About a year ago I started thinking about our 25th wedding anniversary and where we might go to celebrate. Paris? Somewhere we’ve never been before like Alaska or Hawaii? We discussed possibilities, but took our time settling on a plan. Then COVID-19 arrived. As the realities of living in a pandemic became more clear, all thoughts of travel dissipated.
Our anniversary approached, and I became more and more anxious to do something to break the monotony of being at home. But I also felt guilty about considering travel—was it wrong to travel for pleasure? I had no desire to get on a plane, and didn’t relish the idea of going to a city or beach where there might be a lot of people. But it would be so nice to have a change of circumstances and scenery.
On the other hand, our anniversary was just a day. Another day among many we’ve shared. We could postpone our trip for later.
The thought of not acknowledging the day made my stomach churn though. It would be easier, for sure. It would also be safer. But what about generous, joyful and heartfelt?
So I found a small bed and breakfast that clearly explained the precautions they were taking during the pandemic. Only a two-hour drive away, the beautiful inn was on the Chesapeake Bay, near a town that we had never visited. We went for just two nights. It was so worth it.
I’ll remember the sun setting over the rippling waters of the bay, and a lovely anniversary dinner in a fairy-lit courtyard (even if the actual fairies turned out to be vengeful mosquitoes).
The point is, I’ll remember. We had time alone together. Not just alone without other people, but alone without the book that needs writing, the garden that needs weeding, and the papers that need filing. We stepped away from everyday concerns, and each moment breathed more easily and became more vibrant. More memorable.
This is the thing I’ve come to value somewhere in the last twenty-five years—memories and experiences. The moments that stick with us continue to enrich our lives long after they’ve passed. Moments that are deeply experienced become eternal.
One summer when our kids were younger we vacationed in Williamsburg, VA. Our first evening we decided to walk to the historic park and dine in an 18th century inn where the food, the servers and the entertainment were all from colonial days. We had a lovely time. But when we stepped out of the restaurant for our twenty-minute walk back to the hotel, it started raining, then pouring. We didn’t have an umbrella. We shivered. We splashed in puddles and sang and laughed at our own silliness. We were soaked by the time we got to our room. We were also a unit. Somehow the discomfort of those twenty minutes transformed into a happy memory.
Which is why I didn’t mind the mosquitoes at our anniversary dinner so much. They were uncomfortable and annoying, but also memorable.
Becoming someone who treasures memories has given me a different perspective on today’s moments. Sometimes that makes it easier to face discomfort or pain. Sometimes it reminds me to make room for silliness or celebration.
In some ways our anniversary was just a day like any other. But I see now why I was anxious to travel for it. I needed to create a moment, even in the midst of a pandemic, perhaps especially so, to mark the time we’ve shared together. Twenty-five is a big number when you’re counting years, but it doesn’t feel long when you’re looking backwards. The moments that remain vibrant and clear in the blur of passing days are a treasure, and a reminder to live fully right now.