Although we celebrate anniversaries on wedding dates, I am not writing to celebrate a wedding. That would be like ending the baseball season right after President Obama throws out the first pitch on opening day.
No, I am writing to celebrate a marriage, one that, if they make it to next Monday, will have lasted fifty-two years. To give you an idea how long that is, it’s about 27,349,336 minutes, or 455,822 hours, or the amount of time you have to wait in line for a kidney in Canada.
My parents were married, January 23, 1960. Dwight D. Eisenhower was President of the United States; a gallon of gasoline was 25 cents; the average house cost $12,700; the average annual income was $5,200; Rawhide, Perry Mason, and the Twilight Zone were hit television shows. And the birthplace of our current president, Hawaii, had only been a state for five months.
There were, of course, no Internet, email, cell phones, lap top computers, or even cable television. Most U.S. adults in 1960 had known, or knew of, someone in their family or a friend’s family who had served in the Civil War. Many people alive in 1960 had made it through the Great Depression, the First and Second World Wars, and had personal experience of a world without electricity, telephones, airplanes, or teleprompters.
I mention all these things – not to make anyone feel old – but in order to remind you of something that we all know though rarely articulate: our identities as individuals cannot be isolated from our patrimony, which runs deeper than the discoveries, inventions, entertainments, and political events by which so many of us today mistakenly define ourselves.