Yesterday, Stella and I “celebrated” out twenty-second wedding anniversary. Some pasta from the Gush Etzion winery and a few episodes of a television show were all we could handle, but after twenty-two years, we don’t need an elaborate party.
If twenty-two years sounds like a long time, keep in mind that we actually met each other Freshman year at Colgate, twenty-eight years ago. And by the time senior year was ending, I may not have known what I wanted to do or where I wanted to live.
But I did know who I wanted to do it with and who I wanted to be with me through the journey we call life.
Stella never gets mad at anyone, really. Well, except there was this one time…….
It was senior year and everyone was busy studying for the final examinations. Stella, being the hard-working student, went off to the library. I had other plans. She asked me to swing by and pick her up in the afternoon, which would work perfectly with my plans.
See, I had decided that rather than doing something boring like studying, I would go buy an engagement ring and then ask her to marry me. Now, doesn’t that sound like more fun?
I went and got my best friend Mike. There was no way I was going to do this alone. I woke him up and explained the day’s plan. He was delighted and we hit the road for the nearest big city with a jewelry store.
As we walked in, a smiling saleswoman asked if she could help.
I freaked out and ran away.
But that’s why I brought Mike. Mike coaxed me back into the store, and then when the saleswoman asked again, if she could help, I nodded my head up and down like an idiot. Mike took over and explained that I wanted an engagement ring (everyone should have a Mike around. Mike, should you ever read this, I still owe you one.)
So the saleswoman who had already been smiling, smiled even more. “That’s wonderful!” she gushed. She took a huge ring of keys out of her pocket and unlocked the super-secure engagement ring display case and took out a whole tray of shiny things.
Now, in all the mental preparation to actually buy a ring and ask Stella, I had never even once considered that a ring probably would cost more than a pizza. And being a college student at the end of my college career, there was not much left of my life savings. In fact, my life savings were crumpled up in my pocket.
Needless to say, when a tiny little price tag on a ring landed with the print side up, it wasn’t even the number that alarmed me. It was the number of digits.
Mike saw me pale and realized the problem instantly. He asked the saleslady if we could see some “other” rings. She got the hint and with slightly less of a smile took another tray out of the display case. No dice. Even the “other” rings were not even close to the wad of crumpled bills burning a hole in my pocket.
Thank G-d for Mike. Again he asked for some “other” “other” rings. Now, without even the trace of a smile, the saleswoman locked up the trays and pointed to an assortment of rings that were sitting out on the counter. No joke. No self-respecting jewelry thief would have even considered these rings. The saleswoman said we should take our time and walked off to find some customers with real money.
But even these rings — marked as “pre-engagement rings” (because “cheap engagement rings” may have been more honest but had the wrong tone) were beyond the $75 I had saved up.
Then I saw one little ring in the corner. It had a tiny sliver of a sliver of a sliver of a diamond wedged into the center. But more importantly, it was on budget. They even gave me the fancy box with the ribbon.
Well, it had taken a lot longer that we had planned, but I had the ring. Stage One of the plan was complete. To celebrate, Mike took me out to a restaurant and explained to everyone there that I had just bought an engagement ring. That’s right, a whole room full of strangers learned of my matrimonial plans way before Stella. And even though they were strangers, they started buying me drinks and celebrating with me. In fact, Mike and I were having such a great time, we completely forgot about Stella.
As we made our way back to Colgate, I realized that I was about three hours late. But, I figured, she would be so excited, she wouldn’t hold a little thing like that against me.
Mike dropped me off and I made my way to the library, where I was glad to see that Stella had waited for me, despite the hour. I had a big grin of my face when I walked up to her and said hi. And then, I will never forget the words she uttered. Ever:
DO YOU REALIZE WHAT TIME IT IS??? I CAN’T BELIEVE YOU!! WHEN YOU SHOULD HAVE BEEN STUDYING, YOU DECIDED TO HEAD OFF WITH MIKE AND DO G-D KNOWS WHAT. YOU JUST DON’T CARE ABOUT ANYTHING IMPORTANT, DO YOU??
Despite the fact that my dear, sweet Stella had been transformed into a fire breathing dragon, I still didn’t get the message. I smiled and said, “Hey, relax. Don’t worry. Just wait until I tell you….”
But as I spoke, the distinct odor of beer came out of my mouth. And the fire of the dragon got hotter.
YOU WERE DRINKING BEER?? YOU AND MIKE WENT TO DRINK BEER DURING FINALS??? DRINKING BEER WAS MORE IMPORTANT THAT STUDYING OR EVEN MEETING ME WHEN YOU SAID YOU WOULD. I CAN’T STAND YOU.
(It gets better. Keep listening.)
I KNOW YOU. NOW IS WHEN YOU ARE GOING TO COME UP WITH SOME B.S. YOU ARE GOING TO MAKE SOMETHING UP TO TRY AND JUSTIFY WHAT YOU DID. BUT YOU KNOW SOMETHING. I AIN’T BUYING IT. I’M NOT GOING TO LISTEN TO ANYTHING YOU HAVE TO SAY. BECAUSE YOU ARE COMPLETELY INSINCERE. JUST DON’T EVEN TALK TO ME!
In silence, we walked back to the dorm. She stormed off and I went and found Mike.
“So, did you tell her? Can we celebrate yet?” Apparently, Mike had found some champagne and not wanting to wait had opened it up and was trying to get me to drink up. Then I explained. I really didn’t know what the next move should be. Perhaps it would be better if I let her cool off.
But Mike was upset because having been in on the mission, he just could’t wait. Besides, he felt bad drinking the champaign already. So he turned me around and sent me back to her room.
“What. What do YOU want. Fine, go ahead and tell me your excuse. What was so important that you and Mike had to go off, drink beer, and leave me at the library for so long.
“Well…… I had to get you this.”
I pulled out the box from my pocket, very unsure how this was going to go down.
But as she saw what it was, her face actually swung 360 degrees around her neck. It was something very cool. If there was only a YouTube back then (and for other reasons, thank G-d there wasn’t,) we would have gotten a million views instantly.
Think of the Incredible Hulk in reverse. Think of an expression of anger, disappointment, scorn turning within half a second to wonder, joy, and love.And the rest, as they say, is history. Twenty-four years later. Almost 9,000 days. A move around the world, four kids, jobs. More than half our lives have been together.
And not a single day have I ever had any doubts that the plan of 1989 was the right one (although admittedly, horribly executed.)
So now is also another anniversary. One not so nice. June marks two years since that terrible night in the emergency room. And we both have gone through hell for two years. But you know something? Even those two years are part of our lives together, and I wouldn’t give back a single day, a single hour.
We have each other and that will just have to be enough.
Happy Anniversary Kid.