Today Dunreith and I celebrated our eleventh anniversary.
I fully acknowledge that we made things complicated by having two more ceremonies twice more during our first year, thereby actually creating three anniversaries, and today is the one that we count the most.
We do so because it was our first.
We do so because it was on this day 11 years ago that she, Aidan and I gathered in front of a tree with three roots that come together at the base and, with a ceremony we had designed and written ourselves, held hands as we became a family that we declared would be together forever.
Dunreith and I returned to that site today with dear friends Tom Sippel and Stephanie Pasternak and their two children, Willa and Lars.
Entering the park was like revisiting an old friend, warm memories springing up and being seen through the perspective of a decade’s distance.
I had forgotten about the park’s many treasures, from the deep green grass to the gurgling brooks that wind under bridges.
I didn’t remember how clean the air felt, how intoxicating the trees in the shaded section smelt, had not thought for years about the basketball court or the Sweet Shoppe or miniature golf course or paddle boats or the petting zoo.
Beyond the park’s physical features, though, I felt the times large and small we had experienced there coming into sharper focus than before.
Here was the black tar path where we strode around the park four times Sunday after Sunday while Aidan was in religious school at Bet Ahavah, the House of Love.
There on the bench was where we told Aidan on his last day of camp in the summer of 2000 that we were getting married, where I informed him that I was giving Dunreith two diamonds, but also had one for him that he might want to give to someone some day.
Over there, by the pond, stood the wooden sanctuary where we held our second wedding, the public ceremony that Justice of the Peace Bruce Zeitler opened by saying, “It is a pleasure once again to be here at Look Park to marry Dunreith and Jeff.”
In the distance was the outdoor concert area where we ate sushi while Richard Thompson and Shawn Colvin open for Ricky Lee Jones the evening after Dunreith and I had picked out the ring I would present to her.
And there, atop the hill to the side of the entrance, was the tree where Bruce had married us the first time.
There was a pair of these trees, so it took a minute for us to decide which was the right one. Tom and Lars tossed a Frisbee back and forth while Willa and Stephanie took pictures of us in front of the base (In our excitement 11 Labor Days ago, Dunreith and I brought a champagne glass that I crushed, the text and order of the ceremony, some rice for Aidan to throw at us, but no camera.).
The pictures finished, we hugged the Sippel/Pasternaks goodbye and prepared to drive visit Dunreith’s mother Helen in her room at Baystate Medical Center.
These days, I find myself ever more aware humbled by life’s richness precisely because my awareness of its fragility and preciousness has deepened.
And, on the eleventh day of labor since we began the labor of marriage, I felt deep down grateful for Dunreith, the glorious woman who accepted me as her husband then, and who has done nothing but love, support, challenge and nurture me since while we have raised Aidan, buried her father and my stepmother, moved toward my writing dream in the most American of cities, and generally done the hard and rewarding work of building a family and a life together.
Happy Anniversary, Dunreith.