Two weeks ago, we'd have been celebrating our 25th wedding anniversary. It called for something special. We thought we had it all planned out.
Early in the summer, my spouse saw one of those TV shows where people go to local restaurants and give their opinions. He made a reservation for a chef's table at one of the restaurants. It sounded wonderful.
Unfortunately, we arrived at the restaurant to find out that they'd closed back in mid-July so that they could give their attention to some other restaurants they own; we discovered this by reading a sign. Why they didn't call people who had reservations is beyond me. We certainly weren't in a mood to go to the other restaurants after being treated shabbily.
We got back in the car: all dressed up and no place to go! We deliberated. Should we go home and make plans for a different day? Go to some place less fancy/expensive?
My spouse said, "I could go for a steak." I agreed. We decided on a high-end steak house, since several were nearby.
We headed to Morton's, near downtown Ft. Lauderdale. We never could figure out how to get to the valet parking, and the garages in the same block had exorbitant rates. So we parked a few blocks away, in a city parking garage.
As we walked to the restaurant, I said, "This reminds me of our first date."
We had been together for awhile before we went on a real date. We met in college, a tiny school in a small town with very little to do in terms of traditional dating. So, one night, we headed to Columbia, South Carolina, to go to a steakhouse that my then-boyfriend had loved when he went there a year ago.
We got there only to find it was closed. So we went to a different steak place, on a hill with a wall of windows that made me feel like we were dining in a classy treehouse.
And so there we were, 29 years later, once again headed to a steakhouse when other plans had failed. Then, as now, I was happy at our ability to improvise. I was glad that we didn't blame each other for the ways in which our plans fell apart.
And two weeks ago, as with our first date, we had a lovely evening. Had we just admitted defeat and gone home at the first sign of adversity, we'd have missed out on that. Of course, we might have had a lovely night at home. But I'm glad we came up with an alternate plan.
In so many ways, our anniversary evening seems an apt metaphor for marriage, and perhaps most long-term relationships, from parental to child to friend. We begin with a map and a plan and a way we think the relationship will go. We will likely end up in a land we never envisioned when we started. Along the way, we make revisions and corrections, but we still end up in a different place.
And if we're lucky, we realize that we're just as happy as we would be had we followed the original plan. If we're really lucky, we're even happier than we thought we could be.