Twenty-Two Years (and Six Days)

In 1999, we didn’t have much money. But we wanted to do something special to celebrate our first wedding anniversary. So we booked one night at a Bed & Breakfast in Ohio Amish Country, and we made an adventure of it. We took walks. We toured a dairy where they made Swiss cheese and gave away free samples. As relative newlyweds, we visited kitschy shops catering to bus tour groups of people triple our age — without buying anything. We did it on a tight budget, but we did it. Thus our anniversary tradition of getting away from “regular life” for at least one night was born.

No anniversary gifts. No public celebration. Just the two of us intentionally enjoying each other’s company in some special way.

In 2005, we had two children under the age of three. We let our anniversary come and go, convinced that it was just too difficult to make arrangements for another anniversary getaway. But a month later, we rallied to pull together a belated celebration. Some friends from our church agreed to care for our kids. So we looked for discount airline tickets, booked the cheapest two-star hotel we could find, and went to Barcelona. Which sounds pretty exotic now (and indeed, it was a memorable getaway). But at the time, it was really just maintaining our tradition by the skin of our teeth. As we watched the Magic Fountain of Montjuïc at the end of our first day in Barcelona, we renewed our commitment to this annual tradition. Even when it was hard to do so.

The next big test came in 2009, when we had three children under the age of seven. With two of our kids in school by that point, it felt more complicated to get away. We ate a super-fancy dinner on the day of our actual anniversary — which is still, to this day, one of the most memorable, most expensive dining experiences we’ve ever enjoyed — but we stayed at our own apartment to reduce complexity. Awhile later, however, we decided that we didn’t want our anniversary streak to end. So we scrambled to organize the simplest overnight adventure we could come up with: an hour-and-a-half train ride to a 30-minute ferry ride to the Dutch island of Texel. Not exactly magical (especially with uncooperative weather that weekend), but still worthwhile.

In 2020, the world is gripped by a century pandemic. So even though our kids don’t require nearly as much care as they have in previous years, and even though we have a budget established for our annual trips, travel restrictions are problematic. Officials advise us to stay away from cities and airports. So we decided that we had to stay pretty local. After a little bit of research — and adjusting our schedule to accommodate Elliot’s graduation — we settled on a short drive south and east to the rural part of Ohio where it meets with West Virginia and Pennsylvania.

I figured it might be a tame, lame anniversary experience. But it actually ended up being really refreshing. We took walks. Driving within a relatively short radius, we found interesting places to get food. And we did a lot of reading and resting in our cabin. But such an approach to this year’s anniversary actually felt exactly right. We needed the rest and the change of scenery, without too much adventure or fanfare.

I’m glad we kept the tradition alive — in spite of the obstacles. Even more, I’m glad to have married a woman who’s interesting, funny, thoughtful, adventurous, and wise. Here’s to our next 22 years together!

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