Yes, I'm sure many folk picture a dark day when I galloped into her simple farming village and slung Audrey across the back of my steed, the earth blackening in my hoofprints as we rode away. In truth though, we had become friends in college, and that affection grew into something more. I had to sell her on the idea of becoming a couple because of her fear of damaging that friendship, but I did, and a quarter-century, two children and a mortgage later, here we are - still friends even when we aren't at our friendliest.
It feels a strange thing to commemorate, especially given the number of friends and acquaintances we have who have seen their relationships dissolve or break over the past few years. Reaching a milestone like 25 years yesterday feels a lot less like "Yeah!" [punches fist in air in slo-mo] and much more along the lines of "Whew!" [wipes sweat from brow], if you know what I mean.
December '92 was kind of a rough month for getting married, honestly, but there were a number of people in the bridal party still in school, and we had to wait for their final exams. It's made celebrating anniversaries tricky at times too, given the sheer number of visits, visitors, Christmas parties and concerts and the like. I had given up on the idea of a major party or some such a long while ago, and besides, the whole notion felt a bit self-aggrandizing to be honest.
Apparently no one told this to my sister Tara, who, unbeknownst to us, had not only started collecting stories and photos from our friends an families and assembled them into a lovely commemorative book...
...she had also arranged a number of them to be present after church this past Sunday when the book and a large cake were presented to us.
As much as we both hate to see a fuss made about us, it was a lovely gesture, and it was wonderful to be surrounded by so many well-wishers. If you made it into the book, thank you so much; those words mean an awful lot to us.
There were other gifts as well, a lovely heart shaped silver ornament and an Irish 'Make Up Bell' among them.
Tuesday morning, the day of our actual anniversary, there were 25 tulips on the table, and a pair of silver claddagh earrings for Audrey that I appear to be unable to photograph myself.
She presented me with a Tibetan singing bowl, something I've wanted for a very long time, even if it isn't silver; I don't wear much in the way of jewelry, so the gifting angle is far tougher for her, frankly. It didn't matter much to me though, as the real gift was having my bride to myself for almost 24 hours.
Both of us being lovers of history, we've longed for a chance to stay in one of Edmonton's most historic buildings, the Hotel MacDonald, and I decided to pull out all the stops for this momentous occasion.
We had exotic cocktails in the Confederation Room, then a three course meal in the Harvest Room. Audrey had hay-smoked chicken while I enjoyed a rack of lamb so tender that a six-week-old baby could have eaten it. The service at these establishments is almost always a pleasure, and the staff even surprised us with a joyfully decorated plate and two glasses of sparkling wine at the end of our repast.
We explored the hotel itself a bit, checking out the amenities and meeting rooms, admiring the pictures and various artefacts from the establishment's 102 year history. While looking for a working ice machine, I found a room with the crest of Lord Strathcona's Horse, a connection I have yet to research but found intriguing.
The room we had was lovely and spacious, with an oblique view of the river and the Edmonton Queen, iced in for the season, and we enjoyed icewine & brandy before retiring.
The next day, we slept in and almost missed the breakfast that came with our rooms as part of a promotion, but the staff made certain to have us fed before the lunch crowd came in and displaced us. After checking out, we left our bag at the desk area so we could check out one of the city's newest attractions: the funicular.
Part of a larger project called Mechanized River Valley Access, a funicular is essentially an elevator designed to go up and down slopes. This one, and its accompanying steps, will make it much easier for everyone to get to our wonderful river valley, especially those with impaired mobility. Plus 'funicular' is objectively a very fun word to say - just try it.
Currently the descent is a bit anticlimactic, as there is not much at the bottom of the funicular aside from the bridge going above Grierson Hill Road and the lookout they've built overlooking the North Saskatchewan. The lookout is a nice viewpoint though, and contains an elevator that will take riders right to the city's vaunted trail system.
For low-minded folk like myself, it is also quite entertaining to tell someone (say, your wife of 25 years), that you are looking forward to doing something fun with them that begins with the letters F and U, before exclaiming "Funicular!"
When we were first married, we lived within walking distance of Whyte Avenue, so it felt appropriate to return there today and get the last of our Christmas shopping done, explore some shops you would never find in a mall, snap a cheeky photo in front of a seasonally decorated window:
Still full from our late breakfast, we nonetheless finished our excursion with ridiculously overdone milkshakes at RE:GRUB (yes, that garnish is in fact a legitimate slice of cheesecake).
Spending a couple of days in extravagance feels a bit hedonistic and almost irresponsible in some ways, but of all the things I am grateful for in my life, and there are many (family and friends in particular), Audrey is foremost among them, and with good reason. Taking some time to observe the miracle of a person so special choosing to spend over half of her life married to me seems the very least I can do, and I hope this tiny bit of pampering makes her feel the way I do almost every day when I wake up next to her.
Our marriage vows had us promising to be each other's best friends, lovers, and parents to our children. 25 years later, that's still the case, and why not? We started out as friends, after all.