Two year ago, my mother sent me an email on her wedding anniversary with a picture attached of her China, four place settings, a Wedgewood pattern she didn’t select – she didn’t even remember registering – and subsequently didn’t use. Simpler times indeed.
But what struck me about her email was the message attached: “This is what we are doing on our anniversary! Two 19-year-olds received this beautiful China and didn’t know what to do with it! Any interest?”
My parents are celebrating their 60th anniversary
Nineteen years old? Yikes! At the time, I had a 19-year-old, and he better not be thinking about getting married.
Evidently it was a purge day at their house, even though my dad can tend to be a mild hoarder, begrudgingly parting with his personal treasures. My mom’s real message, almost subliminal, though, was amazing.
Retired and left to their own devices in the same house where they raised three children in the same small town where they grew up, my mom and dad were spending their anniversary reminiscing. No special dinner or grand trip; instead, on the 58th year of their marriage, they giggled and felt spry again, if just for the day or even a few hours. It is a unique bond only the two of them can share after spending a lifetime together.
And now here they are, two years later, days away from celebrating their 60th wedding anniversary. No small feat for sure, but there will be even less fanfare than two years ago, which is to say, none.
They will celebrate this special occasion after several long months of staying indoors, and they will celebrate alone at a table set for two.
No children or grandchildren, friends or neighbors, to raise a glass to toast their accomplishment. No way to physically reach them, although they live less than a two-hour drive away. We are taking the quarantine seriously, even more so for their safety than ours. Just a simple flower arrangement sent to mark the occasion.
During less restricted times, there were many phone calls and discussions about how to commemorate this grand accomplishment, but they were having none of it. I harassed them plenty, offering trips here or there, a flight or a drive away. The answer was always a firm, no thank you. Well in advance of this illness they were content to celebrate at home.
Sure, we have a Zoom call scheduled with all the grandchildren on their anniversary, and that will undoubtedly make the moments of solitary confinement worth it. Yes, when the ban for social distancing is lifted, we will celebrate together as a family, but that is for another day.
In the here and now, they are left to fend for themselves. And in place of human contact with the outside world and not relying solely on a virtual connection, I have taken to calling them every day. The good old-fashioned way.
It works for both of our generations.
And it is amazing how much there is to share, what there truly is to say, even though we never leave the house.
(Side note: My parents do leave the house more than I do, and I have had to scold them on occasion. Fresh air walks are acceptable but anything else isn’t necessary. Stay home, Mom and Dad – be safe!)
We share our funny pet stories of the moment; who or what we may have passed on our daily walks, if they championed the walk that day; new suggestions for TV shows or movies to watch; connections made with extended family members; and, what I find most interesting, how two almost-octogenarians pass their shelter in place days.
Turns out, they dance. They put music on and get some exercise by jiving. My dad loves to cut a rug, and he takes great pleasure in getting my mom to groove.
My parents have always been card-playing sharks. Recently, they discovered a version of Canasta for two players, so they spend several hours each day playing a few hands.
They have their individual projects where my dad will challenge himself with puzzles while my mom will clean and organize cabinets throughout the house, but their shared love of the outdoors brings them together again as they like to manage their own yardwork.
If you knew them, you would never guess their age. They are healthy and youthful and independent; we are lucky to have them, and they are so fortunate to have one another. This fact is not lost on me.
Yet, they are far away and only have each other to rely on. This fact is also not lost on me. There is always the concern of “how fast can I get there?”
But our daily phone chats wile away a few more hours of the week and keep us connected each day. We laugh, we reminisce, and we contemplate when we will be together again, to celebrate a milestone 60 years in the making.
Oh, and the Wedgewood China my mother was trying to ditch two years ago? It is now safely tucked away in my house, having barely survived our own quarantine purge. Serving dinner on these unused dishes 60 years later just might be the best way to honor them.
For now, we will continue with our daily chats. Each call ends with them sweetly, and with complete honesty, saying, “Thanks for calling,” or “It was nice to hear your voice.”
And with that, I already know I am calling them tomorrow.
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A conference coordinator, a middle school English teacher, and a stay-at-home mom. are a few of the life experiences Jackie Tricolli has had on her way to rediscovering her passion for writing. Currently she blogs personal insights and essays related to her experiences as the care-taker of two rambunctious boys and what it now means to be an empty-nester. Born and raised in Pennsylvania, she lives in the suburbs of Philadelphia where she revels in the changing seasons. Jackie’s insights can be found at www.scribingwithscout.com. You can follow her on Facebook and Instagram.