Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Celebrating 25 Years of Marriage: a British-American Romance

Henry and Sarah Laurence
I was in college when my future husband met me by chance. After moving into off campus housing, my phone stopped working. This was years before cell phones so I knocked on a random door to test my landline in a neighbor’s outlet. Henry had a cute accent and gorgeous green eyes, but best of all, he made me laugh. “Get rid of the phone and have a beer,” were his first words to me. His British co-pats were flipping pancakes in celebration of Shrove Tuesday, a holiday new to me. I was charmed into accepting his invitation, even though I didn't usually drink on school nights.

Henry claimed it was love at first sight, but I was skeptical. I was wearing glasses with my hair in a ponytail and that doing-my-laundry outfit. When I ran into Henry the next day, he didn't recognize me at first. I groaned about a quiz on the countries, capitals and rivers of Africa. Henry sketched a map on a napkin. Then he asked me out on a date that weekend: sushi and a James Joyce movie.

A date? Nobody at college went on real dates. Henry showed up with flowers one day and with chocolates on another. He recited Shakespeare by heart, truly enjoyed dancing and never left the house without an umbrella. I felt like a character in a Jane Austen novel.

In Goring-on-Thames, England with Henry before my first white tie ball at Oxford University. Photo by Nicola Laurence.

When Henry proposed three weeks after we met, I nearly broke up with him. At barely twenty-one, I was looking for a boyfriend, not a husband. Henry was only at Harvard for one term, studying Japanese political economy. In June he had to return to his job at the Bank of Tokyo in London. I had applied to summer internships in Alaska, Australia and England. With a gentle nudge, I chose the anti-whaling campaign at Greenpeace's international headquarters in London.

Henry kept proposing under rainbows, in rose gardens and along the Thames Rivers. He tried to trick me with triple negatives: "Is it not true that you would not never marry me?" He was irresistible. Some people thought we were crazy, but for an international relationship to work, we needed a big commitment. A two year engagement gave us plenty of time to get to know each other better.

With my Dalton School friends in New York Harbor aboard the DeWitt Clinton.

I was the first of my friends to become engaged so I was clueless about weddings. My Jewish father had married my Episcopalian mother in a tiny civil ceremony. Henry was Anglican, but I didn't want to deny half of my heritage with a church wedding and we both wanted to keep it small and intimate.

Since Henry loved crew and sailing and his father had served in the merchant navy, my dad floated the idea of a ship captain performing the ceremony. We all loved the concept.

Henry below deck with Jenny and Tim Moore from London. Photo by my cousin Peter Nohrnberg.

Unfortunately a captain-officiated wedding would require being two miles out to sea in international waters. Friends and family were already traveling to New York from England, Japan and Israel.

Instead, we brought a Unitarian minister on board the DeWitt Clinton, who combined Old and New Testament readings with Shakespeare and a ceremonial breaking of a wine glass. We were wed in New York Harbor twenty-five years ago...or rather we would have been if we hadn't forgotten the marriage license! That was corrected dockside before we left for our honeymoon.

Henry and his father before the World Trade Center. Photo by Peter Nohrnberg.

In twenty five years the world has changed radically. I never thought our wedding album would become a memorial to the fallen Twin Towers. I'd sooner remember them like this, with happy memories.

We started a family early so that now in my forties, I'm amazed to find myself an empty nester. With time to date each other once again, I'm pleased that we haven't lost our special connection. Henry challenges me intellectually, and he still makes me laugh. Twenty-five long-stem roses and dinner out in Portland proved that romance didn't wilt over time.

There are more rainbows than ever before. The best anniversary gift of all was the Supreme Court ruling on Obergefell vs. Hodge, granting the right of marriage to same sex couples in all of the United States. I wish these newly wed couples as much love and happiness as we have shared over the years.
Cheers and mazel tov!

Photo credits: unlabeled wedding photos by Carol A. Turrentine. Family photo in Freeport, Maine by Annie Rose. Double rainbow photo in New Hampshire by me.


Stacy said...

Happy anniversary! Love the photos!

Petra Pavlátková said...

Congratulations, Sarah, to both you and your husband, for staying together that long and still keeping that special connection. It's been quite touching to read your story and go through your old photos, what memories… The wedding in the boat must have felt quite special. Here is to your next 25 years together, keeping your love and growing old together! :)

Pamela Terry and Edward said...

Happy, Happy, Happy!
I wish you both all good things.

Charlotte Agell said...

LOVELY and you two haven't changed all that much!

Midlife Roadtripper said...

Wow, thank you for sharing that romance and wedding. Great fun. Cheers to your 25 years together in marriage. Hopes for many more.

Rosemary said...

That sounds like a fairytale romance - congratulations to you both on your Silver Wedding Anniversary

E Wein said...

such beautiful pictures and memories! Happy anniversary!

Sarah Laurence said...

Everyone, thanks so much! It’s fun to celebrate online too.

Rosemary, my British mother-in-law sent us a silver trifle server as a gift so now I know about Silver Wedding Anniversaries.

Elizabeth, you should share more about your own British-American romance. I recall something about a bell ringers’ dance and an unexpected move to Scotland. It stayed in my head because my father-in-law is a bell ringer too.

Tammie Lee said...

SO very happy for you, Congratulations!

thecuecard said...

Wow that's a wonderful post Sarah. Happy Anniversary & congrats on 25 years!! You both look happy. Great photos!

troutbirder said...

What a wonderfully romantic, lovely story. Congratulations on 25....!

Rose said...

What a wonderful love story! Happy Silver Anniversary!

Amanda Summer said...

What a beautiful love story. Congratulations to you both!

Carol said...

Sarah, Your wonderful story brings tears to my eyes. What a lovely beginning and continuation of your love. The photos are fabulous. Many Happy Years to come of love and creativity. How lucky to have a man who woos you and makes you laugh. Mazel tov!!

A Cuban In London said...

Perfect, perfect post! Happy anniversary. :-)

Greetings from London.

tina said...

What a wonderful story and congrats on 25 Years! I loved the pictures. What fun!

Gloria Baker said...

What lovely post Sarah I love the pictures!!!!
send you hugs!
Is a lovely story:)

Elizabeth Musgrave said...

How totally lovely! Great photos. Great story. Great marriage by the look of it!

Tricia J. O'Brien said...

Well, now, that's the most beautiful story ever. Made my day. :)

Ryan Riley said...

Congratulations! Such a happy story and post to go with it! Hope all is well :)

Sarah Laurence said...

All, thanks so much!

Ryan, I hope all is well with you too. Nice to reconnect!

Les said...

What a wonderful story, congratulations! Ours was a mixed marriage ceremony as well, and I told my wife that I really liked the thought of stepping on the glass, after that I required little else.

cynthia said...

Wonderful post. Loved seeing all the photos and the bit about forgetting the marriage license! Congratulations on 25 years!!!

Donna said...

Happy 25th anniversary! I love the pictures!