Today my parents-in-law celebrate 55 years of marriage. To each other.
Together they begat 5 children, have13 grandchildren and a great-granddaughter.
Last month my mother-in-law stood up at her eldest granddaughter’s wedding and read a letter aloud to the couple. In it she set out in clear and certain terms the secret to a marriage of longevity. Well qualified, indeed.
Afterwards people said- how moving, what lovely words they were. She lifted her shoulders in that Dutch way of hers and said, “Well, it’s just The Truth!”
Later both she and my father-in-law remarked on my smudged-mascara panda eyes.
You don’t want me to cry? Then stop reading out beautiful emotional sentiments like that after the champagne toasts, I replied.
They laughed. They laugh a lot, in fact, my in-laws. Big, loud, belly-laughs. (Personally I would place this activity- laughing- very near the top of the ingredients that make up a marriage of longevity.)
Today I did a little research into the song whose refrain I often croon on days like these: ‘Happy Anniversary, Baby’ by Little River Band.
I’m dismayed to find out that such crooning is quite inappropriate, if one is crooning in order to express a positive sentiment to those recipients of the croon.
In fact, songwriters Birtels and Briggs (presumably one or the other, and quite possibly both) were experiencing quite the opposite of a Happy Anniversary on the day they penned the tune.
The story-in-the-song goes: one left the other for someone else, leaving Birtels (or Briggs) to mourn the loss alone, celebrating their fifth anniversary in a ‘jail-like’ solitude, remembering the good times but conceding there were also plenty of bad times.
There’s a fair bit of sniffy ‘don’t worry about me, I’ll be fine’ sort of lyricism, and the song concludes with a rather mournful repetition of ‘you’re always on my mind.’
(Who knew? Such dark sentiment, and yet such a catchy refrain. I now harbour no small measure of regret that I didn’t look into this sooner.)
But something in particular strikes me: looking back on the good times, Birtels (and/or, quite possibly Briggs) KNEW there were just as many bad.
My mother-in-law said as much in her wedding speech. If she might allow me to paraphrase:
“There’ll be good times, and there’ll be hard ones,
but just remember the vows you made today, and
remember that you love each other.”
Sounds simple, right?
Some might speculate it’s been 55 years of good luck, but I argue it really just Is That Simple.
Perhaps I can set THESE words to music, because in all good conscience I cannot continue to croon the inappropriate lyrics of poor old Bartels’ (and quite possibly Briggs’).
Happy Anniversary, MIL and FIL. Your marriage of longevity is a true inspiration.