Sunday, August 16, 2009

The fifth year’s the charm

Staring at the gigantic, burlap-sacked root ball of the weeping cherry tree sitting in our driveway last week, I realized that perhaps I should have chosen something other than the gift of backbreaking manual labor for Kara’s anniversary present.

With five years of marriage under our belts, I have survived well into my second term as Kara’s husband. If we’ve managed to hang onto it this long, though, it now seems unavoidable that we must surrender the title of newlyweds. Now we’re usedlyweds. Or like-newlyweds.

Kara and I have been married for so long, back when we were single, salads didn’t come in pre-made bags. You actually had to buy a head of lettuce and chop it up yourself with a sharp implement, like a caveman. Also, back in those days, people were cruelly forced to watch rectangular movies on square TVs. They were truly times to try couch potatoes’ souls. But we persevered so that our children may never have to worry about their aspect ratios.

The traditional gift for a fifth wedding anniversary is something wooden. Because we’re pining for each other? Because we make each other sappy? Who decides on these random materials for anniversary gifts, I have no idea, but Kara and I have been playing along for the past few years. After days spent perusing wooden jewelry she’d never wear, wooden statuettes she’d be embarrassed to display and wooden furniture we didn’t need, I realized that, oftentimes, trees are made of wood.

“It needs to be a weeping tree?” asked the man at the nursery.

“Yeah, my wife has always wanted a weeping tree in the yard,” I said.

For a moment, I thought that perhaps the idea of planting something that stands in our front yard, permanently weeping, didn’t have quite the symbolic thrust I was shooting for, but if the past five years have taught me anything, it’s that, um. Well, they haven’t really taught me anything, but Kara liked weeping trees so that’s what she was getting.

The tree wasn’t the only thing weeping when the truck dumped her gift in our driveway and I saw how big the hole needed to be. If the root ball had been an asteroid headed for Earth, it would have inspired at least three Jerry Bruckheimer movies.

I spent several hours in the yard swinging my pick and sinking my shovel, giving myself many days of wedded blisters. By the time the hole was wide enough and deep enough to even consider accommodating the root ball, it was large enough to bury Grimace.

Incidentally, why did McDonald’s choose to name one of its most prominent mascots Grimace? Of all the names it could have chosen, Grimace just seems like about the last one you’d ever want associated with your food. “Hi, kids, meet Grimace. And here are his friends, Chagrin and Irritable Bowel. Now let’s eat!”

Kara really liked both the tree and the backbreaking manual labor I got for her, and we’re hoping that this outdoor plant will fare better than our indoor ones. The survival rate seems to increase greatly when we let our plants go feral.

As far as keeping up the tradition of choosing gifts based on traditional anniversary materials, I’ m not so sure. The gift for the sixth anniversary is something either candy or iron. “Happy Anniversary! I couldn’t decide between a bag of Skittles or a fire poker, so I went ahead and got you both.”

I’ll have to be careful next year if I go the fire poker route. If you’re going to give a bad present, it’s a good rule of thumb to make sure it’s not something that could be brandished.

You can elect Mike Todd to another term at


  1. Awww. I think a tree is great present. Well done. And congrats on the big 0-5. ;)

  2. I'm sure you woke up with wood on your anniversary. Why didn't you just give her that ?

  3. Happy 5th Anniversary and may you both enjoy a lifetime of tree-planting....and may it not be weepy too many times! Plus, the tree is also a gift for Memphis and you just know that she'll be more than happy to keep it watered on a regular basis.

    May you always have enough happiness to keep you sweet,
    Trials to keep you strong,
    Success to make you eager,
    Friends to give you comfort,
    Wealth to meet your needs,
    Enthusiasm to look for tomorrow,
    And a growing love to make each day better than the day before.

    This Irish blessing is the one that first came to mind, now that you've begun a more agrarian anniversary tradition.....

    May the frost never afflict your spuds.
    May the leaves of your cabbage always be free from worms.
    May the crows never pick your haystack.
    If you inherit a donkey, may she be in foal.

    P.S. What does Evan think of said tree?

  4. ZenMom -- You rock. And thank you.

    Anonymous -- You have no idea how difficult it is to keep a column appropriate for a family paper when it's about giving your wife something wooden. Anyway, it's good to hear from you, Chunks. Or Perlson. It's tough to tell with this one.

    Loon -- Those were both really nice - thanks! My favorite line was the one about the spuds. I should hope mine will stay nice and warm. I'm not sure Evan even knows who we are yet, so he's still keeping his opinions about the tree to himself. You're right about Memphis being a big fan, though.