After sixteen years of marriage certain things fit perfectly. Two artists, we started with an artists’ wedding and each year we’re reminded of this beginning. It’s a day to remember our coupling but also who each of us is. We both want to get back to making art.
We’ve been going to the same restaurant for the past seven years to celebrate. Because of the restaurant’s database, they always remember which anniversary we’re celebrating and our menus are printed with a celebratory “Happy [Fill in the year] Anniversary.” They always take us to the same area of the dining room where there are three tables-for-two set in a triangle. Some years we dine alone. With young children it’s wonderful to be adults and not just parents. And we marvel how facile we are when slip into adult conversation. And there’s always wine. I make a play for the sommelier, describing at length the flavor and finish we’re looking for. It is my finest hour as a wine connoisseur. Well, I know what we like—we’re a very compatible wine couple.
If there are others at the other tables we may converse with them, sharing our celebratory events. If not, we’re happy to be alone.
This year, the couple on our left was already seated when we arrived. We could tell she was celebrating her birthday. But it was obvious they only had eyes for each other. The table on our right was still unoccupied. There was a chance we’d meet someone interesting.
Finally two gentlemen were seated. My wife and I continued talking with each other. When our entrees arrived one of the men looked over and commented on our food. A good conversational opener. I’ve used it myself over the years. We were happy to engage.
They were in town for the weekend, up from southern Virginia. Hampton Roads if memory serves me. He was a lapsed Catholic priest now in local government and the other he was retired. They loved DC. Easy to get to, they’d spent the day traversing the Smithsonian on the Mall. I, of course, felt it my duty to wax poetic on the American Art Museum. Not on the Mall, often people will miss the splendor and history of the Old Patent Office Building where the museum is housed. I know my lines (it’s my job). It was easy to make a visit there enticing. They were leaving the next day but would make sure they went before taking off.
I asked Mr. Lapsed Priest how he felt about Father Alberto Cutie, who had just left the Church after breaking his celibacy. “When I left the Church we wanted to get far away.” “Far away from his former parishioners,” his partner added. So we moved from Michigan to southern Virginia. And then he chuckled (not a laugh, it was definitely a chuckle).
“The first weekend in our new home we went to church. As we were leaving someone tapped him on the back and said ‘Aren’t you Father Smith?'”
You can never get away from your past. That evening, that was just fine with us.