How to test 45 years of marriage
This weekend my parents celebrated 45 years of marriage. I don’t know about you but I think that’s pretty impressive, especially as they are still very loved-up even now (they’re going to hate me for saying that!).
Their wedding anniversary made me think about everything they’ve gone through over the past 45 years, and I thought I’d share it with you.
- They moved in together after getting married (none of this living in sin malarkey in 1969!). They weren’t very well off (my mum worked as a nurse and my dad had recently graduated) and didn’t have a lawnmower first of all, so my dad cut the grass with a carving knife.
- A year and a half after getting married they had their first child – a daughter. My mum gave up work and stayed at home to look after her full-time.
- 14 months later a second girl came along to add to the family. Which can’t have been testing at all. I’m sure that having no money, living somewhere where you know no one, having a newborn and a 14 month old in a first floor flat with damp must have made their marriage a walk in the park.
- Fast-forward a few years and the best thing ever happened in their marriage. They had a third daughter – ME! And being the wonderful person I am I was an angel baby (naturally), who convinced them they’d got this whole parenting thing sorted and that they should have another one.
- So two years later they got their first son, who was a typical baby, not angelic like yours truly, and they realised that they hadn’t sussed parenting out at all and that I had just been a fluke.
- As 4 children, on a very tight budget, are ever so easy to handle, the arrival of their second son (referred to by my mum as “mummy’s little bonus” and referred to by everyone else as an accident) can’t have challenged them at all.
- So, at the age of 34, my parents found themselves with 3 daughters and 2 sons aged 10, 9, 5, 3 and a baby of 6 months. Easy, peasy!
- Because my dad was the only bread-winner (as my mum was slightly tied up with the childcare of 5 kids, and varied voluntary work) it meant money had to be quite stretchy, which meant furniture mostly was given to us or was second-hand, interior design didn’t exist, carpets stayed down for at least two decades and walls were papered/painted once every 20 years. I clearly remember having one TV for all 7 of us to share, they mostly came from Second-hand City and at one point the programmes had a green tinge to them. We didn’t get a video recorder until around 1988/89 and then had 2 blank videos for about a year which had The Goonies and James Bond’s For your eyes only recorded on them, both of which we watched so many times that I believe my brothers can still quote them all the way through. We got one main present for birthdays and Christmas (sometimes both combined if it was something big like a – secondhand – bike), and we had minimal pocket money which we had to work to earn – when I left home, age 18, my pocket money was £5/month. To put that in context my Saturday job at the time paid me £30.
- If you are parents you will know how easy and what a delight it is to feed children, so feeding 5 must have been so rewarding. Especially when the food budget was limited and so the menu was the same every week:
Sunday – roast dinner with roast potatoes and boiled veg
Monday – jacket potato and baked beans with the leftover cold roast meat
Tuesday – oven chips and sweetcorn with the leftover cold roast meat
Wednesday – lamb chops with boiled potatoes and peas
Thursday – pork strips with mashed potatoes and peas
Friday – this one varied a bit: spaghetti bolognese or fish fingers or liver and onions or ox heart
Saturday – gammon with boiled potatoes and peas and sweetcorn
Sunday – repeat with a different roast meat
- There was great excitement chez nous when, in 1984, we were able to go on our first foreign holiday! The company my dad worked for had a caravan in the south of France (Fréjus), and we could stay there for free…..there was just the small matter of getting 7 of us there cheaply. So it was decided we would all pile into our Volvo estate (Dad’s company car) and drive from the south of England to the south of France, in July. Now that won’t test a marriage at all. A 13 year old, 12 year old, 8 year old, 6 year old and 3 year old, with parents, in a 7 seater car, with luggage for 2 weeks, travelling 830 miles, most of that across a country where no one spoke the language. What a doddle. Oh yeah, and the 13 year old didn’t want to be there, and scowled at everyone. And the car had no air conditioning. And then we crammed into a caravan for 2 weeks.
- As the holiday was such a roaring success it was repeated 7 more times, with the older siblings only dropping out when they hit 17 and could be left at home to
hold wild house partieshouse-sit in my parents’ absence.
- As the years went by my parents managed to make a bit more money as my dad progressed in his career, and my mum went back to work once the youngest was settled at primary school. But then of course came the terrible teens, and some of their children might or might not have put them through a kind of teenage hell.
- Just when life seemed to be getting better and my parents could have a nice relationship with their children, who had grown into lovely *cough* adults, who they actually wanted to spend time with, some of them decided to leave the country…..to live in France, or South Africa, or Cyprus or New Zealand. Meaning children and grandchildren that get seen rarely.
- Fortunately as old age approaches some of the children have come back to the nest, leaving just one abroad, in the not so distant country of…..New Zealand.
As you can see, it’s incredibly easy to keep a marriage going, and for it to be a happy one when there are only these minor obstacles to contend with.
In all seriousness though – we might have had very little money when we were growing up (and be dressed in some pretty awful hand-me-downs most of the time), but we had food on the table, a roof over our heads, heating and hot water, and most importantly we knew we were loved. I know we fought like mad but we also had lots of fun and laughter.
And that folks is what keeps a marriage going for 45 years. Not having oodles of money. Not having a house full of “stuff” or the latest fashions, or the best gadgets or the must-have toys. It’s all about the love, man.
This post is dedicated to my mum and dad – thank you for raising us so selflessly, thank you for teaching us what counts, thank you for not having a night out together in about 30 years, thank you for loving us unconditionally, and thank you for working hard at your marriage and making it a happy one so we can enjoy the two of you together. I know you are an inspiration to many, many of my friends and you will always be an inspiration to me, in life, but also in my marriage and in my parenting.
(So if I mess it up, it’s totally your fault, alright?!)