It was around our 9th wedding anniversary that we started talking about what we would do for our 10th anniversary. We should go somewhere, we agreed. Anywhere. Well, not just anywhere. Somewhere not local. No states beginning with "O" or "W." Sure, that might sound unfair to all the travel possibilities to Oklahoma or Wyoming, but that's how it goes sometimes.
Since Jules was only going to be six months old on our actual 10th wedding anniversary then we decided that Christmas break would be a better time to travel--she'd be a year old and that's when I'd planned on finishing nursing her. We'd have time off from school, and no doubt ready for a night away from the kids, if for no other reason than we could sleep in the following morning. You know you're a parent of young children when sleeping in is the highlight of any vacation.
For eleven months--from July 2006 to June 2007--we dreamed of where we would go for our anniversary trip. We were pretty sure we were going to go to the Bahamas, not only to vacation but also to go to the wedding of a former student. We had the tickets all priced out and had our hearts set on it. I even was looking forward to getting a new swimsuit. All our spare change and cash we stashed away in a little box marked "Vacation Fund."
Then July came and with it the financial crisis of paying two mortgages. We had a house on the market, and the market wasn't looking good. The renters who had skipped out on paying their last month's rent, had left us in a bit of a pinch, but still we maintained the dream of going on an anniversary trip. Certainly the day of our actual anniversary was markedly unspectacular. Jason had to work that whole week at his dad's coffee shop, and we had trouble getting someone to watch the girls so we could go out that night. In the end, the only thing we did was go see the new Harry Potter movie. No dinner. No dessert. I think Jason may have even stayed the night up in Washington while I drove back home with the girls. Romantic it was not.
Then July rolled into August, and August into September. I hinted to Jason that we might need to use our anniversary money to keep going, but he was bound and determined that we save the fund. Nevertheless, one morning before the house payment was due I reached into the box marked Vacation Fund and pulled out $1200. I drove to the bank and deposited it.
I cried the rest of the day.
Eventually we sold the other house, but it was too late to save our dream trip to the Bahamas. I set my sights on an anniversary trip less grand, even telling Jason I would settle for just one night at the beach. But the change in plans was greatly disappointing for Jason, and he confessed that he might not want to go anywhere. I'll be honest and confess that when he said that, I initially thought I'd just drive somewhere by myself, so strong was my desire to just get away.
December came, and I settled in on the notion of having a quiet uneventful Christmas vacation. We didn't talk anymore about going anywhere. Even though we had done some refinancing with the house in order to make it possible to travel, I just figured that the moment had passed, and I was going to be okay with that.
The week before Christmas, we were all hanging out in the kitchen. I was sitting at the dining room table, listening to the girls chatter and Jason said, "Do you want to know one of your Christmas presents?"
Of course I did.
It was better than anything we could have planned 18 months ago. After ten (and a half) years of marriage, we figured out that there are some things in life that you can't afford not to do. Like spending a weekend strolling down the streets that you walked together as newlyweds.
True, I didn't get the vacation I dreamed about.
I got something even better.