The sky in Avalon at 6:30 in the morning was an unbelievable shade of pink highlighted by swirly golden clouds. It was my 3rd day at the Jersey shore in a home about 20 yards from the Atlantic Ocean. I sat up in bed, inspired, and thought to myself, â€œMaybe Iâ€™ll go out for a runâ€. And then I remembered â€“ I donâ€™t run. I rolled over and went back to sleep. At about 9, I got up and took the mystery I was reading upstairs to the deck overlooking the beach to sit and read for awhile with a cup of coffee. It was another great morning in what was anticipated to be a great week. I was in New Jersey to celebrate my parentsâ€™ 50th wedding anniversary. My brother, sister and I had accompanied our parents to a friendâ€™s beach house in Avalon for a vacation/anniversary celebration week. We had spent about the last 11 months trying to organize this event so that it would be special and memorable. This was no small feat for the organizationally impaired (read: my brother, sister and I). About a week before we were to leave, my sister told me that her friend had advisedâ€¦â€just make sure you have tons of food and that everyoneâ€™s there. It will be perfect!â€ If Iâ€™d only had that advice last October! But she was right. We had tons of food, special activities and memorabilia, and it was all contained within this lovely beach home which was a gift in itself. How lucky were we?
Well, extremely lucky. A 50th wedding anniversary is a milestone that not too many people will reach in their lives. And the odds against it are greater and greater all the time. I wonâ€™t celebrate a 50th wedding anniversary. And for those who might reach it, it is just as likely that one or the other spouse will pass away before it happens. I am not trying to be cynical about 50th wedding anniversaries. On the contrary, I am trying to point out how very special they are and reiterate just how lucky we all were to be able to have such an event to share with all concerned parties.
Anniversary is such a weighty occurrence. Our first day in Avalon, in fact, was September 11th. I couldnâ€™t bring myself to watch any of the televised, political, schmaltzy, manipulative special events that day. I am not cynical about 9/11 either. I am of the school, or perhaps just the classroom, of thought that believes that September 11th should be a national day of remembrance. Weddings shouldnâ€™t be planned that day just because the banquet hall is available, soccer games shouldnâ€™t be scheduled and generally we as a nation should just sit back and keep remembering â€“ and honoring with reflection and mindfulness – that terrible day when everything we believed about safety, security and the American way was changed. It was a paradigm shift as far as I am concerned; not a reason to go to war, not a reason to limit civil liberties, but an event which shook most of us to our very core and changed the way we looked at our lives and behaved towards our loved ones. I just think that. Maybe because another anniversary that occurs around this time of year is my own wedding anniversary. Our fifth actually, which means we were married in 2001 â€“ not coincidentally a little over a month after the paradigm shift. My husband and I had planned on being married at least 3 years earlier (remember the organizationally challenged? Heâ€™s one, too). We were living together, the kids seemed okay with it all, so why fix it if it ainâ€™t broke? Then the world changed. And we got married.
Katrina is another anniversary that brings layers of necessary reflection and thought as a nation and to some, personally. I guess it just takes me longer to process some events. It was Katrina that moved me to finally write about Sue, my college roommate who was murdered in New Orleans. That happened over 26 years ago â€“ I still canâ€™t write that without taking a pause to absorb the length of time that something can affect one. It was New Orleans in the news that brought back to my emotional surface feelings that quite possibly should have been resolved or at least buried and motivated me to write about â€œMiss New Orleansâ€ and start my blog. Iâ€™ve been at this over a year now and I have no intention of stopping, much to the patient tolerance of my email address book to whom I keep sending out occasional reminders that I am still out here writing. (You do appreciate it, donâ€™t you dear reader?).
The anniversary phenomenon in medicine and psychology is often studied for its impact on people. Patients who suffer specific physical or emotional symptoms at certain times of the year have been found to have experienced a traumatic event at that time years earlier. I experienced this myself after my appendectomy, which was an enormously traumatic event both emotionally and physically, because, who gets appendicitis at age 42? Me. A total textbook case â€“ for a 12 year old. It happened on Motherâ€™s Day, too, which added to the total hilarity of the event. As the camp counselor of my family, no one was prepared to â€œcareâ€ for me when I came home from the hospital, so I hindered my recovery by keeping up my daily responsibilities to the best of my ability, which was inadequate. Suffice it to say that it was a pretty unpleasant experience and every May since, I get a little anxious the week leading up to Motherâ€™s Day. Even knowing why doesnâ€™t really prevent it, although over the years, it has gotten less significant – sort of.
Memories, thoughts, feelings, grief, sadness, frustration, anger, physical symptoms â€“ all can be triggered by an anniversary. It tends to make the phrase, â€œHappy Anniversaryâ€ a little presumptuous. Hopefully, most are. Birthdays, first dates, weddings, graduations are all happy occasions and should be celebrated monthly, yearly or daily. But anniversary remembers all events, happy or otherwise, and the weight of it, the depth of it should be honored for all its power.