“If I get married, I want to be very married.” — Audrey Hepburn
I was seven when my parents celebrated 15 years of marriage. If we’d already been blessed with my youngest sister Cora, the ever-wise now psychologist, we might have celebrated the milestone somewhat differently. (Cora is skilled at spotting fires before they’ve been set.)
My three siblings and I had decided that year 15, being a huge, fancy-sounding number, was worthy of an equally huge and fancy party. Pooling together any allowance we hadn’t yet spent and coins from between couch cushions, we came up with enough money to fund what we deemed the perfect gift. I mean, who wouldn’t want a surprise party, embellished with a singing, hula-dancing gorilla? Two examples spring immediately to mind: my humble, attention-not-preferred parents.
While some folks averse to such surprises might flee at the sight of Luau Layla and her illustrious leis, or shun the party-throwers thereafter, my parents smiled, blushed and indulged—anything for their kidlets. They are still the same darn way. Luckily, they also share a great sense of humor.
When my dad celebrated his 60th birthday two years ago, my brother Aaron and I decided to fly in and, with our Minnesota-residing siblings, recreate that beloved event—only this time, with Aaron and I as the gorillas. (Some lessons are learned, apparently; others, ignored.) And play, we did. From keeping the two of us hidden at our sisters’ places to scoping out Craig’s List and costume shops for gorilla suits after the “suits” I ordered from Amazon turned out to be gorilla torsos—over-the-shoulder fur featuring plump, rubber nipples—the five of us made like the children we used to be, and probably remain, to an extent. Though we didn’t adorn Dad with flowers or force him and Mom to wiggle their hips before loved ones as Ms. Layla had, the blushing, appreciation and absence of “How could you?!?” were eerily similar.
I’ve learned a great deal from my parents about love, respect, patience and perseverance. They’ve taught me to follow my heart, to treat others with kindness, to value togetherness over “things,” to celebrate music and concoct a mean batch of Indian curry. And though they’ve had their share of bumps along the way, as most of us have, they’ve never let go of each other or the bond that they share. As an adult, I’ve watched it grow and tighten, along with their individuality; two full-halves making a more wondrous whole. My mother is quick to call my dad her soulmate (and “hot lips,” but I won’t go there today), and my dad continues to romance her with flowers, cards and thoughtfully-planned dates. And even when particular offspring have made life
chaotic challenging interesting, they’ve remained strong, as parents and a pair. Not a day has passed that any one of us kids hasn’t known that we are deeply loved.
Looking back on our gorilla fests, the original and the sequel, it’s clear to me that the ability to step out of the presumable comfort zone, laugh at life’s surprises and accept gifts, even when we feel slightly misunderstood, are pretty key to a lasting, happy marriage. Or perhaps it’s getting married in a snowstorm on April Fools’ Day, after getting locked out of the church. (Another true story. I imagine they were laughing then, too.)
For all of my curiosities about true love and marriage, I’ve no doubt that my parents have done it right.
Happy 41st anniversary, Mom and Dad! We promise to stick to jeans and t-shirts this year.
For my mom’s thoughts on marriage, check out my interview with her here.
What April Fools’ Day sticks out in your mind? Any anniversary hilarity to share? Do you regress as much as I do on the home front?