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What Does 25 Years of Marriage Look Like?

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I find it a little odd that a twenty fifth anniversary is denoted with silver. Personally, unless it’s referring to hair color, that just comes off as too bright, shiny and new for something that is a quarter century old. To support my case I refer you to the attached photograph. That is what twenty five years will do to something. That oven mitt was a shower present from the parents of our flower girl and Jr. Groomsman (seriously, you gonna trust a nine year old with your rings?) who hosted the shower. It used to be black and white, to coordinate with our red, white and black kitchen that we never had. Despite it’s appearance it’s been washed many times. That thing has seen a lot of pizzas, many Thanksgiving turkeys and there is likely some caramel residue melded into the terrycloth from the sweet dough and pudding concoction that I now have to make two of on Christmas morning to accommodate the growing crowd.

Underneath the oven mitt is what once was a white plate. Jeff did not come with to register before our wedding because he was not comfortable with the idea of telling people what we wanted, thought it felt greedy. So I chose the onyx black octagon dish set that you don’t see pictured here. Jeff was indeed surprised as we opened our gifts “Nancy, it’s an indoor grill!” he would say and I would respond with “Yes, I saw that when I registered for it.”. Of course there were gifts that we did not register for, that our friends who just knew us well gave us. That is how we ended up with five coolers and two sets of beer mugs. There was also the “no confidence” vote gift of patterned paper napkins that came from a relative who will remain nameless here, they were not the only ones who thought maybe getting married after seven months might be rushing into something. Jeff figured out that rather than returning a bunch of things we didn’t want that my registering had in fact been a good idea and time saving measure. That did not mean that he necessarily loved everything I had selected which was sort of why I’d encouraged him to participate in the first place but I wasn’t going to force the guy. Hell, I barely knew him!

The electric griddle went back and was exchanged for a stove top one that has been his go-to weekend breakfast cookware for our entire marriage. The black octagon dishes were too something for Jeff. You fill in the word, he never was able to. Shiny, fancy, linear, pretentious, it may have been that they were just too black. He liked a traditional round shape, white, with no pattern. I loved the black and thought that it would go nicely in our red, white and black kitchen (which you know we never had) and with our black handled utensils. So we bought a set of white and a set of black dishes of the same design and that was perhaps our first compromise. I have always stacked them alternating in color upon removing them from the dishwasher, so that the table always would have both. Today our cupboard has eight dinner plates, eight bread plates and there are three remaining bowls. I have supplemented our bowl selection with a rainbow of Fiestaware. The black handled utensils were replaced with a Mother’s Day gift of new stainless a couple of years ago.

Wedding gifts are not the only things that change during a twenty five year marriage. I came into the marriage with a 1986 Ford Escort, it was the first new car I had ever purchased. I bought it during my first job out of college while I was living in Missouri. I drove that car to Texas to visit my brother and his wife one Thanksgiving, I drove it back to St. Cloud with a friend so we could celebrate St. Patrick’s Day. That car moved when I did to Wisconsin to work at UW-Stout and took me to Mankato many times when Jeff and I were dating. The car moved back to Minnesota with Jeff and I, it drove me and my mom to my obstetrician appointments and eventually to lunches with her first grandchild secure in the back seat. That car finally died while I was out with Betsy getting supplies for her first birthday party. When Jeff and I met he had a lovely red Corvette. Typically he would get a clunker for the winter to get him around Mankato and store the ‘vette. After we met he decided that he needed a reliable winter car to visit me. I told him it was his choice but I never wanted to hear him say he regretted getting rid of the car (my father carried a picture of a car he loved in his wallet until the day he died) he has kept his word and made an even trade of his sporty car for a practical Honda Civic. Since then an Olds, a Taurus, an Accord, a couple of mini vans, a CRV that saved my life and we are now driving my replacement CRV and his Volvo that has taken us to Duluth, Door County, New Ulm and the cabin numerous times.

We’ve worked different places. He was working at Sherwood Auto Parts when we met and was never able to find work in Menomonie until after I’d resigned my Hall Director position. He continued as an Army Reservist with his Mankato scout platoon during our first couple of years of marriage. He ended up at M & L motor supply when we were living in Hopkins while I worked as a sales associate at Carson Pirie Scott, taught community education and covered a maternity leave for a community ed director. I temped at a microfilm processor which was a soul sucking experience for an extrovert and taught two-year old kids at Hugs & Hearts while my best friend Melanie took care of babies at the end of the hall in the infant room. That led to lots of longer babysitting jobs and a nanny position when Betsy was a baby. I eventually took an on-site position in off-campus housing at the University of Minnesota where we lived for four years, during which time Eddie joined our family. Jeff continued in auto parts at Bumper to Bumper and Diesel Services and about the time we moved to St. Paul he began his job at Datacard which eventually lead to the position he holds there now.

The kids both started school in St. Paul where we lived for four years. I was a Brownie Troop leader, active in local politics and served as the president for my high school’s foundation, I was the parent chair for the initial site council at Battle Creek school. When we moved to Bloomington I taught Art Masterpiece at Westwood elementary where Betsy and Eddie attended. Kids activities from BAA sports and high school Lacrosse and eventually track for Betsy to Theater, Student Government and Choir for Eddie kept everyone busy. Now Betsy is a Junior at Bemidji State and Eddie a freshman at Carthage in Kenosha, Wisconsin.

On our basement wall we have a series of pictures from places we have traveled and what is not covered there is tucked away in albums. Though time and finances have not always permitted us the opportunity to travel as much as we would like that may be part of what makes some of those travels so special. Jeff and I went to Las Vegas twenty years ago to renew our wedding vows. We drove to South Dakota one summer with the kids and took a trip to Disney World ten years ago with one of Jeff’s college roommates and his family. Jeff and I went on a cruise with one of my bridesmaids to celebrate their 10 year anniversary (our 14th). As a family we took a cruise and with my best friends family we spent a spring break in Mexico. Our travels are captured in pictures but are most cherished for the funny stories and many memories that they bring to mind.

Though life is comprised of days, getting out of bed and what happens before you return to it, sometimes it is the celebrations that make it memorable. We have celebrated in big and small ways many weddings, births, anniversaries, New Years Eve parties, Fourth of July cook outs, Christmas Eve’s with the Pribyl side and Christmas breakfast with the Rose side. We’ve had some fabulous birthdays from Betsy’s Camp Pribyl themed camp-out to Jeff’s swinging 1960’s cocktail party fiftieth and a ridiculous amount of surprise parties for me (seriously Jeff, nobody celebrates a 45th birthday). We have enjoyed the friendships of many.

Twenty five years can’t simply be comprised of happy times, new cars, fresh babies and parties. What reflecting on a quarter century reminds you to do is value today because you are not promised a tomorrow and that what seems like a horrible thing can end up being for the best and that even when somebody is no longer with you that their memory can still make you smile. My parents are no longer with us, Jeff and I have both lost cousins and we lost Jeff’s brother Don to cancer when he was barely forty. We’ve seen illness and watched people triumph over both sickness and injury. We’ve wept at the loss of pets like inconsolable kids. Each time when we have hurt in some way, been wronged or felt defeated, we have relied on each other, loved each other and eventually one of us had made the other laugh.

Laughter has been the constant in our marriage, from the absolutely improbable reality of us realizing we were in love, through the frustrations of relationships and misunderstandings with others, right there in the delivery room when we were growing our family and eventually as empty-nesters on the couch in the basement with a dog watching Wheel of Fortune. We laugh at movies whose lines we will repeat a thousand times until we believe the words are our own and we laugh knowing that if someone asks our children how long we’ve been married they will respond with “Twenty five long arduous years!” which was even funnier when they were younger and had no idea what the word arduous meant.

So look again at what that white plate looks like. It has an almost lacy pattern across it, the hash marks of utensils dragging across it thousands of times, over years and years. That plate has been through a lot, it knows it doesn’t look as good as the day it came out of the box from Dayton’s, it knows that some of the bowls met early breakage and yet it is reliable and I know when I go to the cupboard (and it has survived through many) I can depend on it to be there for my intended purpose. That’s what 25 years of marriage looks like!

P.S. In looking back on our wedding party, attendees and circle of friends (including those whose invites were lost in the mail), through death or divorce there are few that have made it the whole way with us. Even our junior groomsman has recently divorced. We know for some it just took longer to discover the right partner. Among those of our generation for whom we have great admiration and appreciate your example I wish to both thank and acknowledge; Steve and Jill Rose, Rich and Robyn Renfroe, Paul and Joy Slechta, Rick and Sherri Browne! My apologies and congratulations to those whom I may have forgotten to acknowledge who have celebrated a silver anniversary.

 

 

 

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