My wife Jeri and I took our annual spring vacation and fortieth wedding anniversary to a new destination, Puerto Vallarta, PVR according to the baggage handler’s tickets, Puerto Viagra according to Jeri. We tried a new resort, one that had something called an all-inclusive rate.
The drive on the bus from the airport was longer than expected, but still a pleasure. Our resort was the final stop so we had a free tour of other hotels. We arrived at our place under a light mist of rain just as the weekly fireworks ended. The doorman gave us a glass of champagne and helped us with registration.
We quickly found out that our stay was during the rainy season. Could that be why the rates were so low? But, to our pleasant surprise, it only rained at night, while we were asleep. That’s the good news. During the day the humidity was so high, we had to take extra advantage of the free alcohol part of the all-inclusive service. They lost money on us.
We had reservations for seven days and eight nights. It took five days to experience most of what the on-property entertainment had to offer. So, we took a couple trips into the old, quaint village to change dollars into pesos and walk around.
On the last night, we decided to spend a little extra money and have dinner at the restaurant make famous by John Huston, the Director. The restaurant has a worldwide reputation for being the site of the classic movie The Night of the Iguana. A quick taxicab ride up the steep hill got us to the restaurant. The tropical rain forest fragrance of the evening put Jeri and me in a romantic state of mind.
We were the second couple ushered to a table. The waiter put us next to a younger, cute couple we later found came from California. Jeri said, hi, and they introduced themselves as Steve and Jamie. Steve, a handsome and elegant looking man volunteered they had made the trip to this same restaurant for the last thirteen years. They seemed to be experts about this part of Mexico.
While waiting for our seafood order my gal, Jeri, continued the conversation with our new neighbors. She is always the one to make new friends. In another life, she was a waitress.
We told them we were there to celebrate our fortieth wedding anniversary. They immediately called the waiter and ordered a specialty of the house. To commemorate this auspicious occasion, the server prepared two coffee cocktails that really was a show unto itself. It took the talents of a scientist and an artist to make the show work. Two large cups were filled with an elixir that was set afire at just the right time. The blue flame was continuous and was transferred from one cup to the other for a few minutes, and ended with a round of applause.
After I told them I was writing a novel about spring, the conversation switched to spring, and wedding anniversaries. I had fun with the various meanings of the word spring.
Which spring, the one that is an underground flow of water like the continuum of time? Or, the one that is an elastic body and an integral part of a mattress? Or, the most romantic use of the word, that time of year, that follows winter and precedes summer. The time when plants begin to grow and lovers plan for a wedding date.
Steve, a musician, pointed out that spring falls between March 21st and June 21st, the period of the vernal equinox to the summer solstice. This time of year allowed him to suspend his role as a music and voice professor at UCLA and Jamie’s role as a dance instructor and producer at the Alex Theatre in Glendale.
Jeri chimed in with, “Along with spring come reminders of anniversaries. Let’s play a game and try to remember the traditional gifts that go along with the different years of an anniversary. The loser buys the next drink.”
We started with the first anniversary and tried to reach the fortieth anniversary which is represented by rubies.
Steve accepted the challenge and with a voice with the rhythm of a drummer started with, “One is paper, two is ah, three is…hmm…twenty-five is silver, thirty-seven…um, thirty-eight…errrrr…I don’t know, thirty-nine and forty is for rubies. By the way, do you remember the excellent Roman numeral for forty (XL). You know, counting to forty is not an arduous task, but you only do it if you have to. The number part of this memory game is a good reminder to think of the past. The real important memory is what good and bad occurred for each year.”
Jamie primped her curly hair and jumped in with, “I think the gifts for the first year of marriage should be made of paper. Remember that ‘gift’ to you at the end of our first anniversary together? It was a ‘paper’ degree and made you a PhD.”
Jeri mused that, “The rustic surroundings of the place Ed and I spent our first wedding anniversary helped us to end that year with good memories and a secret. That place was an ideal setting for the start of our long journey that started in the spring of 1964. The ‘Lodge’ was so wonderful that it became a destination point for thirteen years. The secret was that our family of two turned into three that year.”
My wife recalled meeting a psychologist at one of her restaurant jobs and added, “Doctor Ruth maintains that at year five most cheaters experience their first affair. I wonder if that’s why they call the anniversary year five, the woody year…Okay excuse me, the wood year. Did you two ever see her on TV?”
“Yes”, was the simultaneous answer.
“Year seven is the wool year. I remember it as an itchy turmoil that rocked and rolled between a near death experience and a brain freeze. Can money mean that much? Can a person be so insensitive? Can divorce happen to us? I remember saying these divorce papers certainly have been prepared by some heartless attorney who never had a relationship that lasted more than one night.”
Jeri surprisingly volunteered that it took three weeks of negotiations, consoling, and finally, reconciliation. “Wow, those three weeks were hard. Nine months later, the fifth and final member of our family had arrived, funny how that happens after falling into hell for a while.”
She moved her hand from her hair to Jamie’s shoulder and continued, “The fifteenth, reminded me of a new vacation destination. Hawaii was special. The crystal-clear water of the Pacific, by the way crystal is the gift for that year, and the mountains, and fragrance of tropical flowers lasts forever. The natural friendliness of the people that live on the islands created an atmosphere that made the two of us, one. The views of the mountains meeting the sea were breathtaking. We couldn’t wait for year twenty-five because of all the good we experienced on that island.”
There was a slight pregnant pause during the conversation, broken by my type “A” wife.
“Here comes another fact from Doctor Ruth” per Jeri, as she organized the place setting in front of her. “The Doctor says if you missed adultery at year five, many people make up for it during their twentieth anniversary.”
Jamie pushed back her electric looking curly hair and said, “That’s the year that one gets china as a gift.”
Jeri said, “We gave most of ours to our daughter. Some of us, as you know have made it to twenty-five. At twenty-five, your immediate and extended family make themselves known. We had two hundred people at the event. Our original pairing of two went to a family of five, then, much later, to twelve, with the grandchildren. We received too much silver and had to return some to Marshall Field’s. By year thirty, we became ‘empty nesters’. It reminds you a lot of year one. At that time, we comfortably admitted to knowing that we were both pearls, yes the pearl year.”
As the blazing sun was setting over the horizon of the sea, Steve the guitar player, and an accomplished singer, continued the thought, as he split open his oyster and added some Tabasco.
“By year forty, my favorite, because it’s today, you deserve a chest filled with rubies. Did you get yours?”
As I split open my second oyster, I told them, “Male intuition equaled female intuition at year forty. Female confidence is in balance with the male level of confidence. Verbal communication is no longer always needed. Glances are sufficient in public. Words can enhance the story later in private. There’s give and take. There’s compromise and debate. My choice of the word debate is being polite, because I really mean arguing. There will always be arguments, but the fury diminishes and then disappears within a minute or two. The best thing at forty years of marriage is that you forgive and forget within a nano second. No, it’s not short-term memory loss. Yes, you do lose some of your eyesight. However, Hawaii was old stuff, so I said to Jeri, let’s find somewhere historically romantic.”
Jeri said, “I found this travel ad at the beauty shop about a romantic movie. A long time ago, the classic black and white film, The Night of the Iguana with Ava Gardener and Richard Burton, directed by John Huston, was made at this location. At that time, Liz Taylor and Burton had a torrid love affair in progress. Taylor was at the movie set every day. They’re still showing the film on cable.”
It took ten minutes for us to hear about the details of the movie.
Then Jamie asked, “What did you think of the ride from the airport to LaJolla de Mismaloya?”
Jeri took a break from counting her shrimp and said, “It was night when we arrived in a light rain. We saw some great wealth and a lot of poverty, with the help of the streetlights. There were wonderful vistas, we could just barely see, because of the hills and winding roads, and small number of streetlights; some terrible living conditions, according to my standards. It rained every night, but was clear by seven in the morning. The nightly rain added moisture to the air and as you can guess, it was hot and humid; the daytime hours were hot and humid too. From our view on the top floor of the traditionally designed building we could see several other resorts in the distance. Majestic palm trees, stone arches, white sand beaches, and architecturally designed traditional Mexican buildings are now a photo record. Some visitors like the steel and concrete of the modern high-rise condominiums, complete with E-mail service, DVDs and laptop connections, to each his own, but not for me.
Jeri and I took the option of staying near the old jungle that was used for another movie called Predator. Two romantic offsite restaurants were also a draw even though it is an all-inclusive resort. The restaurants were reported to be within walking distance from the hotel.
The scenery walking to those restaurants was unbelievable. The slopes of the mountainsides were closer to being sheer cliffs. Sea foam green flowers and pink blossoms dotted the space between the lush green growths of tropical plants. I never saw so many different shades of the color green. Moreover, how could those trees and cacti stick to the surface of the steep cliffs?
Later, a family from Paris France took two tables and the place was starting to fill. Just as we finished our seafood, a downpour that could not be equaled in the Midwest moved us indoors. Sometimes, you look at the rain with disappointment, but in this case it brought about twelve people together to sing, drink, and get to know each other. Since it was our fortieth anniversary, the group picked on us in a loving way. A second special drink for two, the specialty of the house, was ordered by the Frenchman. The flames covering the beverage seemed to weave us all closer together. A guitarist played some romantic tunes and the young girl from Paris treated us to a French solo. Jamie disappeared but quickly returned with her hair pinned back. She must have found some mousse from the fifties. She changed her hairstyle from the electric frizzy look to a sheen look of a ballerina. She twirled between the dozen tables. Steve picked up the extra guitar and played some tunes from his CD. They varied from the classical to country to folk.
The four of us ended the evening at our hotel lounge with some Don Julio tequila and Cerveceria Modelo Especial beers. We think the future looks bright for Steve and Jamie to have a fortieth anniversary of their own kind. They hoped to find themselves in Paris in a few years, the city of spring, the city of lights, and the city of romance. It’s said even though there are a hundred thousand people around you, you’ll be walking as one, in a mist that can only be left to a poet’s imagination. After all, it’s hard to accept the fact that winter is approaching and this may be our last spring.