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Prompted By Anniversaries

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My parents on their wedding day

As an officer of our temple, Dad set my wedding day as June 16, 1974. “Really?” I queried, ” That will be your 28th anniversary. Do you want to share yours with me?” He responded affirmatively and the date was set.

My parents were a post-war couple. They barely knew one another and married in a small ceremony at a hotel in Toledo, OH, with only their immediate family present (with so many brothers and sisters, even that numbered in the dozens). Mother wore a pretty white dress, which she wore later that year to Dad’s niece’s wedding with a big hat.

They did have an elaborate cake. I just found these two wedding photos recently for the first time. I shared them with my brother recently, who had also never seen them. The things our mother hid from us…

my parent’s cake

Twenty-six years later, Dan and I were married at my childhood temple, with my rabbi and my newly-ordained brother officiating. We did not have a sit-down dinner, but passed bites of food, sweets and also a lovely cake. My father told us his budget and gave us a choice; as two kids just starting out, I chose to have the small but nice wedding and take a nice starter check from him. It was a good trade-off.

June 16, 1974

Non-traditional cake-topper, just flowers

Because Dan and I share the same taste in cakes, the buttercream frosting covered a chocolate cake. But of course, it was also my parent’s anniversary, so a charming portrait was taken of them as well.

One might be fooled into thinking they were happy, but the marriage was inexorably crumbling, though in my search through my mother’s boxes, I found another anniversary portrait of another sort that I’d also never seen.

25th anniversary of Temple Emau-El, 1977, founded the year I was born.

This photo was taken after I was married and had left home. I think it may be the nicest photo ever taken of my smiling parents. I am thrilled I found it.

They divorced in 1981 after 34 years of marriage. My father (who had moved to Laguna Hills, CA) died in 1990 at the age of 76; my mother, who had moved to a retirement community close to me 15 years earlier, died in 2010, three days shy of her 97th birthday. Neither remarried and are buried side-by-side with all their family in Detroit. It is the Jewish custom to remember those anniversaries or yahrzeit, as well, and I always light a candle and say “Kaddish” for my parents (and Dan’s).

Dan and I have never been big into celebrating anniversaries. We save our big celebrations for birthdays. Yet, our first was memorable. My close friend Christie Hefner lived in Boston that year after graduating from Brandeis and we spent a lot of time together every week. She insisted on taking us out to celebrate that important milestone. At the time, there was still a Playboy Club in Park Square. Since this is a writing site for baby boomers, perhaps some of us remember that the membership card was a key. Christie’s key belonged to her father (he supplemented her freelance writing income during her year in Boston before she moved back to Chicago and went to work for Playboy full time in November, 1975); it said “Hugh M. Hefner” on it. Believe me, it attracted a lot of attention as we entered the club on June 16, 1975.

We sat at the best table and the bunnies did their best bunny dips as they waited on us. We had a fun evening and Christie remains a gracious, dear friend. She is the most articulate and loyal person I know.

No other anniversaries really stand out until this year, our 47th (gasp)! This year, our son David, with his partner, Anna flew in from London the day before. They got their second Pfizer vaccination on June 15th (to make their vaccine supplies stretch, the UK is giving second shots after three months) and Anna is early in her second trimester, pregnant with our first grandchild. She has had a tough time, very nauseous and the combination of jet-lag, sun and vaccination really wiped her out that evening. Yet, we sat outside at a nice Newton café and celebrated our anniversary and being with family for the first time in 18 months. We spent 9 glorious days with them before they went off to visit her 95 year old American grandmother in Atlanta and various other relatives as well (her mother is an ex-pat American, which is how she could enter the U.S. and get her shot). It was the best anniversary ever.

Dinner on our 47th with David and Anna, just over from London.

 

Profile photo of Betsy Pfau Betsy Pfau
Retired from software sales long ago, two grown children. Theater major in college. Singer still, arts lover, involved in art museums locally (Greater Boston area). Originally from Detroit area.


Characterizations: moving, right on!, well written

Comments

  1. John Shutkin says:

    A typically great story, Betsy, about three very disparate anniversaries. You have spoken before about your parents’ difficult marriage, so it is very nice to see these lovely, if rare, pictures of them looking happy.

    And your latest anniversary sounds wonderful on so many levels, including its post-COVID implications. Congratulations!

    Two quick asides. First, I visited a Playboy Club, in NYC, once in my life, with a bunch of my (male) classmates at Columbia Law. I may write about it in a later story. And second, a small quibble: carrot cake is definitely the way to go for a wedding cake.

    • Betsy Pfau says:

      Thank you, John. A month ago, we did seem post-COVID. Now with cases rising even here in MA, I confess to being worried about what the future will bring. We definitely plan to be in London in December to meet our grandchild. But Boris Johnson is being such a fool about COVID, I hope he doesn’t ruin everything for everyone!

      I look forward to reading your Playboy Club story in the future. When I lived in Chicago, we went with Christie and her date to a Playboy Club in WI one Labor Day weekend. That was fun too.

      As for cake choice, each to his own. I enjoy carrot cake, Dan DEFINITELY does not.

  2. Laurie Levy says:

    Great story, Betsy. As always, I love the pictures. So glad your 47th anniversary was so special. May you celebrate your 50th in good health, with no pandemic, and with a grandchild.

  3. Marian says:

    Lovely recounting of three related but contrasting anniversaries, Betsy. Soon you will have another birthday to celebrate, that of a grandchild. BTW, I love your wedding cake. Mine was non-traditional as well, with separate, alternating layers of lemon and chocolate mousse inside. And just flowers, no silly toppers.

  4. Betsy, how sweet that you had your London kids visiting to help you celebrate.

    And glad you found the photos of your parents in happier times, and that remembering their yahrzeits brings you some peace over past hurts.
    Families are complicated, aren’t they.

    • Betsy Pfau says:

      It was so great having them here, Dana. And despite, Dan’s mishap, one silver lining was that we got to see them back in Newton, as they returned for a few days before their return to London (of course, they also got the benefit of Momma being around to pick them up and also take them to the airport, which wouldn’t have happened had we been on MV, as scheduled). But it was wonderful to spend even more time with them. And Anna is now done with the her sickness; which in part was due to jet-lag, so that was also wonderful.

  5. As I’ve said Betsy, I see many transatlantic flights in your future!

  6. Khati Hendry says:

    The old pictures were wonderful–so glad you found them. Also great your son and partner were able to travel and have a visit in these odd times of COVID–all bets are off going forward but we hope.

  7. Oh, I love your featured photo, Betsy…very avant-grade. Great description of your very special first anniversary…I actually had to look up “bunny dip” which added to my appreciation of the story. And congrats on your 47th, and the wonderful news that accompanies it!

    • Betsy Pfau says:

      Thank you, Barb. I was so pleased to find that photo from my parent’s wedding, as far as I know, the only one that exists. Funny about the “bunny dip”, a classic move of the era. I didn’t put this in the story because I was not 100% certain about it, but I’m pretty sure that the bunny who waited on us was a Brandeis alum, much sought after by all the men, including my boyfriend before Dan, which added to the delicious moment.

      Thanks for the congratulations. We had planned to spend much of December in London, wanting to be there when our grandchild is born. With COVID on the rise again, I hope we can make this happen!

  8. Suzy says:

    Wonderful story, Betsy, as everyone else has already said. I loved reading about all these anniversaries. And I do remember the bunny dip. I actually went to a Playboy Club in New York once with my family – my father was a member!

  9. Dave Ventre says:

    Both of my wedding days are memorable, for very different reasons

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