Friday, March 29, 2013

Ten years ago, I had a big vision for our Ten Year anniversary. It was going to be a great party on a Gatsbyan scale. Everyone was going to be invited, everyone who was at the wedding, and then anyone who had come into our circle of friends over the past ten years. You know who you are.

If you were at the wedding, you know how it was. The fun , the beauty, the good nature, and then the Nature itself. We dragged everyone out into the forest, a few hundred miles from home. Many of them complained all the way there, but to this day won't stop talking about how great it all was. We were so proud.

So I had envisioned all these good folks, friends and family, younglings and their like, all of us out on the old, turn-of-the-century coconut plantation where Mrs. Ditchman and I had honeymooned, on the leeward side of the island of Kauai. The old grove of coconut palms still stands, and nestled among them the most charming little set of tin-roof cottages, with their hardwood floors and covered porches. The subway-tiled bathrooms had very large steel showerheads, I recall. Plumeria trees glow in the yards, and mowed grass runs between every cottage. Torches light the paths at night, back to the plantation manor, where the main building houses the local brewery, and old, local Hawaiian men come down out of the hills and bring their steel guitars, to jam at twilight. I remember the guidebook advising that if you needed a place to sit for a month and write a novel, this was it. And I remember that every cottage had a metal placard that read the name of the worker family that lived there, back in the day. Ours read: DITCHMAN - NO. 64. And we were so charmed by the farm, that I've been jealous of those old Ditchmans ever since, and, upon returning to the Mainland, stole their good name and tried to do them right.

I pictured my big family out there, each in their own cottage, and we would all own the place, like a Disneyland Grad Night. And though I knew no one else would commit to showing up, I figured we could con a few friends into being there, and then on a set of warm, spring, Hawaiian nights, we would bump into each other on the lanai, sip a beer and watch the sunset, while the cousins played in the hammocks, out on the grass.

There might even be a renewing of vows, or at least a grand luau. And around a big table we  would enjoy a fresh local poke, and would take turns toasting one another, laughing, and enjoying life. We might view an old film of the original ceremony from 2003, and a show a few slides of all of us looking so good, in those mismatched tuxedos. And I might sneak off, and quietly present a new set of wedding bands for my bride and I, since we had gone so cheap ten years previous, when we had nothing.

We had nothing! All the money was borrowed and blown on the party, and whatever else we had I'd spent on the plane tickets and plantation cottage for the honeymoon. I remember going through the wedding gifts (the envelopes, mostly) the night after we married, before we left on the plane, looking for cash and checks -we needed it to survive two weeks in Hawaii! I took whatever money I found and deposited it in the bank, and we lived on simple groceries and cheap wine at the coconut plantation. And it was perfect.

So it's been ten years, and the dream of returning to DITCHMAN - No. 64 was not to be. And though we live like kings in the suburbs, and are proud of the good life we've worked so hard and built, us modern Ditchmans cannot return to the plantation just yet. Life is so different than I pictured it, ten years ago. 

This is not a criticism. Actually, I think it's better than I pictured it. Our home is great, our children are beautiful, and the cats are amusingly deranged. I take pride in the accomplishment when I mow the lawn. Our little business supports us, hard as it tries. But friends are different, and people are gone. Several of the couples at our wedding our now divorced, and yet some of those guests are now married. Others have moved away and across the continental divide. And still others are dead and gone, sadly. (At least 5 people who had attended our wedding have now passed on.) I look at pictures of our wedding from ten years ago, and I can hardly recognize myself. And where did all those people go? But, today, life is still beautiful. It's as if the wine glass of that perfect cabernet was emptied, and then quickly refilled with a perfect pinot. The senses are shocked, and yet immediately satiated. And you don't know what hit you.

So we've been busy. Treading water, staying afloat. Working. Raising the family. Keeping house. And when the Ten Year Anniversary rolled around, we had to make time to celebrate it. So us two Ditchmans dropped the kids off at the neighbors and drove away for the afternoon.

We went out to our local wine country. It's no Napa, but it'll do. Some dry, semi-Tuscan vineyards on a warm Friday afternoon, and no kids. Just the two of us. We dropped by a little winery we kinda like. Picked up a few bottles for later, and then a fresh bottle of chilled peach pinot Bellini, whatever that was. We borrowed a few glasses and wandered over to the garden. Sat down at an old wood table, had a few sandwiches, and talked.

We talked! For over an hour. Who was this beautiful woman I was so enjoying, and where had she been? And, how lucky was I to have married her! I'm gonna take a picture! And what's that non-sound, pining from every corner of the Cosmos? Oh, it's the sound of our kids not anywhere around to bug us! It's us, and just us. And let's have a little more wine, while we're at it. And, hello! how are you, dear stranger? Today's our tenth anniversary, don't you know? We got a babysitter somewhere! 

I am still in love with her. More so today, even though I always heard that from people on their anniversaries and never believed it. And we hit life so hard and so fast ten years ago that we've never really stopped to take a breath -which is one of our secrets. We are both ever-looking forward to the day when everyone will leave us alone so we can just enjoy each other.

So that was our anniversary. It was nice. I looked up the "Traditional 10th Wedding Anniversary" gift on the webtubes and threw up in my mouth a little when I saw that it was "aluminum". So I didn't get her anything, as we've both had enough of the old atomic element #13. The other "suggested" 10th anniversary gift (Modern) is "diamonds", so that may be right out as well, though I have some ideas.

But, I don't know. We didn't do gifts. We didn't feel they were necessary. I was just glad to be with her, and have her to myself for a while. Maybe The Ditchmans will return to the plantation for their 20th. If you're reading this, you're invited. Mark your calendar: Spring Break in Kauai -March 29th, 2023. If it's half as fun as getting there, it'll be worth it.