My parents recently celebrated their Sapphire Anniversary, 45 years of marriage. And though they chose to celebrate with a quiet dinner, family and friends still feted them with phone calls and anniversary cards. Among those anniversary cards there was one card that even I was anticipating – asking my Mom as the day approached “did you get the card yet?”
My question needed no other details or prompts, the card is still wrapped in its protective plastic covering and unsigned; the card predates me and has celebrated more than eighty-five wedding anniversaries. Purchased for a quarter on an army base in 1971, it makes it’s appearance every year.
If you just did a little math in your head you may be questioning my own math skills regarding how an anniversary card purchased in 1971 has celebrated more than eighty-five wedding anniversaries. Let me assure you that my math (in this case at least) is not faulty and allow me to share with you the beautiful story of two of my favorite couples and one very special anniversary card.
Meet My Parents
The story begins with my parents, Storm and Virginia, who were married on March 7, 1970. Uncle Richard was serving in Vietnam and missed his sister’s wedding. He returned to the states in January of 1971 where he was stationed at Fort Devens in Massachusetts; and thanks to his trusty yellow Ford Pinto, he made frequent visits home to his family in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania.
In March of 1971 before heading home to visit, he stopped at the PX (a general store on base) to purchase an anniversary card. In a rush to get on the road (or maybe to see a particular girl named Janet), he tossed the unsigned card in the Pinto’s glovebox…where it was a round-trip passenger to Lancaster and back to Fort Devens.
Well it’s the thought that counts, right? … because by the time the young soldier on leave reached his hometown, the thoughtful purchase in the glovebox was forgotten. The card didn’t quite make an appearance at his sister’s first anniversary celebration.
A few months later Richard found the once forgotten card and showed it to my Mom, “Hey Virginia, here’s the anniversary card I got you.” And familiar as I am with my family’s sense of humor, it doesn’t surprise me that he wouldn’t actually let her have the anniversary card – after all, it wasn’t her anniversary anymore. He stashed the card back in the glovebox, and showed it to my Mom again for year 2…and AGAIN managed to reappropriate the card and stash it back in the trusty Pinto’s glovebox.
So if you’re counting, that’s 1972 and two wedding anniversaries, my parents’ 1st and 2nd years of marriage.
Another Happy Couple Ties the Knot
Uncle Richard married Janet in the spring of 1972, and the following March as she prepared to celebrated her own 1st wedding anniversary, Aunt Janet found the card and mailed it to my parents for their third anniversary, still unsigned, with a note attached proclaiming Richard had a special anniversary card for them. My Aunt had no idea how soon she’d see that card again, when just a few weeks later her sister-in-law mailed it back to Richard and Janet to celebrate their first wedding anniversary – April 1st, 1973.
Yes, I am telling you that on April Fool’s Day my Aunt and Uncle celebrated their paper anniversary by receiving back the card ….. still unsigned, still sealed in plastic.
The Making Of a Tradition
Obviously, no one knew then how significant this card would become. It all started out with a card that a brother forgot to give his sister and then decided to recycle – a few times. And on a whim, with her own clever sense of humor, my Mom recycled it again and sent it back to him. And then like most traditions, it just becomes part of the fabric of the family.
May a perfect anniversary
Hold the happy promise, too
Of another year that brings you both
Your favorite dreams-come-true!
And another year, and another year, and another …..
For over 45 years, they have been exchanging that greeting card, still in its protective plastic covering, still unsigned, for their respective anniversaries. Some years the card was delivered in person. Some years the card arrived via mail. One year the card even traveled to Egypt where Uncle Richard and Aunt Janet were living.
As a kid, I thought it was a fun tradition, a cool old card that showed up every year. Today, I see the beautiful testament to two strong marriages and a lasting friendship. Two hard-working families with busy lives, busy kids and hectic schedules, they never forgot – every year, twice a year, the card shared it’s wishes back and forth between a brother, a sister, in-laws and good friends. It never needed a signature, the love was written all over that card.
This year my parents celebrated 45 years of marriage and today Aunt Janet and Uncle Richard celebrate 43 years and that card has witnessed every one of them.
UPDATE: Read the final chapter of the story of this anniversary card here.
You Get a Card! You Get a Card! You Get a Card!
Who do you know that’s celebrating an anniversary or a birthday this month? Who can you send a card to TODAY?
And now that you’re feeling inspired (how can you not be?!), join me in the #write_on campaign for National Letter Writing Month and let’s send out the love with 30 cards in 30 days!