When to Be Frugal, When to Be Foolish: An Unforgettable Anniversary

Inside: Most of the time it pays to be frugal, but occasionally a moment comes along too rich to pass up, when perhaps a bit of “foolishness” is in order.


When to Be Frugal, When to Be Foolish: An Unforgettable Anniversary

Yesterday we celebrated our thirtieth wedding anniversary. Looking back at the photos of these vaguely familiar happy kids, I wonder what I’d tell twenty-one-year-old me. Maybe I’d tell her the clichéd answer you often hear from older married folk at weddings, that there will be good times and bad, but I imagine she would have focused on worrying, then, about the bad ones ahead. On second thought, maybe I’d just say, “You’re going to make it, and you’ll have many happy times to celebrate. Remember that.”

True, we’ve marked many anniversaries, some good, the occasional bad, and a few odd or unusual ones to add to the mix. We spent our very first anniversary in Denali, Alaska, doing what? I don’t remember. A young couple, Terry and Marnell, put together a food basket with flavored rice packets and pastas for us.

Another anniversary our church happened to host a marriage seminar with Gary and Greg Smalley. Greg happened to be giving away copies of their books and asked whose anniversary was the closest. The couple next to us raised their hands, as we did, and I thought they were trying to help us get his attention. Turns out we were all celebrating, to which Greg Smalley, with a perplexed look, said, “Who attends a marriage seminar on their anniversary?”

I remember our twenty-fifth taking a trip to Memphis, Tennessee, when we turned in our huge bottle of coins, which helped pay for the short getaway. I’d like to say it was wonderful, but I was battling severe depression, and the trip didn’t provide the distraction I’d been hoping for.

Most celebrations, though, we’ve simply gone out to dinner, from pizza to steakhouses to Chinese. We’re not very original. Yet there was that one time. . .

When to Be Frugal, When to Be Foolish: An Unforgettable Anniversary
Powell Symphony Hall by night. Photo by Alise O’Brien.

Our fifteenth. I’d heard the famous cellist Yo-Yo Ma was playing at Powell Symphony Hall in St. Louis, and I really wanted to go. Mike said, sure, but I’d have to call for the tickets. Ugh! I hated making phone calls, but I wanted this so badly that I was motivated enough to do it. We’d been to the symphony before, the cheap nosebleed seats, and that was what I was prepared to pay for. But when I talked to the man at the box office, he said they only had a few seats left, and they were singles, though he did have two seats together on the main floor–for $75 a piece.

My heart sank, and I told him I didn’t know. Mike and I had decided we were no longer going to use our credit card for anything but true emergencies, and this certainly did not qualify.

“They’re really good seats,” the man said.

I hesitated, but then a still small voice, distinct from my own, said simply, “Buy the tickets.” Did I hear that right? I took a deep breath and gave my information. The tickets were ours.

Quickly the days passed until finally it was our anniversary–and our night at the concert. We arrived early to Powell Symphony Hall to find our seats, and as the man had said, they were good. Very good.

I don’t recall who addressed the audience, the conductor, maybe? He explained the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra’s selection of music that night was from Composer Aaron Copeland. It had been a year and a day since 9-11, and they had wanted something distinctly American. I’d never heard of Aaron Copeland and had no idea what to expect, but I soon recognized the music and discovered I was an accidental fan. (Think of the music from the “Beef, it’s what’s for dinner” commercials of years ago.) They played Fanfare of the Common Man, which I recognized and Appalachian Spring, much of which I didn’t, until toward the end, the familiar Shaker Hymn “Simple Gifts.” I sat there, absorbing the music, listening to the light, airy quick-paced chorus from the woodwinds playing ‘Tis a gift be simple, ’tis a gift to be free . . . Then the stringed instruments taking their turn with the chorus, all the while building, building then the trumpets–still building. The tempo slowed, then, as the full orchestra joined together, slowly thundering ‘Tis a gift to be simple, ’tis a gift to be free, filling every spare inch of the place, filling me with the most beautiful music I had ever heard. I blinked back tears, feeling so incredibly alive in the moment. It was then I heard that still small voice again. I wanted this for you.

Yo-Yo Ma followed, the main attraction of the night, and I thoroughly enjoyed his music. How often do you get to hear a world-renowned cellist play? After he finished, he ran his hand over his nose, as the auditorium broke out in applause, and I remember thinking he seemed like such a regular guy, not a pretentious bone in his body, and I liked that about him. But as wonderful as he was, my favorite moment of the night belonged to Aaron Copeland’s “Simple Gifts.” I had received my own simple gift that night, feeling as though the Creator of the Universe, my Father, had arranged it all just for us. For me.

All these years later, I still take this memory off the shelf, dust it off, and smile as I remember.

Have you ever been “foolish”? Tell us about it in the comments.

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5 Responses

  1. Kelly Dunn

    I love the fact that you listened to the Holy Spirit. I have found out the hard way that it is best to do that. In the end, I was blessed be doing it.

    • amy@amyharkemoore.com

      Thanks, Kelly! Yeah, me, too. Plenty of times I wished I had listened when I didn’t. 🙂

  2. calensariel

    Ah yes… For our 25th anniversary (in April 1997) we were supposed to have a huge party and dance with my dad’s band playing songs from the war years. And we were going to go to Ireland. Unfortunately dad passed away in February and we scrapped the whole thing. Ten years later we were still waiting for that trip, but we decided to forget it and renew our vows. It was so great with our son and daughter as our best man and maid of honor. And the foolish part (or some may think so) was we blew all our trip money on a huge dinner at a fancy restaurant for all the people who had supported us through our marriage. There were over 50 people there and lots of Irish toasts and prayers!

    This year was our 45th anniversary and for two years we’ve been planning a cruise around the British Isles with our best friends. I don’t think we are ever destined to take that trip! What happened? I got pneumonia in May, was diagnosed with Myasthenia Gravis autoimmune disorder in June, and began having Afib issues in August. So right now our friends are by themselves on our cruise! We have rescheduled for next May, but it won’t be the same. Are we taking bets whether we’ll make it or not?

    • amy@amyharkemoore.com

      Thanks for sharing that, Calen! I think spending your funds on renewing your vows and hosting a dinner for all of those who supported you was a great idea! And to have your son and daughter to stand up for you–how great is that!

      As to your cruise, I will remain hopeful for you. I’d like to see you healthy and able to do that in May! 🙂