Say It With Booster Seats

By Jeanne Marie Laskas
Sunday, October 29, 2006

"So, what are you guys going to do for your anniversary?"

Oh, here we go. I have come to hate this question. If I tell the truth, I'll just get . . . the look. The downcast eyes. The pursed lips. The knowing nod. The whole dramatic deal that says: "You poor slobs. You're headed for ruin."

I could just lie. "We're going to the Top of the Tippy Top Skyscraper Restaurant! We're going to look out over the twinkly city and sip martinis, and then my sweetie pie is going to surprise me with . . . diamonds!" That's the fantasy. Somehow we expect that spouses always celebrate wedding anniversaries in high style, always in the way of people on jewelry commercials or people in glossy magazine ads for smooth scotch.

The person questioning me today, a new-ish friend named Sue, has her eyebrows up, awaiting my response. But, seeing my hesitation, her expression seems to already be going on a downward slide.

"You know, next year is our 10th," I say, stalling, "so we'll probably do something really special for that one."

Oh, dear. I've just telegraphed: NOTHING SPECIAL. That was stupid. But the nothing special is, in fact, plenty special to us. It's just hard to . . . say. Because I know what people will . . . say. And then I'll try to justify it, sounding defensive, which is even worse.

But, here it is: For our ninth anniversary, my husband and I are taking our children out to dinner, just as we did for our eighth and our seventh and our sixth. Our children. That's right.

See? I knew you would think that.

I've heard it all. Spouses are supposed to be a spousal unit above and beyond the existence of their kids, and wedding anniversaries are times set aside to declare just that. I know. And it's not as if the spouse and I don't consider that sort of celebration. We just never choose it. This could be a fact of life for older parents. In our case, we were friends for 10 years before the courtship, and then came the wedding, and by the time the kids entered our lives, the relationship had deepened in ways neither of us could have ever envisioned. Celebrating with twinkly lights and diamonds seems too cheap, compared with what we have. Celebrating with our kids says something so much more profound.

I know. Defensive. See what I mean?

We don't take our kids to just any restaurant. We go to the restaurant. The little country inn where we got married. He orders the lamb, and I order the fish, and the girls split a plate of roast turkey, which they never eat, because they have filled up on pumpkin bread and on chocolate milk served in a porcelain teapot. Because of the teapot, and in anticipation of the teapot, the girls wear fancy white gloves. We order two glasses of champagne, and the spouse never drinks his, so I get both. We have apple pie for dessert, and afterward we go outside, to the backyard gazebo, and this is where we do the reenactment. "I walked like this, girls!" I'll say, holding out my arms to indicate just how voluminous my ball gown was. "And grandmom was sitting right there, and Aunt Marie was sobbing her happy tears right over there."

"And the violinist was over in the weeds?" one of the girls will say, pointing to the bridge over the fish pond with the cattails swaying.

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