Last summer, I began pondering. Our Golden Anniversary was approaching. Burton and I had never renewed our vows.
Where to hold such a miraculous event? It was the height of the Zika virus scare. Travel maven son Andy said: “Somewhere with no Zika. Santa Fe?”
Soon after, at a dinner party, we sat with friends Kate Marshall and Justin Rashid. They started American Spoon. (Decades ago I interviewed Justin for an article on his divine jams, salsas and dried cherries.) Kate’s a talented painter and past mayor of Petoskey, MI. I mentioned our upcoming observance.
“I’ve married one couple,” Kate said. “Come to Santa Fe. I’ll do your service.”
Kate wasn’t overly experienced, I grant you. But she’s a cool chick. She was willing. She and Justin spend several weeks in Santa Fe every spring, and she knew the territory.
2 votes for Santa Fe? Godsign.
Months ahead, I coordinated dates with grandkids’ schedules. Called Casas de Santa Fe and booked casitas for the family. I signed up Casa Nova Catering, Absolute Entertainment and Arieli Photography.
A few days after our April 8th anniversary, Burton and I flew to Santa Fe with Nadine and the boys. (Rest of family came later.) We picked up keys to our casitas and followed the map, down a winding road to a tiny dirt lane barely wide enough for our rented GMC.
Our family likes nice accommodations. At the front gate of the first, I wondered why I’d dragged us across country to this dusty back road. Nadine and I gave each other a glance best described as: Oy vey.
“They looked good online,” I said.
Taking a breath, I turned the key. The interior was even better than the photo online. Hip southwestern architecture, Native American pottery, Navajo blankets, kiva fireplaces, soft linens, comfortable seating. There were bright tulips and a bag of fresh ground coffee. The other casitas, equally nice. Whew.
On to the main event.
After fun visits to the Farmers Market and Meow Wolf (a not-to-be-missed creative new interactive art installation) and a yummy Cuban Ruben at Café Palacio, I returned to our casita to rest. Phone calls. The DJ just got out of the hospital. The photographer had stomach flu. Both found replacements.
Memo to self: Go with the flow.
Kids showed up at our casita, took seats, and actually paid attention. DJ Victor played Pachelbel’s Canon in D. I step/paused/step/paused down the aisle. (Okay, around the corner.) Everyone stood.
Greeting Burton in front of the fireplace, I spoke. I recalled our 25th wedding anniversary party when I’d I told the story of the frogs on a dairy farm. Andy brought the story back from a teenage trip with National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS) years ago. Now his daughter Alexis was almost 13.
2 frogs fall into a bucket of cream. They paddle and paddle but can’t get out. One says, “Face it. We’re history.” The other says, “We’ll think of something. Just keep paddling.” The pessimist sinks to the bottom and dies. The next morning, the optimistic frog is found to be sitting on a pad of butter he’s churned up all by himself, licking up the flies that swarm from all directions.
“The moral of the story,” I said, “and the way you stay married for 25 years, and in a heartbeat 25 more: keep…” Everyone chorused: “Paddling.” I thanked Burton for a life “beyond my wildest dreams.”
Burton said, “I don’t know when it happens, but at some point two people become one, committed for life.” He talked about recently cleaning our stuffed refrigerator, and how some foods were penicillin prone. “Suzy hates to throw anything out. That’s probably why I’m still here.”
Kate—whom we designated our Rabbi Pro Tem—isn’t Jewish. But she looked rabbinical in a black and white striped scarf that resembled a tallit (Jewish pverayer shawl). Kate said, “No one else shares the same joy you feel in your family. You’ve faced struggles together. You’ overcome struggles together. 50 years later, you remain husband and wife not because of a legal document, but because you still want to be by each other’s side.”
We repeated the best known sentence from the “Song of Songs” by King Solomon. We’d first spoken it at our wedding. “Ani L’Dodi, V’Dodi Li. I am my beloved’s; my beloved is mine.”
Our whole family mentioned something they appreciate about us. David: “So many fun moments. Always encouraging me to be my best.” Nadine: “Blessed to be part of such a special family.“ Amy: “You put family first.” Andy: “Santa Fe’s the perfect synthesis of Dad, the cowboy, and Mom, the artist.”
Fischer, our youngest, brought us rings on a Kilim pillow. (Fact: We borrowed Andy’s ring. Burton’s ADD and a golfer and lost more than one of his own.)
The DJ cranked up the music and we danced for 2 hours, only breaking to attack a delicious southwestern buffet. Chef Eduardo apologized that the planned maple cream cake had collapsed on the first and second tries. The baker had been in tears. (Creating a dessert that’s gluten, lactose and chocolate free is a challenge.) His 3 non-dairy cheesecake substitutes were still a hit.
Italian author Cesare Pavese once said, “We do not remember days, we remember moments.”
I loved having our whole family together, relishing each other’s company, creating such a moment. What joy to renew our vows in the presence of children and grandchildren, none of whom were there originally. At times in the past, I never expected to get this far.
Even with a replacement photographer, DJ and dessert, the evening was perfect. Our sons and their wives agreed on the final song. That was perfect, too. It was written by the rock group Journey in the 1980s and references Detroit, our hometown. It became a theme song of the TV show “Glee.”
“Don’t Stop Believin’.”