May 19, 2000


Mrs. Franz doesn't like red roses. 

She's not overly fond of pink or peach roses, either ... unless they're white roses with pink or peach tips. Yellow is her favorite rose color, followed by solid white, cream or ivory. She doesn't like baby's breath or a lot of other floral *filler,* and she prefers that her roses arrive long-stemmed and boxed so she can arrange them herself.

"Would you like to add a message to the card?" the young florist asks me over the phone as I place the order.

"I suppose so," I say. And I think about it for a minute. What should the card say?

  • 'Happy Anniversary, Mrs. Franz' ?
  • 'Darling, you're my heart and soul/Though I am half, you make me whole' ?
  • 'I would have signed this card myself, but I can't find a damn thing since Secra cleaned my office' ?

I decide to play it safe. "Let's just have it read ' Love, Franz,' " I tell the flower clerk. Short and sweet. (And identical to the message we put on the Mother's Day flowers for his mom last month.)  I give her the company credit card information, and she assures me that two dozen long-stemmed yellow roses will be delivered to Mrs. Franz by 4:00 p.m. 

"Would you like to add a teddy bear or a couple of mylar balloons to your order?" she asks hopefully.

(No thanks.  But if you've got one of those cookie pizzas and a nice bottle of Scotch, I'll bet Mrs. Franz would appreciate it.)

And then I pick up the phone again and begin my search for a "four-star, not too frou-frou, make sure we get a view table" French or Italian restaurant in Napa that will take dinner reservations ninety minutes in advance.

     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

For our first wedding anniversary, my husband and I left newborn Daughter #1 with a babysitter and the two of us went to see "E.T.," followed by pepperoni grinders at Athens Pizza.

The occasion proved memorable for three reasons:

  • It was the first time we'd ever left our baby with anyone other than Grandma, and I was a quivering, zero-fun bundle of weepy nerves the entire evening.
  • It represented a major cash outlay for a couple of stone-broke new parents whose usual idea of a *big night* was a Star Trek re-run and a six-pack of Rainier beer
  • and

  • It turned out to be the one and only time the two of us ever formally celebrated our wedding anniversary.

My ex-husband was not wired for sentiment. It's certainly not a fatal character flaw.  And it isn't what ended our marriage, sixteen years to the day after we said "I do."  (What "ended our marriage" would be me running away to Oregon, actually.)  But at the time it was a devastating discovery for a young bride with illusions of candlelit dinners, long-stemmed roses and happilyeverafter.

We celebrated that first wedding anniversary. Perhaps not in the grand style I would have liked, but it was a celebration. I was crushed the following year, therefore, when the day passed unremarked and unremembered.

By the fifth anniversary, I'd stopped looking for roses.

By the tenth anniversary, I'd stopped expecting anything more than a bouquet of grocery store carnations and a bottle of cheap chablis.

By the fifteenth anniversary, my idea of the perfect celebration was me parked in front of the Baby Boomer Chat Room with a bucket of wine, and my husband anywhere else, basically.  (But that, she says sadly  --  wishing she had a sweeter tale of marital love and celebration to pass along to her children  --  is another story for another day.)

     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

"So how was dinner?" I ask Franz, when he comes into the office the morning after his anniversary.  I'd finally managed to book a last-minute reservation for him and Mrs. Franz at a semi-decent Italian restaurant in Napa. (They couldn't guarantee a window table, but for an extra ten bucks they were willing to stick a rose in her shrimp cocktail. For an additional twenty, they'd strap on funny hats and serenade the couple with a chorus of "Happy Avinnersary To You.")

He just shakes his head. "We're going to dinner tonight instead."

Am I surprised? (What do YOU think?)

"And by the way," he adds. "Mrs. Franz says that the roses were wilted. And they were pink. She had to throw them away."

Oh well.  Like they say ... it's the sentiment that counts.

throw a rock