After so many years of marriage, Mark and I will look at each other across the kitchen table several days before our anniversary and one of us will say to the other, “Are we doing cards this year? What about presents? Do we have anything for each other?”
Sometimes we’ll go to lunch at our favorite restaurant, the Eiffel Tower, and when the waiter, also named Mark, hears it’s our anniversary, he’ll bring complementary glasses of champagne to our table. Afterwards we’ll stroll through the streets of Leesburg, visit antique shops, and pick up interesting objects depending upon our current fancy, the umpteenth edition of Beautiful Joe for me, or yet another “This might be a Mason” decoy for Mark.
Early in our marriage Mark would get me useful gifts, an iron skillet or a blender, and that was okay the first few times when I would remind myself that I loved his practical nature. By about the tenth year I issued a dire warning: “You had better not get me a frying pan or a coffee pot.”
On our anniversary that year I unwrapped a package of socks, and I was not kind, I was not polite. Mark and the girls started laughing, so I tore the plastic off the socks, shook them out and a small white box fell into my lap. It contained an Art Deco garnet ring I had longed for when I spotted it at an antiques show in McLean.
A couple of times after that Mark surprised me with an anniversary weekend in Charleston, South Carolina, and another one in New Orleans, until the year his mother talked her way on board and I stayed behind!
This past decade we’ve fallen into the habit of pre-purchasing our own gifts. Mark will buy himself a decoy or I’ll buy myself a quilt and we’ll say to each other: “This can be my anniversary gift.” It’s fine, too, because lovely objects are hidden away and more than once we’ve forgotten where they are or that we even have them! Truly, when something was purchased five months previously, it is all too easy to forget and the delight is genuine.
There was a funny shift in the tradition on our 39th year of marriage, however, that produced a welcomed nostalgia, a sweet kind of dé jà vu. Upon mutual agreement, we skipped lunch at the Eiffel Tower and the surprise-surprise self-bought squirreled-away presents. Mark and I celebrated at Sears where he selected a new chain saw and I got a new vacuum.