Uppermost House: The three dollar secret

PeterLewisTreehouseCMYKBy S. Peter Lewis
BN Columnist
My wife Karen and I can’t remember precisely how long we’ve been married. Of course, we remember the year (1982) and the day (the third Saturday), and we well remember the lace and the polyester double-knit suit and the happy words and the moist eyes and the awkward kiss; we’re just never quite sure of the date.
We had intended to get married in 1981, even had the invitations printed with our names and the date in gold script; but we soon realized that our star-struck outweighed our bank balance and those invitations were actually the only thing we could afford, so we pushed the shindig off a year.
Twelve months of scrimping later found us only slightly more flush, so we decided to be clever and reuse the same invitations (setting up a pattern of frugality that is still in place today). For clarification, we just slipped in little notes with the invitations that said, “Yeah, same month and the same third Saturday, but ignore the date — it’s off by one day.”
But now, 32 years later, we’re not quite sure if we were married on Oct. 16 or 17. We could rummage around and find an old invitation in a box somewhere and that would settle things (because the date would be wrong), or we could go online (where you can find out anything) to check the ancient calendar, but we never bother with stuff like that. It seems more deliciously romantic if we leave the whole transaction veiled in a bit of mystery.
We did a bunch of special stuff to celebrate this year. We drove 35 miles north and stayed at a bed and breakfast (way cheaper than going to Scotland). Walked hand-in-hand around a classic little New England town green on the best foliage day of the year. Talked fondly about our lives and our kids and thanked God and dreamed hopefully about the future. Went out to dinner at a dim little pub (haddock, fajitas). Hiked way into the White Mountains to see the most beautiful river gorge imaginable in a place so hidden and out of the way that we felt we might have earned the right to name the place. Drove into the big city (Portland) to eat Thai food and go to a jazz concert. (It was raining so hard that I ran ahead to unlock the car so Karen wouldn’t have to stand there under the gushing faucet waiting for me to fiddle with the keys.)
We spaced the festivities out over a week or so, to make the magic last, and overall dropped less cash than most couples would spend on one fancy date: walking and talking and holding hands is still free (as is on-street parking in Portland after 6 p.m. on weekdays).
When I came home from work on the night of the 17th (or was it the 16th?), I found an envelope on the counter with my name on it. Inside was an appropriately sappy little card, but I won’t share the details out of respect and admiration for the sender. I will, however share the P.S. from my adorable wife that appeared at the bottom: “This card was three dollars cheaper than the preferred one.”
After wiping my eyes appropriately, I walked into the other room where Karen was ensconced at her desk studying something scientific (likely beyond my ability to comprehend), and waved the card as if swatting at a bug.
“Just out of curiosity, what’s up with the little note at the end?” I asked.
She looked up at me over the top of her cute little librarian glasses and said, “There was a better card, but I’m not spending six dollars on any one.”
Frugality and perfectly clear communication, two things that help make a marriage delightful for 32 years (more or less).

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