Only our 1st anniversary was ours alone. By our 2nd anniversary, our first baby was due–the next day, and anniversaries transformed into multi-tasking events. Now, our 40th becomes an occasion to fly up to Canada and get ice skates for our youngest daughter.
November has long been my favorite month, beginning with All Saint’s Day- my birthday, also called Dia de Los Muertos, or Day of the Dead.
The middle of the month, Nov. 17, is our anniversary, 40 years today. It falls exactly between my parent’ anniversary on Nov. 7, and my husband’s parent’s anniversary, Nov. 27, a line-up of marriages that lasted over 50 and 60 years, such as they were.
My father-in-law died the day after their 60th anniversary, on Nov. 28, Thanksgiving, 2002. As if he’d made it to the finish line, he ate his last piece of pumpkin pie, the only thing he ate that day, and then went to bed and died.
As if they’d somehow chosen this date together, my mother flew away on the exact same day last year, having not eaten anything since being given morphine about 8 days earlier (the subject of a larger mother-daughter memoir that I’m working on now).
My husband and I have sometimes joked about the similarly strident personalities of my mother and his father, and what a pair they’d have made, since they seem to sometimes show up in us in our most strident moments. I’ve recently described our marriage as Mother Wound meets Father Wound; we trigger each other in ways it’s taken 40 years to unbury and unpack. We might be on the far side now, learning to laugh about how it all plays out over a lifetime; it takes a lifetime to really know another human being, and be known. So many times we could’ve given up, gone a different direction. But having six kids together gave us just enough baggage to keep trudging down the same path, and now here we are.
We did plan something big for our anniversary- a trip to France and Holland, but it was in the summer, positioned between his 60th birthday the year before, mine this month, and our anniversary. As the actual 40th anniversary date approached, it seemed to call out for a celebration for its own sake, not sandwiched between other events. And yet, life is full; trying to fit more into a month that heads into the holidays with Thanksgiving, while also participating in Nanowrimo (National Novel Writing Month) just felt like a bit much. But I found a timeshare condo in Seaside available that weekend, and it’s only a two hour drive, so I booked it. I figured it could double as a writing retreat, especially since the Oregon Coast in November isn’t all that enticing outdoors. But the warm pool and jacuzzi are right down on the beach. Two weeks before our stay, I got an email saying the pool and jacuzzi would be undergoing renovation that week.
In the end, we flew to Vancouver, BC to get ice skates for our daughter, and return to the place that has the best yam fries we’ve ever tasted. Wicklows, a pub on the bay, seasons their yam fries with coriander, something we discovered on our 36th anniversary, another failed plan coupled with writing research that degraded into the great Canadian yam fry tour (and that’s another story). This time, as we entered the restaurant for the long awaited and sought after yam fries we were turned away because we had our 12 year old with us, and this is a pub. No minors allowed. So we found another place with less than great yam fries, but nice smiles, and we were happy because we’d accomplished the main objective of the trip- get the right ice skates fitted, and now we just had to wait for the blades to be mounted.
Sometimes we go away so we can come home again, and maybe that is why we only stayed one night in Vancouver, BC, when we could’ve stayed two or three (and part of the benefit of flying free). The next day, once we had the skates, we got back on the plane- the open seats were in first class this time, a boon.
On our anniversary, we really want to wake up in our own beds, eat our own whole grain scones that John bakes, delight in the lives we are already living. John and Ari make a frittata together while I go for a run. It might sound like little for a 40th anniversary, but it is really so much, our hearts full, and I can get back to my writing, catch up my Nanowrimo word count on the memoir of my mother’s death, before the one year anniversary of it on November 28.
Birth and death, life and love, November has it all.