“Where are you taking me?” I giddily asked my husband as we drove through the streets of Kansas City. He smiled in that sly way I’d come to love and shrugged his shoulders. “You’ll just have to wait and see.”
One year. We had made it one whole year of marriage and were ready to celebrate that warm August night. We had eaten a nice dinner at our favorite Italian restaurant and I knew Eric had something else up his sleeve for afterwards. By this point I knew him well enough to know that he’s horrible at keeping secrets, but he was resolved to do it anyway because of how much I absolutely love being surprised. The level of self-control he was demonstrating by not spilling the beans wasn’t lost on me.
Nine years later, I can still remember what we both wore. He in his blue button down shirt, very likely the only dress shirt he owned at the time if my memory serves me. I wore a thin brown halter dress that I had made myself. In a burst of creative energy, sewing had become my favorite pastime that year. (Maybe it was the early romantic notion of what married life should be. It unfortunately wasn’t a hobby I maintained over the years.)
The big surprise of the night was seeing a live theatre production of The Wizard of Oz at Kansas City’s Starlight Theatre, an outdoor venue featuring off-Broadway productions in a spectacular atmosphere. Since we both enjoy theatre in general and The Wizard of Oz was the soundtrack of my childhood, it was the perfect date for us, and he knew it would delight me.
But as delicious as dinner was and as entertaining as the musical turned out to be, those really aren’t the things I remember most. (In fact, I had to strain to even recall what show we saw.) What stands out in my mind, what makes it the best date we’ve ever had, was the feeling of shared pride in our accomplishment of one year of marriage.
Sure, we realized that one year isn’t really very long. But that didn’t matter. What mattered was that the first anniversary represented us sticking to our commitment. We were proud of our young marriage because even though we hadn’t faced any gravely serious circumstances, we had faced many smaller troubles- ones that usually didn’t feel so small in the moment. We were excited and proud to be on the trajectory of “til death do us part”. We were one year closer to becoming the radiant elderly couple celebrating their 50th anniversary.
Since that August day, Eric and I have had some dates that others might deem more impressive than that one. But it will be the one that always carries the fondest memories for me, because I think back on those “babies” and how proud they were of their marriage. And it makes me keep looking back on the years that followed and reflect that we still have a lot to be proud of.