According to myanniversary.com, there is no traditional gift for celebrating the occasion of a 57th wedding anniversary, although one may give a glass object or a mirror.
Those seem fitting gifts after spending two score and seventeen years together. After that much time, you know what is fragile about each other. You know how not to break things, hearts, dreams. You know that certain things need to be handled delicately and some things will leave a telltale fingerprint.
After 57 years, you may see parts of yourself in the other. There’s a shared kindness, a common sense of direction through paths traveled together, paths that have wound through children and mortgages and career disappointments. After 57 years you have the same worry lines in the forehead and the same laugh creases around the eyes.
I did not buy my parents a piece of glass art or a mirror when they celebrated their 57th anniversary earlier this year. I may have sent them a card, but I doubt it. I think I called them.
But what I would say to them (and do, since they read this blog), and to my in-laws whose 57th anniversary is coming up in a few weeks – and to anyone who makes it to 5+ decades – is this:
You deserve a standing ovation and some really comfortable slippers.
You have set a high bar for those who aspire not only to a long marriage but also a happy one.
The way you care for each other inspires me. My dad has needed a little more help than usual lately and my mom has been there, every moment, without a complaint, without a sigh. My dad has never missed an opportunity to thank her or to remind my siblings and me how amazing she is.
None of us knows when we start a marriage where it will lead us, who we will be at the end of a year or a decade or five decades. None of us knows if we’ll recognize the face in the mirror as that long ago blushing bride or that fresh-faced groom. None of us knows what will get broken and if it will be reparable. None of us knows what heartache or disappointment will do to us.
But none of us knows what love and fidelity will do to us either.
It took me a while to find the person I wanted to marry and it’s doubtful we’ll have fifty-seven years together. Possible, but doubtful. But my parents and my husband’s parents would be the first to say that the years are just a number; it’s what fills those years that matters.
May those years be filled with trust and laughter, honesty, argument, and some good old fashioned lust now and then; may they be filled with friendship, and sorrow that abates over time, and whispers and music and dancing, even if your song is “Bad, Bad, Leroy Brown.” May they be filled with the light of early morning and the shine of a new spring moon. May they be filled with wonder and familiarity, with respect, with a sense of what is precious. May they be filled with the usual things: love, forgiveness, grace, and gratitude.
Fifty-seven years. Wow.