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A Diamond Anniversary Party

by Mary M. Alward

I’ll never forget my grandparents’ 60th wedding anniversary. The planning was done by the happy couple's daughters and started far in advance of the big day. Celebrations are part of my family’s traditions, so the women had lots of experience in putting on anniversary parties.

First, they booked a small hall at the community center not far from my grandparents’ farm to ensure it was reserved for the celebration. Then, they made a list of all family members and called them in order to designate the food that would be brought. The hall was equipped with pots, pans, dishes, cutlery, two stoves, and two refrigerators to make food storage safe and simple.

Next, flowers were ordered from a local wholesaler. My aunt, the youngest child of my grandparents, was a florist. She created an exquisite centerpiece for the Head Table, smaller centerpieces for the guests’ tables, a beautiful rose corsage for Grandma, and a boutonnière for Grandpa. The flowers were magnificent!

My mother, the oldest of her family, volunteered to cook a large roast of beef and a large ham. Aunt May, the middle daughter, planned to cook two turkeys at the hall on the day of the anniversary party. She would go there early in the morning and put the turkeys into the oven. Vegetables, pickle trays, salad, and desserts were being brought by other family members, including grandchildren.

The night before the celebration we all gathered at the hall to put up the decorations. Before leaving, we set up the tables and chairs - covering the tables with white linen tablecloths. The color scheme was blue and white, since both of my grandparents favored blue. At the end of the evening as we were locking the door, we looked back and were amazed at what we saw. The hall had been transformed into a magical place. The blue and white color scheme showed off the natural woods of the walls and floors. A huge white banner with silver-blue lettering read, “Happy 60th Anniversary, Bert and Candace.”

Early the next morning, Aunt May went to the hall and put the turkeys in the ovens. Mid-morning we all gathered once more to prepare the rest of the food. By noon, everything was ready to go as far as the food was concerned.

The anniversary celebration was hosted in two parts. From 1 pm to 4 pm, an Open House was held for my grandparents to welcome friends who had come to wish them well - a photo and announcement was placed in the local paper. The second part was a huge family dinner with relatives from all over the country present.

Grandma and Grandpa arrived at approximately 12:30 pm, as had been previously planned. They knew about the Open House but had no idea there was a family dinner planned. They were both dressed to the T's and my uncle told them they were the “Cat’s Meow.” Laughter echoed throughout the hall. The phrase was long out of date and was something that would have been said when Grandma and Grandpa were young.

Guests begin to arrive just before 1 pm and soon the hall was packed. We hadn’t expected such a large turnout, although we had made lots of food, so there was no worry about running out. Friends that my grandparents hadn’t seen in years arrived and there were many hugs and tears of happiness.

People continued to arrive in droves and though the Open House was to officially end at 4 pm, it was well after 5 pm before Grandma and Grandpa had finished receiving and chatting with friends and neighbors.

Before they could entirely catch their breaths, family members from near and far began to arrive. Then, in through the door walked my uncle who lived in Calgary, Alberta. Grandma and Grandpa rushed to greet him and both swiped away tears as hugs were given all around. It was the first time Grandma, Grandpa and their other children had seen my uncle in four, long years.

At last we sat down to dinner. Before we ate, Grandpa said the Blessing, thanking God for giving him such a wonderful wife, life, children and grandchildren. There wasn’t a dry eye in the place as Grandpa recounted special events and memories. Finally, as she often had to do, Grandma hushed him, telling him the food was getting cold. That was Grandpa. Once he had the floor, he hated to give it up.

As we ate, the hall buzzed with the hum of conversation. Memories of the “good old days,” and “remember when,” were shared and the spirit of love in the room was overpowering.

After dinner, each child and grandchild took the floor to tell of precious memories and comical tidbits about life with Grandma and Grandpa. Then, it was Grandma’s turn. She told us how special the births of her six children and twenty grandchildren had been and what each had meant to her. She recounted memories of her years with Grandpa and how climbing mountains and descending valleys had brought them closer together.

When Grandma finished her speech, each of us had a lump in our throats and a tear in our eyes. Then, gifts were opened, a money tree was presented, and we all enjoyed cake and ice cream together. The neighbors in the community had taken up a collection and bought Grandma and Grandpa matching rockers. We all stood around admiring the gifts they had received.

We spent time visiting, chatting and reminiscing - and then it was time to pack up the gifts, wash the dishes, and clean the hall. When we left, there wasn’t a crumb in the place. Everything was back to normal.

My grandparents’ memory of that day was special to them for the rest of their years together. The fact that they were able to see my uncle from Calgary was especially significant since he died in a car accident a few months later.

Three years after my grandparents’ diamond anniversary, Grandma went home to be with her Lord. Although Grandpa lived for many years, he never forgot his first love or the 63 years that they spent together. Often, when he spoke of Grandma, a tear would form and he would speak of their 60th anniversary and how much it had meant to both of them.

Today, when I step into that little community hall, I can still see my grandparents standing in the receiving line welcoming friends and loved ones. I like to think of them strolling the meadows of heaven, just as they strolled the meadows of Earth when they were young.

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