The Anniversary Excuse

By Adrea Gibbs


According to Merriam-Webster the definition of anniversary is:

1.  the annual recurrence of a date marking a notable event • a wedding anniversary; broadly: a date that follows such an event by a specified period of time measured in units other than years
• the 6-month anniversary of the accident.

2.  the celebration of an anniversary.

With it being the 25th Issue Special Edition of Van Wyck Gazette, I got to thinking, for better or worse, about anniversaries. The definition above is clear and, as in Van Wyck’s case, a commemoration.

On one side, this type of momentous occasion, like a wedding anniversary, is done up to the nines, overflowing with good wishes and smatterings of floral displays, candy boxes, and thoughtful heart-shaped gifts, integral to the proceedings. The more time attached to the event, the more sparkle, glitz and glitter. On the flip side, it can be a solemn, sobering remembrance of historical events, although there are those whose personal feelings regarding their own wedding anniversary reflect the later more appropriately. For me, an anniversary is a reminder that I didn’t remember it, again. To be fair, I am actually very good remembering anniversaries, birthdays, special events, and such…when it comes to other people.  My lack of memory seems to be tied to anything romantic in my life. Scratch that. Anything in my life, period. Chronology is not my friend.

I cut from the same cloth as a 70’s/80’ sitcom husband who realizes in the 11th hour that it is his anniversary and, naturally, every flower, candy, and department store is closed and due to some random convention all the restaurants in town are fully booked, so he must now rely on sheer wits and the assistance of friends who know-someone-who-knows-someone to come up with an over-the-top affair that will fool their spouse into thinking this extravagant plan took far longer that the 22 minutes allotted between commercial sponsorship to pull it off. Hilarity ensues and all is good before the credits roll. Fortunately for me, my husband is not one of those Prime Time Dads. Sadly, for him, I am.

My husband is incredibly thoughtful. A flurry of sweet cards and sentiments, a single rose, peppermint hot chocolate. Those are just the tip of his romantic arsenal. He is the kind of guy that remembers exactly what I wore on our first date. To which I was late. By several hours. So much so, lunch had rolled into dinner. He loves that story. Particularly the part when I offered up a coupon when the check came. A romantic gesture on my part. Even then, he got it. And me.

I don’t know why I have such an apparent mental block about this and I haven’t gotten any better over the years, even with my Google-Outlook-Facebook-JibJab-to-name-but-a-few reminders I have attempted to put in place to thwart my forgetfulness. To illustrate, a few years ago, I attended a business conference that had me immersed in seminars and meetings morning, noon and night. To say I was focused was an understatement to the point when a dinner with colleagues took an interesting turn during the conversation with awkward results. The dialogue ebbed and flowed as one might expect in those situations when the disparate topics converged on anniversaries. I jumped in to share when suddenly, halfway through my personal sordid tale of memory-lapse; I became horrified with a stark realization. That particular day, of all days, was my anniversary.  To the amusement of my tablemates, after citing the eerily timely example of my selective absent-mindedness, I excused myself, equally embarrassed and mortified, to find a quiet place from which to make a call. My husband, to his credit, good-naturedly chuckled when I called. He had expected nothing less and admitted he actually enjoyed this unique aspect to our personal celebration. It has become sort of a “will she-won’t she,” scenario that delights him, most especially, when I scramble. At least he knows it is honest on my part. That year, I made it just under the wire and vowed (as I do every time) to do better. And I am. Usually.

I have discovered something about the whys and ways I embrace, or rather don’t embrace, the passage of time. I have a tendency to not focus so much on the date I got married because, honestly, I got married on that one day, but it is not the embodiment of my relationship. I am very happily married and every day is a gift when spent with him. That’s not to say that every day is skittles and whipped cream. It isn’t, because, well, life is life and we each have our own views of things. But, what each and every day is, simply, is an adventure. A new day. A new beginning. It’s just like my trying to remember how old I am. Another of my time-space continuum quirks. I prefer to enjoy living my life, but when I need to recall with any immediacy my antiquity for whatever purpose, I have to do a quick calculations based on the year. If I can dredge up what year it is. Funny that when required to scribe it onto some random document I can whip out that month/date/year with no problem. That flows easily enough. But ask me my age and it will take some quick noodling on my part. Maybe even quantum physics.

That said, you can see I am consistent with most things that are date-related involving my personal history. Thank goodness for friends and family who are far better record keepers and can easily recall when Christmas was spent at the Arctic Circle or did I did theatrical performances in Germany, choreographed musicals for a performing arts high school, or when I did my book signing at Borders, when Borders were still around. I vividly recall those circumstances, to the point of closing my eyes to see and hear and feel and smell and relive each of those experiences in Technicolor surround-sound. Call it personal VR. Just don’t ask me when it happened. I may have to refer to my resume. Honestly, the only piece that ever comes up missing from these mental tableaus are the dates and years. I simply am not capable of that specificity, unless it happened before I graduated from high school. 

Graduating from high school seemed to be the time when I lost the desire, or selectively chose not, to focus on when I did certain things. I presume that as a child so much was naturally benchmarked; transitioning from kindergarten to elementary to junior high (no middle school for me), then high school, with countless recitals, sports tournaments, competitions, and family vacations liberally dosed throughout the time line, each aligned with specific times, dates, seasons, and years. My brothers provided age-markers, too, and though the four of us spread fairly evenly age-wise over eight years, as “grown-ups,” (my Mom would argue use of that term when we are assembled is not relevant), the years seem compressed. I can tell you when we moved to Boston for a year. I think it was last year when we were last all together. Not that it matters. When I get with them, it is like no time has passed at all. And we get lots of great pictures that are, often, time-stamped. Yeah.

Honestly, I believe that once I moved into adulthood, time, relativity speaking, no longer had a place in my life. It became about experience and embracing wherever I was and whatever I was doing to the fullest. Whether positive or negative it was the memory that mattered, and continues to matter, to me, not the when.

As I analyze what I have done, where I have been, with whom I have been acquainted or with whom I have held steadfastly, I suppose my not knowing when we “did” something makes me appear unsentimental, though I can assure you that is not the case. Does it make me unromantic that I don’t remember the exact date my husband proposed to me? Maybe. But, I would argue, in my defense, the fact that I can conjure the exact scene off-sets a specific date that is lost to me. Could I go back, look at an old calendar and figure it out? Sure. Still, I prefer to think the little random expressions of love I show my spouse, the cards tucked into drawers and slipped into notepads, the lipstick hearts drawn onto the bathroom mirror, the bringing home of a favorite hard-to-find candy that had been sought out come hell-or-high-water in the meager downtime of whirlwind business trip, the simple act of reaching out to touch and hold hands during a poignant moment of our favorite movies let me celebrate the joy of being married to such a special person. A daily commemoration of our matrimony. Every day is a reason to be thankful and appreciative I have someone in my life who cares, supports, believes, and, most importantly, understands that my version of time, when it comes to momentous dates in particular, may be a little (okay, a lot) off. For me it is not about an odd day each year that is Hallmark-card worthy. Rather that each moment we have together, even if I do forget the occasional (well, almost always forget) anniversary, is what really and truly counts.

So happy anniversary, Van Wyck Gazette. And for being in a print format that clearly displays the date for those, like me, who will no doubt probably need both a reminder and nudge when the 50th rolls off the press.