by Constance Daley
American Reporter Correspondent
St. Simons Island, Ga.
July 17, 2007
50 YEARS AND COUNTING
ST. PETE BEACH, Fla. -- We knew the day was coming. After all, when we got married on July 7, 1957, we were thinking ahead to the wonderful calendar date 50 years hence. We didn't expect to turn that leaf so soon, but 50 years have come and gone as swiftly as toddlers turn into adults - and we all know how fast those years go by.
Although I have held to the notion that I haven't "peaked" yet, expecting to reach some sort of pinnacle, I guess, not counting the crests along the way, I believe it's time to alter my thinking.
On July 7th, 50 years ago, we married each other in full wedding regalia, among family and friends, at St. Patrick's Cathedral. Our courtship was in and around New York City in the '50s, hitting Jones Beach in the summer, and working together daily in a large office on Broadway at Wall Street. "Going steady," as it was called then, was kept secret; "camp romances" were frowned upon, so our morning greetings were friendly but somewhat distant.
Those were the Eisenhower years. They still make movies featuring New York City in that era; there was style, there was substance. "Peace and Prosperity" were the watchwords then; we felt good about ourselves and the direction we were going.
As I reflect now, that first July 7 in our lives was just the beginning for us. When the vows were said, toasts offered, wedding cake slices wrapped for under-the-pillow dreams of the unmarried girls at the party, the bouquet tossed, and the guests gone, the celebration was over.
That is, the wedding was over; the marriage was about to begin. "From this day forward, in sickness and in heal... ." Until that moment, I would have been a guest carrying home a piece of wedding cake to dream upon; now I was a wife. and this man was my husband. Nothing would ever be the same again. Not for me, not for him.
When the moment comes that pent-up emotions become unbridled passion, a woman knows she's reached a new plateau. But is that when I peaked? On my wedding night? No, the best was yet to come, I knew that. But, I never knew when ... all those crests over the years. My first baby? No, there would be six more, and I expected that. The day I knew I was free of cigarettes? No, although that was one marvelous crest in my life, after many years in the darkest valleys.
This year, 7/7/7, was the day I peaked. Those seven children, now living in six different states, somehow managed to surprise us by jumping into the plans we had already made to spend a long weekend in St. Pete Beach, have a nice dinner at the Don CeSar and relax for a few days. No fuss, no bother, just us.
We arrived too early for check-in so we stopped at "Caddy's," a bar in the sand at Treasure Island. I called our son, Tom, who lives in nearby St. Petersburg and said, "we're here, we'll see you through the week for a nice visit."
"Wait, wait, wait," he said, I'll run over to Caddy's to greet you properly."
"Well, okay," we said, but we don't want to inconvenience you."
He was at out table in the sand, listening to loud beach music, enjoying a cold beer on a very hot day and we just relaxed for the hour we'd have together before John and I checked in. My favorite pastime is people-watching and this day was no exception. I usually find someone who looks like someone we know and I saw someone who looked just like my daughter, Jorie. As the girl came closer I knew it wasn't Jorie - but it was our daughter, Kerry.
"Hey, what's going on? John, look it's Kerry."
And so it was. Tom had a sheepish grin of satisfaction, Kerry and I were hugging, but I know I was just staring in wonderment. With cell phones now, we never know where a person is when you speak. I thought she was home in Indiana when we spoke the evening before. Not so, she was here on St. Pete Beach making "arrangements" in the name of the other children, all scattered in six states.
We checked into our motel and after struggling with the keycard to open the door, we pushed our bags in ahead of us. "What the...?" The whole room, floor to ceiling, was covered with shiny gold streamers and confetti. The bed was covered, too, and on top of the bed were two huge boxes; the table, decorated with heart-shaped Mylar balloons that swayed in the air-conditioned breeze, held bottles of red wine and champagne, and was stacked with rose-covered boxes of choice nuts and candies, shortbread cookies and caramel-covered popcorn.
It was just us. They weren't here to jump out and say "Surprise!" So I did the only thing I could do. I hugged John and then I wept. The little card was signed "Jack, Bill, Wendy, Tom, Nancy, Kerry and Jorie." They knew instinctively that because he has always remained a presence in our lives, Jack's death at age 14 did not take him away from us. Not listing him would have underscored the grieving years of the otherwise glorious fifty.
Our dinner at the Don CeSar was superb. The soft music, the ambiance, the gentle glow that contentment brings and time for quiet reflection. Discovering at the end of dinner that whatever the tab would be, it had been prepaid. That was certainly an added touch.
We met a bride who just spoke her vows on this, the luckiest day of the year. I told her our 50th anniversary on the same date is proof that luck enters into it. She asked how we did it. I told her I followed the advice a woman gave me at our wedding: "Tolerance is the magic ingredient." She said, "No matter what, be tolerant. When your husband grieves you, think of the things he tolerates in you, and then forget about it."
I added that it doesn't matter if you go to bed with an unresolved argument. Just never wake up with a grudge.
On another evening, our waitress, Nickie, asked how we did it. I was down to trite answers by this time, like "Just one day at a time."
"Oh, we could never last 50 years," she said. "We get on each other's nerves too much."
"Did I say we didn't get on each other's nerves? Living in the moment doesn't mean some of those moments aren't the knock-down-drag-out verbal bouts you wouldn't want to repeat," I told her.
No matter what you see in your adult children, you see the child. It must have something to do with being in those moments of reverie when you remember being the most important person in their lives. And, as adults, they might also find reverie in reflecting on those very same moments.
Tom said over dinner, "I love to be with you guys," meaning family in general, not just parents in particular. And, at that, Kerry said, "Thinking of all these lucky sevens, Mom, you had seven children."
"Well, yes, we did," I said, but that wasn't by design or intention. I'd say it probably had more to do with that unbridled passion I mentioned earlier.
Visit longtime AR Correspondent Constance Daley at www.skylinetoshoreline.com.