May 7, 2020
I really hate this damn virus. But it gave us the best anniversary we’ve ever had.
I’d been mourning the romantic trip we’d planned to take at the end of last month, when our daughter was supposed to be away at Calculus Camp and our boys would be, as we thought they would be for the foreseeable future, off at college.
Of course, that didn’t happen.
What happened instead was even better: we had all three kids home with us for our 25th wedding anniversary.
I don’t know about you, but when I had kids, this was the dream — to create a new family that I actually enjoyed spending time with. That’s not how it always went for many years. Individually, each child has been a joy, but together they would wear me down to a nub. This one needed this and this one needed that. Someone hit someone. Someone broke something. Someone COULD NOT COPE.
Sometimes I’d pass a mirror, see my reflection, and startle. I was still there. I’d almost forgotten about my own existence.
Other times I’d crumple in despair, wondering who I’d become and what, if anything, would emerge when this never-ending storm finally passed through my life.
Being married in those days was like reaching out in the dark, feeling for his hand, getting maybe his elbow or his shoulder, and thinking, “Right, okay, thank God you’re still there.” Or it was fighting about who should do what and whose days were worse and who was more tired and who was more worn out — then taking a deep breath, and remembering we were both trying our best, in our different ways.
This quarantine has not been easy on our kids. Each one has struggled in his or her own way. But the kids have been easy on us. Not just easy. They have been a joy, individually and collectively. (I know this isn’t the case for many people. All I can say is — I feel you. Also — it’s not your fault.)
So that is the very best, completely unexpected part of our anniversary. They are home, and we love having them here.
And that would have been more than enough. But there was more.
No, the kids did not make us dinner. Did you think I raised saints?
I made dinner — grilled pork tenderloin, roasted rosemary potatoes and sauteed kale with lemon juice and olive oil. I was all ready to serve it, too, at 6:55 p.m., but my husband was out on one of his walks (he’s mostly in motion), so I lay down on the living room couch and started scrolling through Facebook while I waited for him to get back.
Our friend Glen had sent us a Flintstones video of Fred and friends singing Wilma “Happy Anniversary,” so I was watching that, remembering how much I loved The Flintstones, when I started to hear all this noise on the street outside. There were people yelling and horns honking. I was annoyed, because whoever was doing what, it was interfering with my Flintstones song. Then my daughter, standing at the front door, said, “Mom? Do you want to come here?”
I walked out the front door and there was my husband coming up the driveway and there were some of our best friends on the street, some on foot, some in cars, yelling “Happy Anniversary!” They were the ones honking horns and banging pans, and they were doing it for us.
I asked Bill twice if he organized it, because I couldn’t imagine how else it occurred, but he kept saying no. There were friends from our neighborhood and friends from our temple, and one or two friends who didn’t fit either description. It was astonishing. It took me five full minutes just to process what I was seeing.
It turned out it was the work of my dear friend Orley, whom I met back in 1989 when I spent a semester studying abroad in England. Orley really deserves a blog post of her own sometime, so let me just say for now that I defy anyone to find a better friend than her. My life would not be as good without her in it.
Also. There was Melissa poking through her minivan’s sunroof with a Happy Anniversary sign. There was Paul with his little white dog. There was Melanie with a silver pom-pom and her husband Peter with his camera, recording it all. There was Danielle driving by. There was Karen and Eric, both recovered from the virus, with their dog and their son Adam, sporting a big bright yellow sign, cheering at the foot of our driveway. And Risa and Steve tossing us a silver envelope and Luz leaving us a bouquet of flowers and Damien pumping his fist across the street and Carin and Greg driving by with another homemade sign and Michele and Jeremy waving from the far sidewalk and Karen and Matt and their boys waving multiple signs and yelling and honking as they went past and Jami and her daughter banging pans on our lawn wearing some of the puffiest masks I’ve seen and Anne and her kids smiling and waving from the street and our rabbi and her husband laughing and calling as they joined the moving car parade.
Like I said, astonishing. Thanks to all, including Michelle who helped Orley and Melanie organize, but couldn’t be there because her son was out with the car.
Then we ran inside, gobbled down dinner, and ran back out again to join what our neighbor Patti calls our “viral orchestra.” That means a bunch of our neighbors, gathered in front of someone’s house, banging pots and pans and singing “Happy Birthday” (it started with our middle son’s birthday on April 4, and has continued apace since then. Two birthdays in a row next week!) Last night the birthday boy was our neighbor Ken. When we finished serenading him, the group decided it was our turn.
“What shall we sing?” Anne asked.
“The viral orchestra only knows one song,” Patti replied. And so they sang us “Happy Anniversary” to the tune of “Happy Birthday.”
And still, the day wasn’t over. When we got inside, we hauled out the wedding photos that usually languish in the garage, and marveled over how different everyone looked back then. Then my husband presented a power point he’d made about our lives together (25 years in five slides). By the end, he had me laughing so hard I was crying.
Of course, me being me, all that emotion erupted in a migraine this morning. But that’s why they invented medication.
The medication is pretty strong, and so I’m a bit loopy this afternoon, and not sure if what I wrote above makes much sense. And I don’t have the brain power to go back and edit it into shape.
But — wow. What a day. Brought to us by the coronavirus. Okay, no, not by the coronavirus, which has no upside at all, but by the quarantine. Which can be awful, and wonderful and even, occasionally, astonishing.
Sort of like raising children.