How To Be Married For Sixty Years

wedded bliss

wedded bliss

In just nine sleeps my family will all gather at our lakeside cottage to celebrate sixty years of my husband’s parent’s marriage – a remarkable anniversary to plan a three day party around. Only two years ago my side of the family joyously gathered to mark my mom and dad’s union of sixty years, as well. As we plan meals, count air mattresses, and life jackets, text directions and shopping lists for next weeks celebration – I wanted to re-post the blog entry from July 2013 – the year of the flood and the first big party…

My parents were married on June 22nd, 1953 in a small wooden church in central Alberta.  All that day the rain poured down filling the country community yard with mud, so much so that the bridesmaid and her mother photographed their own muddy dress shoes after they pushed their car out of the muck leaving the dance that evening. Sixty years later on June 22nd Calgary, Alberta was waking up from one of the worst floods in its history. A week after, my parent’s children and their spouses, the grandchildren and two great grandchildren, drove and flew from three provinces to laugh under the sun umbrella,

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skunk each other in cribbage,

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jack knife into the cold lake,

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and then they strung the cottage with streamers, set the fanciest table it had ever seen, bedecked the table with wild flower bouquets and finally broke bread together (along with roast beef and piles of local steamed vegetables).fam at table

     After being presented with congratulatory letters from Stephen Harper and none other than her majesty, the Queen of England, the anniversary couple cut their cake, which was festooned with a miniature wedding couple that closely resembled the bride and groom during that year when ‘How Much is That Doggie in the Window’ was a hit song.  As my dad placed his hand over my mom’s along the edge of the knife handle and sliced into the butter cream and chocolate cake, we asked them to reveal the secret to being married for these six decades. My dear, sweet mommy replied, “Tolerance.”  And my funny dad said, “She kept the back door locked, so no escaping that way.”  But really it has been love and admirable devotion, and really and truly having each other’s backs.  I recently read a quote by the actor Jeff Bridges, who was also asked to explain the success of  his long marriage.  He replied that the secret to staying married – is staying married. And maybe you have to be into for a few decades to understand the meaning of that seemingly simple answer.

Rocking the Sixtieth Anniversary Countdown – continued from last post

Our whole lives my parents and I have been traveling by the little town of Field, B.C.on the side of the trans Canada highway as we have climbed or descended through the Rockies on various vacations. This morning, on the second day our travels to their Sixtieth Anniversary weekend destination, we all woke up in this, oh so picturesque, tiny town. I’d learned, googling on my iPad the night before that, “ Field was established during the building of the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) as a locomotive depot for pusher engines required to help trains over the nearby Field Hill and Big Hill.”   train yard

While I waited for Mom and Dad to meet me for breakfast I strolled the mountain streets above the train yards, clicking away with my iphone camera, wondering if I had what it takes to start up a guest house- which appeared to be the main occupation in Field – could I bake a scone, turn down a bed, put up with guests ridiculous questions – like mine, “Hey, anyone know when the TransCanada will open?”

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Finishing off the fat sausages and thick toast with our coffees, we could gaze from the restaurant out to the highway and see that it would be a different sort of drive to the cottage and anniversary weekend.  It would be a drive completely void of the hundreds of big transport trucks normally taking this route to the coast, with the highway still closed at that crucial point behind us.

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As we motored along, winding through the mountains at a relaxed pace, we were stocking up for the weekend, purchasing early B.C fruit at one stand (sweet little strawberries), discovering a new baker at a Salmon Arm coffee shop (whole wheat sourdough), and finally buying the very last of a crop of asparagus to add to our haul – as long as three asparagus a piece for twenty-seven people would work out.

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We drove through Golden and Revelstoke, Sicamous, Salmon Arm and Sorento, traveling in and out of storms, through sunshine and under rainbows, before turning down our steep driveway to the cottage on the lake – where my dad took my mom’s hand, his lovely bride of sixty years, and helped her down the walkway to the party destination.

With my daughters and husband following behind us we’ll all have twenty-four hours  to prepare coleslaw and beet and rice salad, saute Alberta beef, bake nanaimo bars and ginger cookies, blow up air mattresses and freshen rooms, sweep the decks and buy the booze, twist the streamers and pick bouquets…stay tuned – will the ‘bridal couple reveal the secrets to seven hundred and twenty months of wedded bliss?

Four Generation Photo Shoot Mother’s Day Madness

Mother’s Day 2013 and I realized I could repent for past sins – after a few years of living away from my almost three-year-old granddaughter our big family feels so, so fortunate to have her and her baby sister (and their mom and dad) move ‘home’.  And with one set of grandparents and one of great-grandparents back from winter escapes, suddenly we find ourselves all living in one city with three four-generation family groups. my fave four gen

Now that begs for four generation photos.  True we could have set up a few calm afternoons with the parties involved at separate locations according to which side of the family we were calling into dress-up (but not to up) and smile action.  But a windy warm Mother’s Day afternoon was picked for a massive ‘let’s get this done’ opportunity.  grandmasteeple

My youngest daughter stepped up to the plate as patient photographer extraordinaire, and I took up the job of production coordinator – a few days before the Mother’s Day event I realized I was so mentally excited that I’d only imagined my official invite to several key players.  lucy in yellowCould have been due to my distraction over shopping for teeny white shoes for new baby or finding the right shade of yellow hair bows to twist onto the three-year -olds pony tails, while directing the other guests to organize their groups into comfortable clothes that go together and trying to settle on a menu for a brunch that would go cold on the stove while we bossed people around.

 

Mother’s Day arrived – perfect overcast clouds for great photographic light –the lot of us looked exuberant – every generation, while we waited an hour for babies that needed to nurse and kids that needed to be polished up, and chairs to be transferred from suddenly too sunny spots and a very special 60th anniversary photo of my parents.  And then from the minute we shouted out the first, “Cheese” until two hours later we posed and jiggled a baby, blew bubbles at the too energetic toddler, sucked in and grinned while she zipped into the shot on a ride ’em caterpillar, called senior folks from this end of the yard to that, helped the six-year-old hold the baby who was losing it, smiled and smiled, and suddenly the window closed, the baby cried, the three-year-old collapsed and myself, the production coordinated – tried to push on, ever conscious of the photos we didn’t get at the wedding – the ones I was trying to make up for, until finally I called out, “Enough. Stop me.  I’ve gone insane.” And it was over.  I could collapse with the little ones – or maybe even relax and feed the guests, while waiting to view the wonderful joyful shots of what we’d just pulled off.   alice and adina tired

Oh Baby – Let’s Swing

“How do you like to go up in a swing,
Up in the air so blue?
Oh, I do think it the pleasantest thing
Ever a child can do!

Up in the air and over the wall,
Till I can see so wide,
River and trees and cattle and all
Over the countryside–

Till I look down on the garden green,
Down on the roof so brown–
Up in the air I go flying again,
Up in the air and down! ”

The Swing –   Robert Louis Stevenson

Up at our cottage there is a small clearing in the trees, with a view toward the lake.  It is a place some of us (probably the girls) always looked at as if it was where you would slip off to with a new boyfriend when it seemed you had been inundated with aunts and uncles, and cousins or other lakeside visitors –  to get away and whisper, or steal a kiss without being observed by dad.

It is a place to go when you are feeling like a moment, or being contemplative, or are in love, or out of love – a place away from the other places, a place to steal a kiss, or tell a secret. IMG_4581

 

 

 

And then our eldest had a baby who has a love of swinging, and we’d drive for twenty minutes to the park beside the local baseball diamond.  At last I knew what the spot in the trees needed – a swing – a swing for a toddler, but a swing for a long-legged kid or a grown up, too.

Lucky for all of us my son-in-law, the toddler’s daddy, is a recently graduated architect with a passion for building – no pre-packaged swing set kit for us.  On three of the hottest days of last summer he happily constructed the perfect, simple baby swing and a ‘big’ swing, and a place to climb and slide – with awe struck assistants from those of us eager for the finished product.

It was a hot summer with the lake temperature invitingly warm, so swimming and boating and floating we’re so much of what we did – not much swinging at all.IMG_4641

But it’s British Columbia, Canada and there are long crisp seasons where the lake is the backdrop for more quiet pursuits, times when there will be a fussy baby that needs to be soothed or too many folks will be crowded inside, and two others will have to slip out to that spot in the trees and take turns simply swinging.nest painting-2

It’s January now, the ground is icy white, the still air promises more snow and cold.  But hey, it’s time to dream of  spring and going “up into the air and down”….

I Imagined that We Get Hot, Fat, and Grow Mustaches But I Need to Know More

I’m not freaked out about my age.  I worried more turning thirty-nine than I did fifty.  Thirty-nine seemed the end of youth.  No kidding.  At fifty, while I sometimes long for my mom on Sunday mornings to be making pancake breakfast in my kitchen, complete with juice in silly little glasses, I get that I’m the matriarch in the house.  My first kid left home when I was – just a sec – math is hard for me when I haven’t slept all freak’en night –eighteen plus twenty-five equals forty-three – holy shit (excuse the language, I’m tired and cranky) was I only forty-three?  These days women are having babies at the same age that  I was all boo hoo over mine packing her bags – no wonder I’ve been blogging on that subject forever.

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Where was I?  Right, I’m not upset that I’m fifty – something-in-the-first-half-of-the-fifties.

Okay you guessed it – it’s this menopause bit that has me feeling crazy.  (Acting crazy?)  And somehow it seems aside from information gleaned from all those stupid email jokes with pot bellied old ladies with saggy boobs threatening their ill-prepared husbands, I don’t have the hard facts on this hormonal upheaval.  I kept meaning to buy a book about it – seriously, this isn’t a dumb menopause joke – but in all the hundreds of times I was in a bookstore, I forgot.  Right now I want to mention something really basic, almost intuitive, that I couldn’t remember the other day, but I can’t remember what that was.  I did finally buy a book, and somewhere in the pre-amble to how for the next few years my life would be wacked, it told me I’d have trouble staying on task, and true enough I have, so much so that I haven’t been able to read the manual.

Just after I had that daughter of mine who left home eons ago – and is currently hormonally challenged herself – but at least she gets a baby out of it – I ran off to the mall for baby nail clippers and rubbing alcohol for that nasty umbilical cord bit and left her with her daddy.  I thought the boys (boys, not men, I was just a girl back then) were staring at my voluptuous-as-never-before breast feeding body (I actually felt like a cow), but was shocked to look down and see I was leaking milk through my light cotton dress.  Being almost the first of my friends to have kids – no one had informed me about how I might  leak while out in the mall.  I could never figure out how I missed that fun fact of how being a new mommy involved having boobs with no self control.  And now I can’t figure out why I don’t know much of this menopause stuff.  Yeah, I guess I always imagined that we get hot and fat and can grow mustaches.  But where are the women warriors that are supposed to inform me about all this not sleeping (leading to hormonal blog writing), the ridiculous benign, yet annoying, restless legs,  the lost of nouns and names and the further hindrance of my limited ability to do math.

And what was the evolutionary purpose I wonder, as the moon continues to rise on a November morning with me wide awake at 3:56 a.m.?  It had to be that back in the day, having outlived our reproduction purposes the grand plan was that, not sleeping, we would wander out of the cave to rub sticks together and be eaten by a dinosaur –  leaving more berries and wild animals for the younger women (my timeline might be skewed but you get the picture.)

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Sometimes I see a women near my age who looks serene and calm, or maybe even a little giddy.  And I think – she’s done, she’s been through it and come out on the other side, maybe she’ll tell me the brand of cream I can buy at the health food store that I can rub on my forehead and I’ll be able to remember the names of my four kids again.  Help me, women friends out there in blog-o- (oh, God – I can’t remember how to spell what I want to say, my spelling was never top notch but it’s leaving me with my math and my nouns) okay, tell me just this, this could go a long way – how do I sleep again, like a baby (well, not my daughter’s baby) but those other babies that sleep all through the night?

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Spring Time Knee Socks – la dee da

When I was a little girl Easter was the dawning of spring.  My mom, an accomplished seamstress, sewed me and my two sisters twirly Easter outfits – new cotton dresses or skirts and one year, I recall, she even fashioned us bonnets after taking a hat making course.  Our family of seven would take the first trip of the year Up North to Vermilion, Alberta to visit my grandparents.  On Sunday morning, we’d take the curlers from our heads, shake out our bouncy curls (from our normally pin-straight hair) and deck ourselves out in our new Easter outfits.  Despite it being cool enough for crusty snow along the fence and under the trees, it would be a treat to leave off itchy leotards, and pull up instead, brand new white knee socks.  I remember the freedom of that –  my bare legs eager for a bit of afternoon sun to warm them.

Now I have a granddaughter myself and I no longer have a grandmother.  I rarely sew anything and despite having purchased some lovely material, the outfit I bought my granddaughter for an Easter celebration at the family cottage was her first pair of overalls and a bright white onesie with teeny flowers on the collar.  But some Easter traditions must be resurrected each year and in the spirit of that, I brought up the famous Paas Easter egg decorating kit and after the two-year-old was tucked up in bed, her mom, and my mom and my sister and I, all dyed the tips of our fingers green and blue and red, in the process of creating the fancy eggs of my youth.

Oh Baby

And of course, all of us sentimental and reminiscing adults, laid out an Easter egg hunt for the only wee one young enough to be captivated by the search for the over sized-chocolate-holding plastic egg containers, though still too young to grasp the suggestion that a big bunny placed them in their obvious spots among the crocuses and  hyacinths. 

Maybe by next year I’ll sew her a twirly dress and find some teeny knee socks – but I think we observed enough tradition to successfully call up the glory of spring.

Challenge – To Buy a Thing (anything) I Must Get Rid of a Thing

It started a few years ago.  I was reading something in my long quest to live a more Zen existence.  (When my four kids were infants I actually, in desperation, attended a class on how to be more organized at home – and nervously laughed at (not with) the anal instructor who only let her kids wear two different colors from the whole rainbow of colors).   Part of organizing was major de-cluttering and gaining space in my space. With that in mind, for the last two years, if I bought an item of clothing (a weakness) I gave one away – buy one, lose one – no breaking the deal. It wasn’t that hard – my closet was dreadfully full but now, on that road to feeling free-er, I just made a new deal with myself – this could be a much bigger challenge.  Now, for every single thing I purchase – I have to rid my home, garage, yard, or car of something.  Yet, buy one, lose one can’t become an excuse for careless consuming, it has to be more of ‘I have too many things surrounding me, and if I believe I need something else – ie. a book for winter reading, a snow shovel that isn’t annoyingly bent, a colourful (hopeful) spring table cloth, a basket for the growing collection of granddaughter toys … I need to give something up. If there is nothing to let go of – there is nothing to gain, sort of thing.

My dear grandmother was a bit of a hoarder – having raised her family through the depression when people darned socks instead of discarding them, and sewed clothes from flour sacks (seriously).  When she passed away we would marvel at what she had kept, and then my mother would say, of course she kept that – she kept everything.  Her saving grace was that she didn’t buy a lot.  She seldom went shopping just to be tantalized, mesmerized even, by a new fancy thing.

I like to have the objects that cheer, inspire or comfort me near by.  But I can’t stand clutter.  When I was raising four kids in this house – kids who might be on a total of six sports teams, working on x number of  ridiculous dioramas for school, building their own collections of fairies, celebrity paper dolls, heart shaped rocks, animal bones (they thought dinosaur carnage – most likely cow’s), or snowboard parts – back then, I was a sucker for every de-cluttering book that came down the pike.

So awhile back as they were all in stages of leaving home I took up a ‘get rid of one hundred item’ challenge.  I kinda have an aversion to throwing things away.  I’ve made solo trips to the well managed local dump but I can never help thinking, as I toss my broken junk into the seagull filled pit, that maybe someone, somehow could use this or that.  So I mostly take it to the Society for Women In Need, even though I’m pretty sure that as I drive away (rip out of their parking lot so as not to be recognized) the staff are cursing my back, demanding to know which women in need could possibly need my junk.

The first twenty-five of the hundred was easy-peasy – clothes that never fit, linens without destinations, other kids lost articles.  The second twenty-five went slower, shoes I wanted to wear but never wore, useless kitchen gadgets, smelly lotions, soaps, and bubble baths that were never opened.  I picked up speed again after a few calls to the kids asking permission to ditch the floppy frayed stuffies – agreeing to keep a certain large teddy, a ratty twisted tail cat, and Bunny Ding Dong (I never would have tossed Bunny Ding Dong).    

I flipped though my library of de-cluttering Zen books and gave myself permission, as instructed, to give away gifts that just never hit the mark.  “If you thanked the gift giver and felt appreciation for the gift – you don’t have to keep it.”  I think I hit my stride at around sixty items packed into boxes and bags or handed to friends.  Two of my neighbours started their own one- hundred item cull as I reached eighty, and then ninety items, and pontificated over how exhilarating  it felt to look around my living room and say – hey, I don’t even like that vase collecting dust on that high shelf, and pull it down along with the stupid angel ornament.

That was two years ago – today I start – You-can’t-bring-anything- in-without – bringing- something-out.  With some zany misplace enthusiasm I got groceries yesterday and thought – does this count?  If I buy two tomatoes, sure I can compost those two potatoes with the long eyes growing out of the bag.  The peanut butter is to replace empty peanut butter, and the dish soap likewise.   Slow down, I told my hyped-up self, looking at the three bags of groceries on the floor.  Clear up the pantry for the food bank – like, hungry people want my unopened anchovy paste – but stick with the original plan.  Groceries don’t count.  Hubby might wonder what’s happening, if you become a crazy extremist de-clutter-er.

But if I really needed a new rug for that spot beside the bed – something has to go.  And if I buy those flower pots at Ikea to put some sunny-wishing-for- spring flowers in, what will they usurp?   The goal is to never own more objects then the ones I have accumulated already.  Luckily, hubby isn’t much of a shopper – except for an occasional foray into Costco to buy a container of juice that won’t fit in the fridge and mustard for one thousand hot dogs.