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A Sixtieth Wedding Anniversary
Thought for the Fortnight
It is what young people these days would call ‘surreal’ – you and I know this is a complete misuse of this word.
But it is certainly hard to believe.
My husband I got married sixty years ago.
How is it possible that I have been married to the same person for a whole sixty years? How is it possible that I am old enough to do so? In my head, I am still 45 – perhaps 55 on a bad day.
But it is true.
It does bring back memories of that date so long ago. It was a sunny June day in New York City. I wore a short white dress (intended for bridesmaids) and my husband-to-be wore an ill-fitting suit, the only one he owned. We were 21 and 22, both graduate students with only two not-very-generous fellowships to keep us going.
The wedding took place in my parents’ apartment, as we wanted a simple affair.
It was officiated by a female judge of some note (Justine Wise Polier, the first woman justice in New York and the daughter of a famous rabbi), chosen because she was a friend of my family.
Some friends and family members were assembled in the living room for the occasion. We played the bridal march on the record player and I entered the room on my father’s arm, with him protesting all the way. He didn’t want to be part of any ceremony and he wasn’t thrilled with my choice of husband. (Happily, he relented over time).
Everything else went OK except for one moment that was the stuff of nightmares. It was the time of the vows and I was asked if I would take George to be my lawfully wedded husband. George was a friend of ours – not the man at my side. My mind went into panic mode until I remembered that it was also my husband’s official first name, never used.
And then it was over, we kissed briefly and I exclaimed with girlish enthusiasm, “We did it!!”
And so we had.
Our honeymoon consisted of one night in a hotel in Central Park South. We had dinner with friends that evening in Greenwich Village, followed by a memorable trip on a horse and cart around Central Park. I had been longing to do that for years.
I wasn’t pregnant, there was no ‘need’ for a marriage, but we were set on having it.
We had absolutely no idea where our future lay.
Those Sixty Years
A lot happened in those sixty years.
Over the course of time, we had two terrific but very different children, who are now middle aged, hard as that is to believe. They both married and produced one grandson each. Good and loving spouses, both. Wonderful boys but again very different. I could never have imagined these people – any of them – on that day in 1963.
We both had reasonably successful professional careers and then retired (well, I still write – I never know whether to write ‘retired’ or ‘writer’ on those forms that ask what you do). In both cases, I think we achieved more than we would have predicted on our wedding day, but neither of us is famous.
Just quietly content with our lives both now and as they have unfolded.
And the world has changed in so many ways since that June day. In the US where we were then living, John Kennedy was President, having not yet shocked the world by his very public assassination. In England, where we were to move permanently some years later, Harold Macmillan was Prime Minister, albeit again not for long. Anyone remember him?
Everywhere, the political scene has changed beyond all recognition. So many issues have become salient and then disappeared off the scene. So many new issues have emerged to worry about. Back then, no one had heard of climate change. Or AI. Or lots of other matters we worry over now.
Women at that time were generally expected to stay at home to look after their families, not go out to work. This was not my plan, but things were slowly changing and, in this respect, I was in the vanguard. Fortunately – or perhaps I should say necessarily – my husband was of the same view.
And technology is of such a different order. It is hard to remember all the things that had not yet been invented. Indeed, some things have come and gone, like CDs and fax machines.
But most significantly to our lives now, the internet was a long way away. No instant information at your finger tips. No mobile phones, no texts. No computers, no email, no spam.
And certainly no online newsletters.
Are we still the same people today?
I find this an interesting question but have no answer.
Yes, we have the same underlying personalities, intelligence and character. We both still love to joke around with each other. And talk, talk, talk about anything and everything. And, yes, we haven’t forgotten how to kiss and cuddle.
But we are both so much more confident people that I don’t think our younger selves would recognise this old settled couple in any way.
I tell anyone who asks that our marriage is so much happier today than it was back then. By miles. The immense adjustments of the first year of marriage are horrendous. So many compromises, so many arguments, so many expectations slowly quashed. You think you are in love, but you really have no idea.
But love grows over time and becomes something very strong and deep. The pleasures of the every-day take over – the meals together, the films seen together, the places gone together, the decisions taken together.
It becomes hard to remember not being happily married. Not having that person who knows you like no one else, who cares for you like no one else and without whom life would be very dull indeed. And you both feel the same way.
There is both an enormous joy and a sense of wonder in a close marriage.
It doesn’t take sixty years at all.
But if you’re lucky, it will last that long.