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Let’s make it 65, again and again, over and over

My parents’ marriage has seen the inauguration of 12 Presidents, the rise of gas prices from 27 cents a gallon and a succession of 65 yearly calendars. The planning for the celebration of its longevity, however, started after Christmas. As their only daughter, the lot of it fell to me. At least my different-time-zones brothers are good check writers. 

I first powwowed with the two love birds on a dreary winter afternoon, pulling my dad away from whatever “piddling” he had found to do in his barn that day. Gazing at my computer screen, they picked a cream-colored invitation and changed up a few of the words I had proposed to print. “Too fancy,” Mom said, just after marveling at what tasks can be done online these days.   

We talked cake layers and flower colors and song singers. She left to determine a guest list, and he returned to his barn. I smiled. Not every daughter gets to see her parents enjoy a 65th wedding anniversary.

And not every pairing comes so early in life. The way they tell it, my parents first slept together as toddlers on a pallet of quilts. It was the 1930s, and neighbors gathered around the lone radio in the area and listened to the Grand Ole Opry on Saturday nights while their kids dozed off under the stars. Later they fell in love over dominoes and rides on the Loyd Star school bus. A furlough during my dad’s first year in the Air Force brought him home for a week, and by Wednesday the 20-year-olds were standing on the pastor’s front porch at Mt. Zion saying their vows.

Time would provide them addresses in six states, but retirement called them back to their Lincoln County roots. Ironically, the couple who had no wedding reception back in 1952 had a grand one all these decades later — less than a mile away from the site of their original nuptials.

That’s because they opted for a party under their own oaks with a spread of food in the covered bridge Dad built a few years back. (I told you he likes to piddle.) The coffee urn brewed, per his request, and was utilized by three guests belonging to that rare breed who take it hot even in the heat. The other hundred or so preferred iced punch.

A nephew flew in from Norfolk, another from Miami, and grandsons from Portland and North Carolina. My mom’s only living sibling (where once there were nine) made it too, and the great-granddarlings danced by the creek while my cousins crooned Alan Jackson’s “Remember When” over an amplifier. Add five minutes and a microphone and Brother No. 1’s fitting remarks, and I’d have to say our big shindig on the hottest day of May, for the most part, went off without a hitch. I’m still mad that nobody told me I was wearing earrings from two different sets, though.

We recently attended another celebration of love. It was my first morning wedding, an outdoor one where the cicadas provided the soundtrack as rose petals littered the pine straw. High moments included the groom’s words (“I pledge to point you to Christ because you need Him more than you need me”) and a truthful encouragement from the pastor to the parents (“As you find a new normal, remember that while you are giving up much, you are getting more”).

A kiss. A marriage license. A couple waved off to begin a new life together. 

Again. And again. And over and over, just like it has been for centuries.

And in honor of age-old wonderful, biblical, traditional marriage, I would like to offer my parents, Doc and Anita, my heartiest congratulations on reaching a grand milestone this Sunday. I would also say to Chandler and Regan, who are honeymooning in La La Land (literally): Go the distance. Perhaps you will have children who grow up and give you a shindig of your own.

Sixty-five years from now.

Kim Henderson is a freelance writer. Contact her at kimhenderson319@gmail.com.