On Friday, my husband and I will have been married 21 years. Last year, impatient (why wait for 25?) and feeling more than a little pleased with ourselves for having so well enjoyed our first two decades together, we threw a big party. This year, we'll probably take the kids to the coast. But I've already received a gift. My wonderful aunt, who saves things, sent me an early draft of my grandfather's wedding toast to us.
My grandfather was a great spinner of yarns and an enthusiastic, if idiosyncratic, typist. I've long had a prettied-up copy of his toast, on good quality paper and with all the spelling straightened. Now, though, I've come into possession of the writer's manuscript. I feel like an archivist, a keeper of jewels. Misspellings, uneven ink (this was a manual typewriter), a few handwritten corrections in blue ballpoint pen. The paper's thin, long folded, a little torn. Soft around the edges with age. Rereading it, I hear my grandfather's voice in my head, see him standing at the reception, a little stooped. I imagine him at his desk. Was he a two-finger typist? I don't know.
We were married on my grandparents' 56th wedding anniversary. Graciously sharing "their" day, they also shared advice. When they were married in 1935, my grandfather was county agent in Bear Lake County, Idaho. His hard-won advice: Don't post a dead calf or expect a gooseberry pie on your honeymoon. The source of this wisdom? His ill-considered decision to perform a postmortem on some farmer's calf on the way to a dance, thinking he could do his work and keep on driving. Except the work meant packaging up the calf's organs and shipping them off, and the groom and his car were far too smelly for his bride to want to go dancing once that was all done. The pie-promised gooseberries in turn went up in smoke when my grandmother, unused to cooking on an electric range, turned the burner on high before accidentally locking herself out of the apartment.
We have followed Grandpa's advice to the letter. It has worked like a charm.