Romantic anniversaries . . . oops, missed it.

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Story by Diane Haynes Woodburn

Diane Haynes WoodburnThis Island Living issue of Maui Nō Ka ‘Oi, with its gorgeous section on romance, offers just about everything to make your special day perfect . . . unless, like me, you forget.

It was a lazy Saturday morning. As I wandered downstairs, I could hear my husband, Jamie, busily at work in the kitchen. (He gets up hours before I am conscious.)

“Good morning,” I offered cheerily — well, as cheery as I get before 8 a.m.

“Good morning,” he responded, a hint of smug in his voice. “Do you know what day it is today?” I suppose I looked puzzled (easy to do before I’ve had coffee), because he didn’t give me time to respond. “It’s our anniversary.” He dropped the sentence like a stone, one that magically lodged in my throat.

Every year one of us forgets our anniversary, and the other enjoys the sense of righteous indignation. It began with our first. Neither of us had remembered, but my father had phoned me that morning to send his congratulations. Quick like a fox, I grabbed some paper and penned a gushy card with lots of hearts. I presented it to Jamie at breakfast as though I’d been planning for a week. “What?” I exclaimed with Oscar-winning shock. “You forgot? How could you?”

Dad kept me on track for years, but after he passed, I lost my edge. Now it’s become a sort of competition, each of us hoping to catch the other with his/her pants down — so to speak.

The most memorable example happened seven years ago. In celebration of my sixtieth birthday, we had planned a trip to Italy. We arrived in Rome in the early morning, after more than twenty-eight hours of travel, and our room wouldn’t be ready until the afternoon. To kill some time, we went on a walking tour, traipsing through the city like zombies. We were at the Coliseum when Jamie fell asleep standing up — a fact I came to realize when I heard his head hit the railing. “We need to sit down someplace,” I said, stating the obvious. In a stupor of exhaustion, we stumbled our way to the nearest restaurant, perhaps the only truly awful café in all of Rome. No joke. We were handed a bill of fare that listed drinks on one side, and “micro-wave” on the other. Jamie looked up from the pathetic menu and asked, “Do you know what today is?” I feared he had become delusional.

“I think it’s Friday,” I said gently.

“And,” he taunted, “it’s our anniversary.” We laughed so hard we nearly fell out of our chairs, and then celebrated our good fortune to have one another — over the most tasteless meal in all of Italy.

Today, I don’t have sleep deprivation as an excuse. “We could make laulau,” I offered, knowing the quickest way to Jamie’s heart is through the garden. “Maybe the kids could come over.” He smiled, and I knew I had squirreled my way back into his good graces.

After I’d fortified myself with coffee, Jamie and I grabbed hand sickles and headed to the garden, our two dogs gleefully chasing across the grass in a game of catch and tackle. The taro was gorgeous. I had texted all four boys and their spouses earlier: “Laulau at our house tonight; join us?” So, just in case, we harvested enough chest-sized leaves for ten.

Jamie put the taro in the sink to soak, while I began assembling ingredients. Soon we were in sync, using the giant taro leaves like tortilla wrappers to bundle chicken, sweet potato, onion, carrot, Hawaiian salt and chili pepper. We set the pot to boil, and our harvest to steam. All four boys and their spouses texted back, “We’ll be there!”

Later, as we all gathered and enjoyed our noncelebration with laughter and laulau (none of the kids remembered it was our anniversary, either), I realized that real romance isn’t so much about the date, the dinner, the wine or the perfect setting. Romance is in the life you build and share together — and the love you bring to each other —every day.

Wishing all of us a happy anniversary, no matter what day it is.

A hui hou,
Diane Hayes Woodburn, publisher

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