Monday, December 19, 2011

Fifty Years of True Romance

When it comes to romantic occasions, weddings generally top the list. But when my parents got married, only five people were present: the two of them, my mother’s father, my father’s mother, and the Justice of the Peace. My grandfather tried to talk my mother out of it. The JP lectured them on their lack of rings. They had no cake, no white dress, no rice, none of the traditional trappings of a wedding. As poor, idealistic graduate students, they had a counter-culture attitude toward the whole wedding concept.

Fifty years and four children later, they finally threw themselves a party. This past Saturday, they celebrated their 50th anniversary by inviting all their friends and family to a big bash – dinner, drinks, toasts, the works. Since they’d been building the guest list for fifty years, the guests came from all around the country – Houston, Florida, Chicago, Alaska (us.) I saw people I haven’t thought about since I was ten. Several of my childhood friends came, along with their kids. Relatives from all branches of the family attended, as did new friends my parents have made during their retirement years. Even the woman who cuts their hair showed up.

From the minute I walked into the elegant party room overlooking the harbor, all decked out in twinkle lights, with a jazz trio playing, I couldn’t hold back the tears. So many long-forgotten faces, so much love for my parents, so much joy at the opportunity to gather in honor of a longstanding commitment. My parents’ marriage, humble at its beginning, flowered and thrived over the course of five decades, four children, and upheaval both financial and emotional. They’ve proven their devotion, and their guests were overjoyed to have to chance to express their appreciation.

As the firstborn child, I gave the toast, to which all my brothers and sisters contributed. Other friends told funny, touching stories about my parents. The children at the party got together and put on a play. My brother, who is a fabulous baker, made them a wedding cake and we all sang “Here Comes the Bride.” It was so lovely, so moving, so rich with history.

I couldn’t help contrasting this beautiful celebration with the recent wedding of Kim Kardashian. Oodles of money and gobs of media attention were devoted to a marriage that lasted 72 days. I have no idea how much money was spent on wedding gifts for Kris and Kim. My parents, on the other hand, had no gifts at their actual wedding, and for their anniversary requested contributions to a group working for marriage equality.

I love weddings too, with all their hopefulness and giddy fun. But I found this anniversary party to be especially romantic. Everyone at the celebration knew they were witnessing true, time-tested love, love that’s not about outer glamour of a wedding, but about the real stuff, loyalty, devotion and commitment. In a time when everything seems so disposable, it was a joy to be part of such a truly romantic moment.

What about you? What's the most romantic occasion you can think of? 


kog said...

Juniper - that is such a sweet story. I think 50 years of marriage is an incredible accomplishment and it sounds like your parents celebrated it in the best way.

I remember when my grandparents celebrated their 50th. All their kids and grandkids attended, plus many others. It was an amazing celebration. I was in my early 20's, hadn't met my husband to be, but even then I knew it was something special.

Juniper Bell said...

Thank Kog! I love your story about your grandparents. I think it's inspiring to have an example in your life of a longlasting marriage. I bet you and your husband will follow in their footsteps! I've got a loooong way to go, as I've only been married one year, LOL.

Erin Nicholas said...

Thanks for sharing this Juniper! *sniff* No wonder you turned out to be a romance writer!

Kelly Jamieson said...

That is so beautiful Juniper! Congratulations to your parents. My husband and I celebrated our 25th anniversary a couple of years ago. We thought THAT was a big milestone! I only hope we get to celebrate 50 as your parents just did.