our actual wedding went:
At around five o’clock on February 2, 2001, we’re standing in the living room of our condominium in New Jersey at the beginning of an ice storm. We’re dressed to the nines for our two best friends and a minister whose credentials came straight off the Internet. She wears a black judge’s robe although she’d offered to wear a clown suit, or a cowboy outfit, a top hat, or pretty much anything else she had hanging in the closet of her cabin in the thick of the woods thirty miles north and west of us. We saw them all the night we drove up there after work a few weeks earlier to go over the vows she insisted we review with her.
We think we’ve thought of everything. We’ve gotten our kids’ blessings, the rings, roses, the announcements we will drop in the mail sometime that evening. We’ve bought a video camera no one knows how to use.
Then the minister begins to read from the vows – traditional, feminist, with elements drawn from Native American spiritual prayers because we’d never thought about any of this before and, confronted by her menu, thought we’d better try a bit of everything just to be on the safe side.
As she approaches the section for the first “I do,” my palms grow moist and then I realize there is a sheen on my beloved’s forehead that may or may not have to do with the intestinal infection he developed the night before. There is the moment when we realize that there are no guarantees that we won’t make the same mistakes we made in our previous marriages, that in a few more seconds the only way out will be a path neither of us ever wants to walk again. Then here it comes. “I do.” Fingers twined together, we jump. Our honeymoon is spent in the same living room while he rides out the rest of his bug and I sink into our big white chair with a few novels.
This year our anniversary went like this:
We sleep until our elderly terrier rouses us. We catch up on past episodes of Sherlock and True Detective. We talk about our kids, our family, trips we might take. We eventually get around to washing up and shifting from pajamas to sweatpants. We make breakfast. We make tea. We make lunch. We make dinner. We watch the Super Bowl. We never answer a phone or look at our computers. We find ourselves looking at each other or reaching for each other’s hand and just holding on for a bit.
It couldn’t have gone better if we planned it.