Note: This is an unabridged version of a column I wrote for GRAND Magazine.
There are gifts, and then, there are GIFTS. I refer to our recent 50th wedding anniversary as “the anniversary that keeps on giving.”
First we took a Danube River cruise with 11 family members and friends. When my sister and her husband told us they were taking this cruise, we invited ourselves along. (Really, what could they say?) Then when the word got out we were going, others jumped on board, so to speak. The crew honored us one evening with champagne and cake. Everything about the cruise was lovely.
Next was a joint celebratory luncheon with our daughter’s in-laws, who were also celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary. We consider them dear friends, and the four of us share many family members and friends. This party was at the Jersey Shore. (Note: I have spent enough summers here to know we were at the Jersey Shore, not on the Jersey Shore.)
Then our children treated all the grandparents to an afternoon in Manhattan for lunch and tickets to see “Hamilton.” (The first thing people want to know is, not, “How was Hamilton?” but rather, “How did you get tickets?” Answer: The tickets were a gift.)
Prior to attending the performance we listened to the audio, Hamilton: The Revolution, by Lin-Manuel Miranda (yes, that Lin-Manuel Miranda) and Jeremy McCarter (audio is also available in print). We cannot rave enough about how this book/audio enriched our watching the performance. Not only did we get some insight into the content, we were “taken backstage” and learned about the seven-year journey it took to turn this Broadway musical into a national phenomenon.
All of these celebrations were special and wonderful, but the most memorable gift of all is the book my daughter made for us. She contacted 70 of our closest family members and friends and asked them to write something for the book and to provide photographs.
I get teary every time I look at it.
This book is such a powerful reminder that all of us impact and influence people all the time in ways we would not have guessed, or even remembered. Our grandsons talk about the things they have learned from us, e.g., mountain biking, knee-boarding, paddle boarding, Scrabble. Our now-grown nieces and nephews reference large family gatherings we hosted decades ago – events that they now want to duplicate with their own young families. Others talk about our helping them in various ways as they faced life-transforming challenges.
Every entry written, every photograph included, fills us with love and gratitude and highlights our good fortune and endless blessings. Be it an anniversary, a birthday, a holiday present, or some other occasion, everyone should be given such a book at least once in his/her lifetime! Truly, the best gift of all.
I close by addressing the question we are always asked when people find out we are celebrating our 50th wedding anniversary: “What is The Secret to making it to 50 years?” Gary and I have a little routine worked out. The question gets asked, and I sweetly demur to Gary as he replies, “When Mama is happy, Papa is happy.” And I add, “It took him a long time to learn that.” Knowing smiles all around.
We will let you know if our answer to The Secret has changed when we celebrate our 60th wedding anniversary.
Ask Dr. Gramma Karen is published every other Tuesday.
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