Written by Ashley Bernard
Okay so I’m going to talk about something that can sometimes be very controversial. Marriage. Wait. Wait, before anyone starts freaking out, or taking sides, or just running in the opposite direction because marriage isn’t what you want right now, it is not that kind of talk. I am 24 and marriage is not in my immediate future, but the evidence of a good marriage is right in my face.
Marriage begins with the wedding. That is the part people tend to get hung up on. It is a big party that tends to cost a lot of money and involve a lot of people. But marriage is more than just the wedding day. This month my parents celebrate their 40th wedding anniversary. I’m only sure they’ll be celebrating because my siblings and I are planning it as a surprise (So nobody show them this post until April 1st). If we left it to my parents to commemorate the 40 years they have spent as husband and wife, they would do nothing special. However, in my opinion, 40 years needs recognition. I’m not just saying that because they are my parents. I am saying it because it is rare. The 40th Anniversary marker is the ruby. Rubies are one of the rarest gemstones. Much rarer than the coveted diamond women sport on their left hand as acknowledgment that they are taken. Reaching this rare milestone is slightly ironic. By the time you get to 40 years nothing is really rare anymore. The need for spontaneity is gone. You frequently go to the same places. Working a consistent routine makes the relationship flow smoothly. It is often clear that the couple knows one another inside and out.
From viewing my parents’ behavior it is clear they aren’t thinking about the special day that is vastly approaching. This 40th anniversary day will stand with the other 14,000+ days they have spent together along with the many days to come after. They seem focused on accomplishing that “til death do us part” goal. So while they can recall specific moments, jokes, comments that have been made over the years, they do not feel the need to recognize them only on the day that symbolizes their union. They figure any random Tuesday is good for that. Nonetheless, this year we are surprising them with memories from friends and family who have been along for the ride with them. Yes, there has to be more contributors than me. There were 16 years of marriage before me I can never speak on.
Fortunately, there are people before me who were not just spectators, but participants. So the only problem is wrangling them together. Here is a piece of side info: Both my parents were born in Jamaica, but they met, fell in love and married in England, before migrating to New York, and finally settling now in Georgia. We have to contact people from these places and more. Thank God for modern technology where all you need is a name to Google someone and get their mobile number in the UK. However, I still had to go snooping through my mother’s old phone book, an object that should be obsolete by now.
Of course, everyone isn’t coming to celebrate in person. I couldn’t imagine trying to accommodate so many West Indians in Atlanta without ruining the surprise. Right now it is hard enough trying to make calls and send emails without my parents knowing. I have already slipped up in telling my mom something my uncle said in one of our secret conversations. The thing was not directly related to the surprise party but I could not come up with a reason my uncle and I had spoken fast enough so I just muttered, “uuuuhhhhhhhhhh,” and walked out the room.
There has been some stress involved trying to make sure the celebration comes off nicely, but it has also been fun. The overall experience has made me feel connected to people in a way that doesn’t really happen anymore. I have shuffled through old photo albums, including my parent’s wedding album which I shockingly had never seen before. Despite the fact that I rarely speak to a lot of these people they are all excited at the idea of honoring my parents, Neville and Evelyn. We have all been touched by their presence and now feel engaged in their story. Nowadays it’s entertaining to watch celebrity relationships bloom early and then crash heavily. And thanks to social media, talk shows, and TMZ, we know a lot of the juicy and sordid details. Then we share our feelings and comments while sipping tea and nibbling on imaginary popcorn. Then the internet thugs and groupies of the world sit behind their devices and feel like they are really a part of the experience when truth is they have no idea. The connection you have to that couple can be quickly severed by one bad service day.
Overall the process reminds me that the idea of marriage goes beyond just two people. It is the formation of a family. It is almost like when my parents married each other, the rest of us made unsaid vows to them as well to love, honor, cherish and all that jazz, The hope is that the family and love continue to grow. Now the countdown is on as we have less than a week until the party, but it already feels like a success as we re-linked the family.