40 is the new 50
To say that we were all shocked by my dad’s anniversary surprises is an understatement. I repeatedly told Jill in church on Sunday morning that my curiosity was about to get the best of me. And my dad certainly lived up to the elusive mystery that he created.
It all began a few weeks ago when I looked up the traditional anniversary gift on night while talking to my dad. I told him it was a ruby and reminded him that this was a big year. I don’t know what he had in mind at that point, or how far he had gotten with his plans. He said that was a good idea and that he thought we would go to lunch with our family after church, which we do every Sunday.
For a little background, I am sure that my interest in traditions and our family is my way of processing all of the love of history oozing from my father’s genes. In this battle, my mother’s dislike of history won. I know absolutely nothing about the Civil War, which I have decided was my form of rebellion as the first born child. We visited numerous Civil War battlefields and graveyards as part of our family vacations, which began as early as my parents’ honeymoon. I wonder what was going through my mother’s mind when they made a quick stop at a historical site on their way to Atlanta after the wedding. These interests are often the focus of his creative flow of ideas.
Most of the creativity I have, I can attribute to my father. He is full of ideas, which spill forth effortlessly. He is constantly sharing projects with me that he wants to create – a map of all of the homeowners in Germanton, a popscicle family tree, on and on. I often find various stages of projects when I visit their house. I also see my mother’s beautiful handwriting sprinkled throughout in odd places. I can just imagine Daddy standing behind her as he dictates what he wants written where. This is their life – he dictates his ideas and she completes the project. Not only are they celebrating forty years of marriage, but thirty years of working together in his law practice.
Fortunately for me, I inherited the love of order and the ability to complete my own ideas from my mother. Although this has taken years of practice and discipline. I do have several memories of my mother’s crafty creations from my childhood, along with artifacts found throughout our house. But those projects stopped long ago, as she began to dedicate more hours of service to the office and our family (and beyond). Unlike my mother, Henry hates being told what to do, even if it is something simple. Maybe that is what my neighbor meant by a sarcastic “I bet that is fun,” after I told her that we were an Aries and a Taurus. The most simple things feel like butting heads. Every once in a while we create a joint creative project, which always makes my heart leap.
When Henry asked my dad for my hand in marriage, my dad began the conversation for Henry and provided these thoughtful words of advice that he maybe understood a little too well. “Caroline has always done exactly what she wants to do.” Henry likes to use this quote at least once a week. What my dad forgot to tell him is that life is a lot easier if you do what she wants to do, as well. This is the same advice that my mom shared with Ryan last Saturday when he asked how she had managed being married for forty years. She had great pleasure in saying that she had another day until she was married forty years. And she always did everything he wanted to do.
So it was not all of the ideas and thoughtfulness that my dad put into the day that was so shocking. It was the fact that he carried everything out all by himself. And they had nothing to do with one of his historical interests. We all thought that he had given up on buying her presents a few years ago when she returned one too many beige outfits. But all of that was behind him and we all witnessed a side of my dad I had never seen before. Each moment was timed perfectly. He skipped Sunday School, yet continued to study his lesson like every other week without giving away any of the surprises. How did he not spill the beans? To anyone? Was there anyone in on the secret?
In telling this story to others, it went too fast – beginning with the surprise four dozen roses at church and ending with the promise of a CD recording that night at Karen’s. I heard Karen say that she made notes of all of the events from the day on her way home. She was afraid that she would forget something. Fortunately, at my father’s request, I thoroughly documented the day. He reminded me several times to bring my camera to church. He also made sure that I get in the limo last so that I could take pictures. And he even told me to get up and take pictures of the house during our lunch. Dad seems quite pleased because he called me this morning saying that I captured everything, which was the perfect ending to the event.
So there are a lot of pictures and they do a great job of sharing the entire story without any true narration. Much better than what I can convey to others over the phone.
But if you would like more details, following is a recap that I emailed to Henry, who is in Jordan.
First I was showering for church and I heard this sawing noise. I peeked downstairs and I saw that Daddy was cutting the stems off of these red roses. I said his name and he came around the corner. He told me to hurry up and get to church, make sure I bring my camera and don’t expect to return home after church.
So I got to church early and mom had placed these flowers from Eris’ shower on the alter and Dad went back and placed a vase of at least 40 deep red roses on the same table on the side closest to mom. During the service, Mike read Mom’s announcement: The flowers were placed in honor of Jerry and Yvonne Rutledge, who were married on this day, September 2nd, 1967, at Friendship Baptist Church. Then Mike said, “When Yvonne gave me this card, she only put one set of flowers on the table. I believe this second set is for you.” Looking back at Mom. Right after that she started playing “America the Beautiful” and kept hitting the wrong notes. She said that she was really embarrassed and kept missing her E flats.
I really thought that Daddy was going to go up during the alter call and have them recommit their vows. He had suggested that would be a great idea one day last week and I told him that it was probably not. He would need to review that with her first. I even thought that I saw Mike looking at Daddy and smiling at some point during the service.
At one point, Jill said that she felt something buzz. So I looked at my phone and Alex sent me the following text message: “There is a limo.” So we about died. Alex then said that he and Karen and Ed were at the house.
No one went up during the alter call. As we left the church, Daddy handed me a box and said pass these out to people. It was a little box of bubbles for weddings. So I went outside and started passing them out to everyone. A limo was parked in front of the fellowship hall. Mom finally came out and everyone was blowing bubbles at her and she was holding the roses in her arms like a baby. I called Alex and told
him that we were blowing bubbles and that they needed to get out there. So Mom saw Karen and Ed walking out from the house. She was so shocked. Everyone was asking where my dad was. So he finally came up and gave her a big kiss on the steps of the church.
We knew that only eight people were going to lunch, because Dad told Karen that only eight people could go. Heather pointed this out to me the day before at the shower. At that time I didn’t understand how this was going to be any different from any other Sunday lunch. So Mom, Dad, Jill, Mickey, Karen, Ed and Alex climbed in the limo.
We finally get in and start driving down Friendship Road. He then asked us if we wanted to make any guesses as to where we are going. Then he said that we were going to The Yancey House in Yanceyville, which was a 72 mile drive, one way. There were beverages in the cooler and he brought his 4 pack of R&B CDs to play for ambiance. He also had Alex bring their wedding album from the house and we had it in the limo, too.
Then half way down the road he pulled out this big ruby ring surrounded by diamonds. We were all in shock.
We finally arrived at the Yancey House, which I think that he was really interested in because they host a Cajun music band once a year. We had lunch in this old historic house. While we were waiting for our food, he told me to get up and go outside to take pictures of the house and the sign.
So then we took the limo back, which seemed a little quicker. But we didn’t get home until 5 pm and Karen had invited 21 people to her house for an anniversary dinner party. So she was a little stressed.
On the drive home, Dad pulled this small folder out of his coat pocket and said that he had another gift. They were going to have their portrait made by Linda Weaver next Saturday night at their house.
We finally made it back home and I took pictures of them walking in front of the church sign, like ours.
Mom and I went home and got ready to go to Karen’s. Dad had a meeting at the church. So he drove separately.
When we got to Karen’s, Donna called Mom and said that she saw a car on the side of the road and that Daddy might be changing a tire. So after all of that he had a flat. I felt really bad that he had a flat after all of that. So when he arrived, we all gave him a standing ovation. He was really excited.
At the end of the evening, I went out to move my car and missed the final gift. He announced that he had one more gift for mom. He has arranged for her to record a CD. He tried to line something up at a recording studio and even talked to someone at Shannock’s in King. But he then realized that they can do it with the new equipment at the church. Bo said that she was smiling and just started sliding into Karen’s bedroom.
As we agreed in the limo, forty is the new fifty. Why wait to celebrate an anniversary when you can’t really get in and out of a limo or whatever your mode of transportation. Have fun and celebrate your life together now.