Anniversaries and Durgin Park

 My mom and dad met, courted, and got engaged in the city of Boston. They attended college in the city and when we asked Dad when he first noticed Mom, he said “Our junior year, when I was class president and your mom was secretary. I thought she was very efficient.”

And with those romantic words, an uncommon union was born.

So on Tuesday, to celebrate their anniversary of 64 years, we took them to a restaurant they remembered from their college years. Durgin Park is a Boston institution. It has been a landmark of the area since 1827. Their tag line is “We serve history!’ If walls and red, gingham table cloths could talk, they would have tales to tell. Instead, the people who tell these tales are the wait staff. If you want no-nonsense staff who talk back to you and tell you what’s what – Durgin Park is the place for you.

We were fortunate to have Gina – the head hostess – as our server. Gina is Sicilian and has worked at the restaurant for over 40 years. Behind her quick tongue and biting retorts is a heart that loves people and it warmed our hearts to find that she was sincerely interested in who we were. As we ate Yankee Pot Roast, Boston Baked Beans, and corn bread she sat with us and told us some of the history and stories of Durgin Park.

The restaurant served sea men who got off work at 6:30 in the morning. They would come over after long shifts to eat and drink. After a few drinks, they would say all manner of things to the women who worked there. After a while, these women tired of it and decided to give it back. And give it back they did and they do. You do not mess with Durgin Park wait staff!

Don’t go to Durgin Park if you want a quiet, romantic evening. Go if you want to find out more about Boston and experience the Boston that is so much better than the arrogant academics. Go if you’re tired of business men and women who rush through the streets in their chic black uniforms. Go to Durgin Park if you want old Boston. Go if you want to talk and be talked at; go if you want to be served history.

On Tuesday, we chose to be served history as we celebrated my parents. It has been 64 years of marriage on two continents and many houses and cities. The results are obvious. Five children, seventeen grandchildren, spouses of grandchildren and soon to be ten great grands. But there is so much more. The years of prayer and stubborn commitment; the years of travel that included too many goodbyes and hellos to count. And always the years of joy that were woven through all of it.

Durgin Park was witness to one more important thing in history – the celebration of my parent’s life together.

So if you get to Boston this summer, head to Durgin Park, ask for Gina – and tell her the family who celebrated their parent’s 64th anniversary sent you. If she needs further reminders, ask her about her hair dryer.

Journey: One Year

A year ago on Monday we passed a milestone of parenting – we witnessed and participated in our son Micah’s wedding. There is a peculiar joy as you watch your child find a soul mate and embark on what is surely the hardest journey any two human beings will ever undertake. I watched this video made by Micah for Lauren with tears – may you enjoy this and be reminded of the mystery of marriage.

Happy Anniversary Micah and Lauren!

An Unlikely Anniversary Card

Card aisles in stores, whether they be CVS or Papyrus are full of people searching for that perfect card. The card that speaks to our thoughts and feelings in a more eloquent way than we could hope to articulate.

Hallmark tries to deliver. Shoebox tries with a cheaper price tag, but the sentiments are too long or too short, too flowery or too fake.

While the front of the card may seem perfect, as we read the inside we sigh and move on to the next. Cards designed with red roses or beautiful beach scenes attempt to capture a relationship with quotes like  “Every moment I spend with you becomes a beautiful memory” or “Anytime you’re next to me,I’m as close to heaven as I can be.” but anyone who has been married for over a week knows that those sayings are simply false. Every moment? Really? Close to heaven? Not so much.

2 years ago I searched for an anniversary card for what seemed like an hour.  It was our 25th Anniversary – a momentous occasion.  The cards were pretty enough, they were just all so…..fake!  None of them felt like they would express the tone of our marriage. I found myself falling into my usual pattern of defeat wondering audibly if I could whip one up on the computer

And then there it was: a white card with a black circle and thick white letters with this sentiment:

Fool! Don’t you see now that I could have poisoned you a hundred times had I been able to live without you?

Although an unlikely anniversary card, it was perfect! It captured our history, our soul connection, all the fights, all the apologies, the deep love, and most of all the recognition that it’s hard to imagine life without him.

The words were a picture of marriage. Those times that you know if life offered you the opportunity and the law allowed it you would surely poison that one that you love more than life itself and feel you can’t live without.

Today we celebrate another year of what we like to call our “Brave Marriage“. We aren’t big champagne drinkers but we will surely open a bottle of our favorite Proseco, given by our firstborn delight (who is now 26) and celebrate our 27th Wedding Anniversary. Here’s to you Cliff…Thank you for 27 years of joy and tears, laughter and fights, adventure upon adventure. I am so grateful that I never poisoned you!

A 60th Anniversary Tribute

Mom and Dad, on board the Julius Caesar, 1960

My parents, Ralph and Polly Brown celebrate their 60th wedding anniversary today. In an era of cheap hook-ups and high divorce rates it is an honor to be a part of the union of this couple.

60 years ago today, with mountain laurel gracing the Baptist Church in Winchendon, Massachusetts they said “I do!” and they lived it. My brother has set up a website in honor of their anniversary so friends and family can send congratulations. As much as we wanted to celebrate all together, three gatherings for family weddings since April has made it impossible to bring out the crystal and candles in person so we are doing it circa 2011 – online! There is so much I could say about this couple but my daughter Stefanie articulated much of what I feel in her on-line tribute. I have quoted it below and it captures the spirit of my parents and their marriage. Enjoy!

“Sometimes, when conversing among friends or strangers, I get deep enough into the conversation where not just my immediate families history pours out, but the history of my parents’ parents pours out. I remark on the fact that two separate people, from two different families, joined together in marriage and by this, you changed generations and generations of individuals.

When you listened to God’s calling on your life, you changed all of us, even the little ones that can’t even speak yet. When you took that boat to Pakistan, you  set a fire in the souls of all your children, making them passionate about different cultures. You set a fire that dwells in me. The uniqueness of your story gives me great hope to know that two people, who listened to God’s call, effected their five kids, who, in turn, effected their kids (17 kids!) and now, some of us are affecting spouses and even grandkids!

You sparked inside all of us an appreciation for a good curry and a deep sense of belonging in airports. You may not see your commitment to Christ as such an inspiration, but your marriage truly is incredible and what you did, even through the difficult times, is a testimony to God’s amazing hand on each of our lives. You persisted and remained dedicated, allowing all of us to explore the possibilities on this earth, the possibilities of traveling and seeing different ways of life. Thank you for sparking an eternal flame in my heart, and the hearts of all my cousins. You changed generations of people.

Love you so very much and so glad to call you my very own. What a beautiful relationship you have and I hope one day I will celebrate my 60th with someone as amazing and funny as Grandpa!
Infinite love and Congrats!
Stefanie S. Gardner (#16)

Mom & Dad, Summer 2010
60 years, 5 kids, 17 grandchildren, 3 great grandchildren and counting!!