My husband and I celebrated our thirty-seventh wedding anniversary on May 3rd, and I’ve been thinking about what’s kept us together all these years. Paradoxically, one of those togetherness factors is separation – especially when it comes to music.
About a decade ago, when the City of Albany was building the pedestrian bridge over Route 787 that leads to the Corning Preserve adjoining the Hudson River, they offered the citizenry the opportunity to purchase an engraved paving stone. I bought one for my husband’s birthday, and it reads “Julie and (his name) together in joy and creativity.”* I love looking at it every time I cross that elegant bridge to the river’s edge, and I suspect I’ll be crossing it quite a bit this summer, since Albany’s Alive at Five concert series has the best lineup in years.
I’m virtually positive he won’t be going, though. He despises crowded, heavily amped rock and country concerts – always has, always will. One of the factors contributing to the disintegration of his first marriage was his refusal to accompany his wife to the 1969 Woodstock Festival.** He’s gone with me on occasion, but not happily. The last time I remember was a concert at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center, maybe three years ago.
We were enjoying our annual day at the track. I’d picked a few winners with my $2 and $5 bets, and I’d placed my bets on the last race when I heard a man calling, “Anyone want two tickets to The Police and Elvis Costello at SPAC tonight?” At his side in record time, I learned he and his wife had planned to attend with another couple who couldn’t make it, and he was selling two lawn tickets for $60 each.
“That sounds great,” I said. “Let me go ask my husband.” Then I reconsidered and pounced. “Oh, what the hell. I’ll get them right now – then he won’t have a choice.”
He was fairly gracious about the surprise, but the traffic jam was so horrendous that we missed half of Elvis Costello’s first set. He was great, and The Police were fantastic – at sixty plus, Sting still has rock star charisma to burn. But the low visibility in the darkness and the crush of the crowd were a tad overpowering. My spouse swears he’ll never go back to SPAC, and I respect his wishes. That’s why I’ve got a single ticket – a reserved inside seat – to hear the Zac Brown Band there on June lst.
Don’t get me wrong – we do partake of an occasional concert together. He likes classical music, especially of the chamber variety, he’s okay with some jazz and folk, and we frequent the avant garde performance pieces at EMPAC. For the most part, though, I feed my musical Jones by ushering at The Egg and the Troy Savings Bank Music Hall, occasionally springing for a big-ticket concert I can’t bear to miss, like Bruce Springsteen’s latest swing through Albany.
We usually go out to dinner on our anniversary, but this time I decided I’d rather go to a benefit for the Mental Health Association of New York State, featuring music from Tom Chapin, the brother of the late Harry Chapin. As both a therapist and a consumer of mental health services, I strongly believe in the cause, but I was also lured by the prospect of the music. In general, my spouse loathes “sensitive” singer-songwriters, especially those he claims sing through their noses or as if they’re suffering from an acute digestive upset – think Bob Dylan and his descendants – but for the sake of our own harmony, he agreed to humor me. We both thoroughly enjoyed Tom Chapin.
Humoring each other, tolerating each other’s proclivities and foibles, has helped us hang in there all these years. Perhaps equally important, we’ve always heeded the words by Khalil Gibran that we read at our wedding in 1975: “Let there be spaces in your togetherness.” We’ve never felt the necessity to move in lockstep, or to share totally in each other’s enthusiasms. Music’s perhaps the major area where this holds true, but by no means the only one.
After all these years, we’re still “together in joy and creativity.” It’s even written in stone.
*I’m omitting his name because he prefers to remain anonymous when it comes to my blog posts, lest I say something that might reflect badly on his public persona.
**I was at the Woodstock Festival almost from start to finish – and, for the most part, alone. See my three posts about the experience elsewhere on this blog.