A lot of couples are celebrating impressive wedding anniversaries these days. Thirty years or more is pretty common among my circle of friends and acquaintances. But Douglas and I know people who have been married 40, 45, 50 years and longer. That’s a lot of accumulated wisdom, presumably, about the nature of intimacy, the importance of companionship and the mysterious and seemingly imperilled institution of marriage.
By contrast, he and I have just marked the tender first year of our marriage. It’s my second marriage and his third, for a cumulative total of 55 years of matrimony so far. To celebrate, we visited a new restaurant just upriver in Winterport — a tiny, hole-in-the-wall joint called Amigo’s West Coast Taqueria. It’s on the west coast of the Penobscot River, you might say, but it really channels a southern California barrio vibe.
Amigo’s wouldn’t be everyone’s idea of a romantic spot for an anniversary dinner, but it suited us just fine. With just three vinyl-benched booths and a few bar stools, the place can seat about 20 people comfortably. The service was fast and friendly, the food fresh, authentic and fabulous.
We toasted our marriage with bottled brews — mine a local brown beer and Douglas’ a light, tequila-infused lager — and the good fortune of having found each other. After enjoying our supper and the company of a handful of obvious “regulars,” we took a short stroll through the darkening streets of Winterport, a once-prosperous little river town that feels perennially hopeful and poised for recovery. It was a perfect, low-key way to celebrate this first, hopeful anniversary.
Many people our age are managing life without partners, by choice or by fortune. I get that and understand it’s no tragedy. Douglas and I acknowledged early in our relationship that we were both the marryin’ kind, but we didn’t rush into anything. We met online and spent a year cultivating an easy friendship before things heated up. Another year passed before I moved in with him, and then 18 months of carefree cohabitation before we agreed to tie the knot.
Our wedding took place about nine months later, at Douglas’ mother’s gracious home in South Portland. We kept it small. Just about 30 of us gathered there, including our minister and his wife — who are also our good friends and neighbors here in Sandy Point — a few old friends and our closest family members. The September day was glorious, the house was filled with flowers and we felt celebrated and upheld in making this deep commitment to each other.
Although Douglas and I have both experienced the pain of divorce and the untimely death of a loved one, we feel calm and confident moving forward into the future together. Maybe it’s because we’re older and know what we do about ourselves as individuals, about cultivating joy and navigating adversity. We know love is not some abstract, romantic notion, but rather an active choice we make every day.
This weekend, we’re headed to New Hampshire to witness and celebrate the marriage of my nephew to the outstanding young woman who has been his partner for several years, now. We delight in knowing they’ve tested the waters of their relationship and are moving forward together with their eyes and hearts open.
Marriage is not to be entered into unadvisedly or lightly, but reverently, deliberately and in accordance with the purposes for which it was instituted by God, in the time-tested language of the marriage service in the Episcopal Book of Common Prayer. Despite distressing divorce statistics and the unhappy outcomes of so many marriages, I find joy and hope in the ongoing commitments we make to each other. I am grateful for the friends who have forged long, enduring marriages that light the way for others to follow, even as we sometimes falter, stumble, fail and, blessedly, start over.