Today is not my wedding anniversary. But my husband and I celebrate the date every year. This morning he gave me a big hug and said, “Do you know what today is?” I thought for a second and said, “Oh, it’s our Not Anniversary.” Later tonight we’ll have a nice dinner and laugh about the events of 31 years ago. We had been engaged for about a year but hadn’t gotten around to getting married. He was more of a traditionalist than I, so asked me sweetly if I would care to finally settle on a date, please. I gave it some serious thought and came up with March 4th. In fact, the more I thought about it, the more convinced I was that there was no more appropriate date in that or any year than March 4th. The date itself would add a layer of significance to our marriage. It would be as symbolic as the vows, the ring, the wedding cake, and the two-foot tall candle I bought to burn on each anniversary for the next 50 years.
He and I have both made our livings as writers during various times of our lives. We can’t go into a restaurant without proofreading the menu. We rewrite actors’ lines in the TV shows we watch. We read book passages out loud to each other if they’re particularly well written. We love words, and we love when they are used in ways that imbue them with layers of meaning. Like the name of this blog: We’re All Relative. At its most basic the blog is about my family’s genealogy. I am telling our stories to the family’s future generations so they don’t have to wonder who they are or where they came from. Peel off that layer and you’ll see a second theme, rather the opposite of the first, that the end game of genealogy is ultimately an exercise in meaningless. Because the farther back you go the more ancestors you have, until you ultimately have a connection to everyone. And therefore no one.
My fifth great-grandfather was Sir John Boyd, who left the comfort of his peerage position in Scotland in 1736 to ply the seas and take up life on the wild frontier of Pennsylvania. Good enough. But I wonder what my other 253 great-great-great-great-great grandparents were doing in 1736. Am I really up to finding out? And what about their parents, and their grandparents? Because they’re all my ancestors too, all 1,024 of them. And this is where the numbers really start adding up. Go back three more generations and you have 15,382 direct ancestors of the grand-parental variety to sort out. Add four more generations, putting you roughly back to 1450, and you have more than a quarter million grandparents of various great- and great-greatness. Add in just one sibling per grandparent and you’re over one million grandparents and first cousins. They all have stories. But I’m not digging them up.
Okay, we’ve peeled off that layer of meaning to We’re All Relative. The next, and last I’ve thought of so far, is about our own meaning in this world. Who we are is relative to place, time, and circumstance. That we are alive today, our ancestors – all billions of them – had to pick the spouses they did, cross the seas when they did, survive the plagues of disease that they did and outrun the wild animals that they did. Robert Boyd was one of three children of my before-mentioned fifth great-grandfather John Boyd, who were killed in an attack on their home by hostile Native Americans. My ancestor was not home at the time, and thus I was born. The fact that I exist is predicated on billions and billions of individual circumstances, decisions, and fates that came before and still occur every day. Which makes me think I could have named my blog, We’re All Irrelevant, or We’re All Impermanent, So Watch Yourself. I think I’ll stick with the top layer. I just like it that I can dive into deeper waters if I have a hankering.
March 4th carries a much less existential symbolism. It is a date with semantic meaning. To be married is to march forth into a shared life. It is to face the trials and share the joys of life side by side, always side by side. It is a commitment to the future, to shared goals and dreams and spontaneous diversions. I’m not one to ever want to march anywhere, but to march forth is in keeping with the formality of a traditional wedding. After our march together down the aisle and then back up the aisle, we fairly ran everywhere else. Sometimes with direction, sometimes not. Sometimes together, sometimes not, but always verging back to our shared place.
But we didn’t do it on March 4th. No. After being excited about the date and planning the time and place for the wedding and making all kinds of preliminary plans, he came home from work one day and informed me that he had to shoot a commercial on March 4th. It Had Been Decided. The client, the agency, the talent, the production team, even the damn helicopter had been put in motion toward a March 4th date. It was written in pen, while my wedding had only been penciled in. That was the rationale.
We ended up not getting married for another year. There was no urgency pushing us toward a specific date, so we let life carry us along until one or the other – I forget which – decided it was time to pen in a date. We had a lovely wedding on some date, either May 2nd or 4th or 5th, and proceeded to forget which actual day it was every year thereafter. We used to rely on my mother-in-law to settle the date question every year. She’s gone now, but my sister has a pretty reliable memory and a rock-solid reliable planner. I couldn’t tell you even now what day we got married. I only know it was early May and it wasn’t March 4th. I’ll probably call my sister on the first or second of May to get it straight. Sometimes we forget entirely, or remember sometime around mid-May. But we never, ever forget our Not Anniversary on March 4th.
Happy Not Anniversary, dearest husband.