This month, on that day when so many couples celebrate their new or ongoing relationships, my wife Sam and I are marking the 40th anniversary of the birth of our love. Like so many of us, we usually treat ourselves by going out to dinner, spending more money than we ought to and remembering the magical beginnings of our budding relationship.
The stories we tell have survived four decades. Like the time I brought out my Webster’s Unabridged Dictionary — which weighs 20 pounds and is bursting with words you and I will never be able to pronounce, much less use — and I read from it, as if telling a story in a strange, chanting rhythm. Sounds weird and boring, I know, but it was one of those you-had-to-be-there-moments. Maybe had something to do with the laughter-liberating qualities of cannabis, circa 1973, you think?
We used to park and make out on a bluff overlooking an ugly mosaic of oil rigs, storage tanks and dirt service roads that scarred the barren, desert-like landscape. Not exactly the twinkling lights of a big city or a Montana sky, but it worked.
Then there was the time we took our first day-trip together driving into the mountains and I got stuck in the snow and she had to push us out, and when I hit the gas it spewed mud and ice all over her nice clean bellbottoms. Ahhh, those were the days.
The morning after we first made love was surreal. We woke up in my waterbed, opening our eyes at the same moment, facing each other, just inches away. We laughed and hugged, cocooned in the same surprising dream. Then we noticed how bright the room was — walls pulsating with morning light. Sam got to her knees, looked out the window and said something that people living in Bakersfield say just once every 20 years: “It snowed!”
We took it as an omen that our relationship would be full of surprises.
The biggest surprise of all is that we are still together. We lived together unmarried for the first five years, struggling to find our place in the world. We were societal dropouts trying to find a way to drop back in. We fled California, ran away to Oregon and lived in no fewer than six different places in those first five years — a duplex, four rented houses, and our “starter” home, a small, inexpensive house in Southeast Portland with a big yard, a sweet golden retriever pup named Amber, and Oblio, a tiger-striped kitten we rescued and kept for 21 years.
Then we got married and fate stepped in almost immediately and helped us make our next move — to a farm in the country just outside Portland. It must have been the place we had always wanted in our hearts. Today we are in our 34th year living in the same farmhouse — our daughter and two grandsons living nearby — still sleeping in our waterbed, still waking up at the same moment, still in love.