This week marks my thirtieth wedding anniversary. Thirty great years, two lovely children, so much fun, so many memories. But how does one celebrate a landmark occasion? On our tenth anniversary, I organised a secret trip to Iceland for the four of us – to the country, not the frozen food shop. My intention was to pack a bag and we’d go, with no-one but me knowing where we were heading. I’d reveal our exciting destination at the airport. All was going well until a great friend blurted, ‘Enjoy Iceland’ and that was it. Secret busted wide open. But it didn’t matter – we laughed, we went and we had a great time, me, Big G and the kids, who were probably eight and seven at the time. We saw the northern lights; we swam in the blue lagoon and we marvelled at geysers and waterfalls. We sang and laughed and rolled in snow. Heaven. Wonderful memories…
When we reached the landmark twentieth anniversary, nothing special happened. It was probably all lost in a fog of kids’ A levels and school and hard work and all the happy stuff that fills time. It didn’t early matter – we were all having fun. Every day was special, but I don’t remember what we did.
Now it’s our thirtieth anniversary already – that seems to have come out of nowhere, so fast – and the kids have their own lives. One’s in London, one’s in the north, so Big G and I should be doing something really special. I wanted to go to Hawaii or India. Expensive, I know, but I’ve seen the date coming for thirty years. He simply wanted breakfast in London, at the top of the Shard, watching the sun rise. We discussed taking the day off, going to the beach, just spending time.
Our wedding day wasn’t at all special or memorable. It wasn’t the most wonderful day of my life, but it didn’t matter. I wanted to go to St Kitts and jump over a broomstick and I ended up shivering in the cold Devon wind. Afterwards, my parents, who didn’t attend, rang my brother and told him to come home for his tea. A child tried to stab the wedding cake and apparently someone shrieked at him. We’d been in our house for less than a week – there was no heating and the wallpaper was hanging off the walls. No-one took photos. It was typical of me – nothing was really planned. I wasn’t really bothered enough about a single day – it was about being with the person I love afterwards. The thirty years that followed were infinitely so much better.
I’m the least romantic person I know – so, for our anniversary this year, I suggested we postpone celebrations, do something another time, the spring, or maybe the summer, maybe next year. The anniversary will come and go and we might remember to pop out for a chai latte if we have time, or cook something nice for supper, open a bottle.
How staid and ridiculous. Where’s the fun? Where did my real self go? Instead, we should get up before dawn and climb to the top of Culmstock beacon. If the weather is good, we’ll drive in an open top car to the beach in Braunton, eat spicy cauli wings and drink wine in the surf café for breakfast, go sand surfing on the dunes, blast up the motorway for a cream tea in Clifton. If it rains, we’ll still go and wear scarves and balaclavas. Then we’ll drive on – spend the night in a castle in Wales or keep going until we get to Scotland. We’ll meet up with family, beloved friends, drink champagne. Then we’ll book another trip to Iceland and eat ice cream in the blue lagoon again when we get there.
If we’re not careful, Big G and I will both spend the whole day sitting opposite each other working on our laptops, stopping for a biscuit at four, discussing whether we might turn up the heating or make a cup of hot chocolate. We’re so lucky to be together, but we ought to capture the moment. Where’s the celebration? Where are the memories? We can do better than stare at a laptop all day.
It’s so easy to put off celebrating. I’m really good at helping others to celebrate and not so bright at doing it for myself. It comes from a sense of ‘well, it’s only me, it doesn’t matter – there will be another time.’ I don’t think I’ve even mentioned the anniversary to anyone. I may have been too busy…
That’s not good enough, is it? I remember the story of a man who kept an incredible stock of fine wine that he meant to share and enjoy, and he died before he opened a single bottle. There’s a metaphor if ever I heard one.
I am blessed to have spent the last thirty years with the nicest, hunkiest, sweetest man I ever met. We have two gorgeous, fun, special, adorable (grown) children. And I remind myself every day that I am truly fortunate. Yes, that’s celebration enough, of course it is. But it’s also about making memories, seizing the moment, living the pure joy of love.
I think this year’s celebration will be spontaneous – it’s as yet not decided. But whatever it is, it will be awesome. And maybe we’ll go to the Shard for our 31st and to Hawaii for our 32nd. The anniversary doesn’t need to end with a zero. It doesn’t even need to be an anniversary. It’s about making each day count and being glad to be alive, while we can. That’s what’s really special…