Today is our wedding anniversary, 34 years since the day I married the love of my life. Yes, we got married just three days before Christmas. And if it wasn’t difficult to plan and hold a wedding right before Christmas, celebrating our anniversary every year since then has proven to be an ongoing challenge.
Little did we know as we settled into our hotel room after the wedding reception and captured this shot of my wife in front of the curved window—a unique feature of the round hotel we stayed in—how problematic it would be to celebrate it each year. Each year as it came close to the time to celebrate our anniversary, I really wanted to be able to celebrate our anniversary on the actual day. However, frequently other Christmas parties or events would interfere and we would either have to skip the social event or move our anniversary celebration to another day.
Our first child was born a few months before we celebrated our second anniversary and our second child arrived a few months before our third anniversary. But actually having children gave my parents a ready excuse to drive over and see their grandchildren before Christmas and they would sometimes babysit on our anniversary so that we could go out for dinner.
For our 5th anniversary, the date just happened to coincide with my work Christmas party that was being held in the ballroom of the same hotel where we spent our wedding night. Thanks to grandparents again, we were able to attend the Christmas party, celebrate our anniversary, and spend the night out at the hotel where we had been exactly five years previously.
For the next 10 years, we would either get my in-laws to watch the children or we would drive over to Arkansas so my parents could watch them. For the years when we would stay in town, I would drive us in a circuitous route so as to avoid revealing our destination until the last moment. For during those years, I would be the one to make the hotel reservation so it was always a surprise to my wife until we arrived. And on one occasion, I checked into the hotel earlier in the day so that I could leave a bouquet of flowers and a bottle of wine in the room to surprise my wife. Then once we arrived together, I had to pretend I was checking in at the front desk while my wife perused the lobby Christmas decorations. Thankfully the desk clerk played along with my little charade and passed a blank piece of paper over for me to sign in case my wife was watching.
These types of local celebrations continued until our 17th anniversary, when we drove over to my parents’ home in Hot Springs, AR where we celebrated Christmas early and then got to spend the night out at the Arlington hotel.
For our 25th anniversary, my plan was to return to the same hotel we had stayed at the night of our wedding and where we had also stayed for our 5th anniversary. Only Mother Nature didn’t cooperate as Memphis had an ice/sleet storm that day that paralyzed the city.
Due to the weather, we couldn’t celebrate our anniversary until the day after Christmas but even though it was four days late, I still wanted to get a picture of my wife in front of the same curved window.
That year our three children also surprised us with a 25th anniversary dinner on New Year’s Eve that they had prepared for us.
Once we became empty nesters, even more opportunities opened up for us. Not being tied to celebrate at home, I planned a trip for us to fly to Atlanta for our 28th anniversary. As in previous years, the destination was a surprise—I just told my wife to pack for cold weather. It wasn’t until we arrived at our gate that she learned we were flying to Atlanta. But it wasn’t until we came out of the MARTA station and began walking to our hotel that I revealed I had booked us in Atlanta’s own round hotel, The Westin Peachtree.
In addition to getting the now customary photo of my wife in front of the curved glass window, this year we snapped one of me as well. We had trouble with our cameras capturing the city lights in the background without blurring the image of ourselves but nonetheless we captured the traditional shots. It was this year that we also celebrated our anniversary a week early, an experiment that proved successful for the future.
For our 30th anniversary, certainly a significant milestone, I planned an even bigger trip—one to the Bahamas. And to accomplish this, I needed a four-day weekend. Knowing that it would be impossible to pull that off before Christmas, I suggested we celebrate our anniversary in mid-January. This time I told my wife to pack for warm weather and to be sure and bring a swimsuit.
The day before we were to travel, I went to check us in for our flight only to learn that I needed our passport numbers to check in. I made a quick dash from work to home to get them and I know my wife must have become suspicious when I just so happened to pass her leaving the house for work as I was turning onto our street. But undaunted, I continued on my secret mission.
When we got to the airport the next morning, I told her we couldn’t get a direct flight to our ultimate destination and so we would have to fly through Atlanta. Once in Atlanta, my plan was to wander around to several different gates before arriving at the one to Nassau. Only my plan was foiled. As our boarding passes were swiped at the gate in Memphis, the annoying beep-beep-beep sounded and we were pulled out of line. As the gate agent pulled up our itinerary, she exclaimed, “Oh I see the problem, you are going to the Bahamas, I need to check your passports.”
Once we were on the plane to our final destination, keeping my secret continued to be a challenge, as you had to list your hotel destination on your tourist entry card. I told my wife to leave hers blank and I would fill it out for her. Once we were in Nassau and were making our way to the door for ground transportation, I saw a poster for Atlantis and finally revealed that was our final destination.
But my frustrations over trying to keep a secret were mysteriously overcome when we were pulled from the line waiting for the hotel shuttle and escorted to a stretch limo.
Whether it was a case of mistaken identity or anonymous generosity I will never know but it made our trip to the hotel most enjoyable. And even though we didn’t have a curved window to look out from our hotel room, the view was most pleasing as we discovered the next morning when we began our celebration.
This year, we are actually in St. Louis celebrating Christmas early with our daughter and son-in-law. As I look back over the years of our marriage and the anniversaries we have celebrated, I am pleased at how we have retained the specialness of that date. For me, the 22nd of December is now and forever will be a special day. And to me, celebrating our anniversary around Christmas every year has always added a magical festivity to the celebration—as if others around us were joining in the celebration of our marriage.