On Monday of this week we celebrated my wife’s birthday. Without sharing a specific number (a woman never tells her age), I will say that it was a ‘milestone’. She and I went ‘in town’ to a fancy restaurant for lunch, then returned home for presents and cake with the kids, and finally had supper together (all the while enduring the hottest June 12th on record). While some may say that our festivities were meager given the circumstances for celebration, it was exactly what the birthday girl wanted – a time to break from the routine of laundry, dishes and ‘taxi service’ and simply enjoy the blessings of life with those we love.
I don’t believe I am ‘telling tales out of school’ in saying that milestone birthday can be hard. In the days leading up to her birthday, as was the case 16 months ago with my milestone birthday, my wife voiced some uneasiness in acknowledging another candle was being added to the cake. It is at these times that we all tend to reflect on those missed opportunities, regret those unwise decisions and recalibrate to what now seems possible. We joke with one another about being “over the hill” (as long as it isn’t our birthday we’re talking about) and wonder if our best days are behind us.
Milestones, like big birthdays, also remind us of where we’ve been and how far we’ve travelled. I have known my wife since she was sixteen and celebrated it with her ever since she was eighteen. We’ve celebrated a few times during summer break from college, once while planning our wedding and as even newlyweds and new parents. We’ve celebrated at her parents’ home, at our six different homes and at dozens of diverse restaurants. We’ve celebrated some birthdays after long days at work, others on warm weekends and one at a High School awards ceremony. Each year has been different. All those celebrations have now become mental snapshots of a life well lived and a life well loved.
I know that I have given Jeanine a present or two each of the years we’ve been together, but, for the life of me, I cannot remember a single one with any specificity. I think this is because, in my opinion, the best gift given on her birthday is not the one she receives from us but the one she is to us. She is the anchor of our family, preventing us from drifting toward disaster. She is the glue in her relationships, keeping us together. She is the optimist in the most pessimistic of predicaments. All those who know Jeanine understand that the world is a better, kinder, sweeter place because she is in it.
May your fountain be blessed, and may you rejoice in the wife of your youth. Proverbs 5:18
As the cliché goes, age is just a number. While that may be true, birthdays are special; it celebrates the day God gave us one another. I praise God that I could spend so many days celebrating the important people in my life, especially Jeanine. Happy Birthday to you.
My wife and I just returned from New York City where we celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary. We had a wonderful time without the kids – staying at a cozy vintage hotel, sitting in the audience of three different television shows, catching a Broadway play while it was still in previews and eating out at some fabulous restaurants. It was a joy to be with Jeanine and experience new things as a couple, including Peruvian food and the Central Park Carousel. Whether we were walking through Times Square or taking the subway to 96th Street, we were together. It was a great few days.
Being in New York has reminded me of some of the lessons I’ve learned though a quarter-century of marriage.
- Perception is not reality. In New York, we saw four stages and all of them were dressed to trick the eyes: we were not really in a producer’s bedroom, a friend’s kitchen, a host’s living room or a large open brick meeting hall. In marriage, the perception of the wedding – a princess and her groom being pampered in every conceivable manner – quickly fades and the reality of two intensely individual people sharing life and space just as quickly emerges. The hope is that we hold onto what is real and not what we imagine.
- Small pleasures are often the sweetest. In New York, some of the most pleasant moments were not extravagant or expensive, whether it be walking above the traffic in the High Line Park or sampling blueberry balsamic in Chelsea Markets. In marriage, there are little joys just about every day, like wildflowers blooming through the cracks of the sidewalk, and the sum total of these tiny delights far outweigh the seldom but more spectacular celebrations a couple may enjoy. Savor the small things and your heart will always have joy.
- Life is not a vacation. In New York, we stayed in a hotel and ate out for every meal; there were no concerns for dirty laundry, dirty dishes or dirty floors. In marriage, all these things are present in abundance. Vacations are important, but few have the resources to maintain that lifestyle. In long-haul marriages, the couple expects to work and struggle for a majority of the time, and in the mundane things appreciate the efforts of the other.
- If it is important, it is worth planning. Weeks before our trip, we made arrangements for the tickets, the trains and the accommodations that made the time away a blessing. In marriage, a modicum of thought and effort goes a long way; with a little planning, couples build memories and lives of love and commitment.
We had such a good time spending 3 days in the Big Apple, but we’ve had an even better time celebrating love and married life for the previous 9,130 days. Thank you, Jeanine, for sharing this wonderful, trying and strange life with me.
“Enjoy life with your wife, whom you love, all the days of this meaningless life that God has given you….” Ecclesiastes 9:9
“May your fountain be blessed, and may you rejoice in the wife of your youth.” Proverbs 5:18