We celebrated our anniversary over the weekend with an Anniversary Eve Date, but for the day itself, we didn’t do anything special. Instead, there was quite a bit of puttering, laundering, and organizing. Ever since my recent triumph with storing the games and DVDs, I’ve been attempting to get different sections of the house under control.
As it turned out, all of that organizing was a particularly appropriate way to spend our anniversary.
I took the girls down to the basement to help sort through boxes that contained a mix of anything I’d deemed memorable over the last few years. They tore through the collection of greeting cards, birthday cake toppers, and piles of art: endless coloring pages, paper stiff with nursery-school glue, some very original work (including J’s pretzel, which was brown paint with actual salt glued on it: her idea!). My personal favorites are the abstract-looking art that were actually attempted figurative works. If your kids are still teensy, I highly recommend asking them about their art and writing notes on the back.
I didn’t spend much time on nostalgia, too busy trying to keep the girls on task as they sorted into “keep” and “toss” piles. It was only later, when I headed upstairs to re-make our bed, that I reconsidered the whole mess down in the basement. Each box seemed deluged with pure kid stuff. But there were also little notes that we’d written to each other, fragments from jobs loved or loathed and almost forgotten, pictures of our friends and their children growing older. Even the stuff that I’d saved to remember the girls as babies were artifacts of our own growing-up as parents together. J’s photo in her pumpkin costume was taken right after we’d argued over whether to take her trick-or-treating as an infant. The little blue bear has a picture of Cute W with red-rimmed eyes because he was finally allowed to hold M at the NICU. The story of our children growing up is our family story, as we struggled and cried and stayed awake through the night together.
Just like parenthood can seem to crowd out the love that came first, the artifacts of our romance were half-buried amid the messy jumble of ripped Chuck E. Cheese photos , crumbled macaroni pieces, glitter, and all the detritus of daily parenting life. There was plenty that I happily threw away. Some stuff had lost its meaning over time, while other pieces foretold the future, if only I’d known. Each object with a story, part of a history together. Suddenly it wasn’t just the princess paintings that seemed imbued with romance.
Alone upstairs later, I put the summertime duvet cover on the bed. A day or two ago I’d pulled off the heavy winter comforter and pulled out the cover, only to find new, large splotches of purple marker. So sad! But after some stain-remover-scrubbing and another wash, the purple was gone and it was fresh and pretty. As I buttoned the cover over the duvet, I chuckled. I always do. Long ago (12 years, maybe?) I’d complained to Cute W that I wish he didn’t have any opinions about home decorating, because sometimes I just wanted something frivolous and girly. “Like this!” I’d jabbed at a Pottery Barn catalog.
A couple of weeks later, that very duvet cover appeared at our apartment, although it was too expensive. When it arrived I explained that now we’d have to buy a duvet, too. Cute W was surprised and slightly appalled.
I smoothed the duvet over the bed, inspecting it. The purple spots were gone entirely, but there were other stains, faded but lasting. Suddenly all of these objects, tucked away in basement boxes or splayed out in front of me, felt like symbols of our 18 years.
Like the duvet cover. Not as crisp as it once was, with a few stubborn stains.
Still it’s cozy. And beautiful.