On Halloween, after I had put our son to bed, my husband texted, “What will you give me if I come to your door?”
I texted back, heart pounding: “Everything.” He showed up half an hour later.
We were still cautious around one another after that passionate night, and decided to take things slow; we didn’t want to let our physical connection blind us to the deeper connection and trust we needed to re-establish. It wasn’t until around Christmastime that we were able to admit we had fallen back in love and wanted to do whatever we could to make our marriage work.
By the time our fifth anniversary rolled around the next summer, my husband and son and I were getting ready to move up to Lake Tahoe together. I had been invited to serve as visiting professor and writer in residence at a college up in the mountains, and it felt like the perfect place for a fresh start.
The traditional fifth anniversary gift is wood; something solid, utilitarian, something you can construct with. This fit; we were actively rebuilding our marriage, piecing it back together thoughtfully, slowly, crafting a structure we hoped could hold us both.
Historically, only the most impressive anniversaries were assigned specific gifts — as far back as the Middle Ages, 25 years of marriage was associated with silver, 50 years with gold. Then, in 1922, Emily Post suggested specific gifts to mark the first wedding anniversary, along with gifts for every multiple of five years up until the 25th; in 1937, the American National Retail Jeweler Association added gifts for the rest of the first 15 years, as well as for every five years between 25 and 50. “The order of gifts reflects the investment that the couple gives of themselves to each other,” write Gretchen Scoble and Ann Field in “The Meaning of Wedding Anniversaries.”
On our sixth anniversary, my husband and I went down to the beach at Lake Tahoe to renew our vows and exchange new rings, titanium with a strip of blue stone to represent the place of our new beginning, the lake we now call home.
The traditional sixth anniversary gift is iron; titanium is similar to iron, but slower to rust. A substance that, like our marriage now, is built to last.
Gayle Brandeis is the author of “The Art of Misdiagnosis: Surviving My Mother’s Suicide.”