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50th anniversary announcements, photos reveal a lot of secrets

July 02, 1998|By Liz Douglas

I'll tell you a secret: One of the favorite parts of my job is doing 50th anniversary announcements.

To be honest, the stories are not really all that interesting. There's a certain sameness about them. There was a party, they were married 50 years ago by a now-dead minister. They have children. The children have spouses. They have grandchildren. They're retired.

Our anniversary announcements are mostly limited to a just-the-facts-ma'am format. I guess we've had to do that out of necessity, to keep things from getting out of hand. After all, how can you really tell the story of a marriage, of two lives that are really one, in a few inches of newspaper type?

My favorite part really is the pictures. About a year ago, we started running wedding pictures with the anniversary announcements. I have to give credit to a couple of readers who pushed for it.

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It got to the point we couldn't resist. It's just about four extra column inches. I guess we can spare that for a marriage that has survived and thrived for 50 years. Not to mention just living that long.

A lot of our readers - and our couples - remark that they really like the old pictures. I like them, too, but my favorites are the new pictures. There's the story of the marriage.

It's in the expressions. You can tell they're still sweet on each other, but there's more. You might detect a mischievous look, or a little smugness.

That's because they know a secret.

That secret is the mystery of how they made it last. It's the secret the younger couples in the fancy duds on the front page hope they know but will be sure only when they get to where the white-haired people are, grinning up a storm.

I've been put in mind of these 50ths a lot recently. My parents and my husband's parents both hit that milestone in the last several months. Both couples know the secret, but I could never say they have the same marriages. The secret is different for those two couples, as it is for every couple whose picture we publish.

In my parents' case, the celebration was a family dinner at a nice restaurant with their three children, me and my two brothers, our spouses and their five granddaughters, four of whom are now teenagers.

We had a new family picture taken beforehand and afterward put them up in a nice bed and breakfast - albeit with a faulty bathroom door latch. Fortunately, my father's habit of going nowhere without his trusty Swiss army knife took care of the problem in no time flat.

At one point during the dinner, I caught them stealing a kiss. I'm sure that's part of their secret.

Just what is the secret? I suppose it depends on the primary characters in the marriage, but here are a few of the secrets that my parents have shared with me through their example:

HEIGHT="6" ALT="* " NATURALSIZEFLAG="0" ALIGN="BOTTOM"> Treat each other with respect

HEIGHT="6" ALT="* " NATURALSIZEFLAG="0" ALIGN="BOTTOM"> Always greet each other with a kiss

HEIGHT="6" ALT="* " NATURALSIZEFLAG="0" ALIGN="BOTTOM"> Recognize that you're in for the long haul and not every day will be happy.

HEIGHT="6" ALT="* " NATURALSIZEFLAG="0" ALIGN="BOTTOM"> Be happy

And here's my favorite, although I think it's very particular to my parents:

HEIGHT="6" ALT="* " NATURALSIZEFLAG="0" ALIGN="BOTTOM"> The husband (a morning person) gets up first and makes coffee for the wife (a night person).

My husband and I have just 48 1/2 years to go. That's assuming we live that long - a big if, since we got a much later start than most of these couples.

We think we know the secret, too. We'll find out when we get there.

Liz Douglas is assistant Lifestyle editor.

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