Happy: A Quest for Life After Death

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Lace Anniversary

In this difficult year of firsts -- first Mother's Day without Mat, first Valentine's Day without Mat -- today may rank as one of the most difficult.

Mat and I were married 13 years ago today.

Mat was a strict believer in traditional anniversary gifts. He would spend weeks searching for the perfect gift made out of the appropriate material, which was not always an easy task. The first anniversary, paper, brought the complete works of Shakespeare. For later anniversaries he picked out a sweater (cotton), a cherry bonsai tree (fruit), and the maple dining room table that he built himself (wood). The only anniversary gift he gave up on entirely was bronze, because the only bronze objects he could find were strange and expensive sculptures.

I have been dreading my thirteenth wedding anniversary for weeks. As part of my survival plan for the day, I decided to buy myself an anniversary present. I would look up the list of traditional anniversary gifts, spend the next weeks puzzling over what item Mat would have given me, and buy it. I told this plan to a friend, and she immediately emailed me a link to the list.

As soon as I saw the list, I knew I already had my anniversary gift.

Mat served his mission in Manchester and Liverpool, England. While he was there, a mill that had produced hand-made lace tablecloths for centuries closed its doors. Mat, who was barely past his teens at the time, bought one of the last tablecloths made in the mill. His mother used it on special occasions for several years, and then delivered it to Mat so he could give it to me.

When Mat gave me the tablecloth about ten years ago, I very carefully put it in a plastic bag and promptly forgot about it. Until I saw the list.

The thirteenth wedding anniversary is lace.

I felt as though Mat were giving me the tablecloth all over again, but this time I understood the value of the gift. Not as a rare and valuable piece of craftsmanship, although it is that, but as the tangible expression of Mat's love for me that stretches farther back than his teenage past and farther forward than I can imagine.

I love my lace tablecloth.

(Now let's be honest. With a sanctioned excuse to buy me lace, Mat would have gone straight to Victoria's Secret and we would have celebrated our anniversary properly. But under the circumstances, I much prefer the tablecloth.)

Well done, Mat. Happy anniversary.