Anniversaries come but once a year, and they should be treated as such, just as every day is only given to us one at a time. Because of this Caleb, unknowingly to me, took the day off from work. I heard him in the shower at 6:00 am when my alarm went off and figured he was late, so I would let him finish. He was out the door and off to work… or so I thought. At 7:30 I get a phone call from him. He wants me to go outside and look for his military ID because he can’t find it and isn’t able to get on base.
It didn’t strike me too odd that it took him 75 minutes in a line of cars to get to the gate to realize his faux pas, so in my bathrobe I went looking along the grass and dirt of the driveway thinking it might’ve fallen out the side of his book bag that he takes to work every day. I turned around and saw all my neighbors looking at me, and as I waved, Caleb turned the corner with a handful of calla lilies, chocolates, a phone in hand, and a large smile on his face. He had done a great job of surprising me – yet again.
This is year six that we have completed with him going on deployments, us owning dogs, dealing with the complexities of our relationships with our fathers, moving around the country – and traveling when we’re not, and dealing with the great days and the duty days. This will make nine years we’ve known each other. I’ve gone from cooking raw chicken (while under the influence of tequila), to the best brisket and turkey Caleb has ever tasted, to finally becoming a vegetarian.
I’ve gone from needing a drink at 4:00 am to cope with my boring Navy job, to looking forward to the crazies at the 7-11 convenience store, to dealing with the stress and excitement of getting an associate degree, to waking up and going to sleep sober while being happily unemployed. We went from having roommates in an apartment and wanting kids to having dogs and renting a house with a backyard for them. We know a lot about each other, even though we continue to grow and change. We both still want to do that together. Caleb also got us an ironwood tea box to represent the traditional gift as we look at the sweet life we’ve had so far and what that means to us going forward.
While I sat in my bathrobe eating chocolate, Caleb polished my cowboy boots that hadn’t seen care in a while. Then we went to the library to print out Cirque de Soleil tickets for the Totem show in Santa Monica by the pier. I’ve wanted to go for years and now we were going – doors open at 7:30 pm. He paid for a parking spot in advance online to save us the trouble there. I was looking forward to going into the Los Angeles area without having to look for one. Then Caleb thought we should go on base to turn in our passport information that will allow us into the Middle East, but again, someone at his command left him with the wrong information and we will have to go back some other time.
I left with a smile on my face. We were spending time together, going to different buildings that all looked the same, asking people where to go, getting cut off by cars going the wrong way (according to the arrow on the one way), and walking completely around a building to get inside only to find out we had the wrong paperwork that was also outdated. We asked our neighbor Dan to feed our dogs dinner so that we could spend some more time in Santa Monica. Caleb loaded the bikes onto the back of the car and we were off to the parking garage near Tongva Park.
Caleb aired up his tires and then we rode to the end of the wooden pier – enjoying every bump that those boards delivered. There is fishing, kissing, eating, surfing, Ferris wheeling, dancing, instrument playing, singing, and plenty of photo taking going on as people from around the world want to capture this moment – for whatever it means to them. There is sand, surf, sun, construction, restaurants, and gift carts that also catch my eye. We ride our bikes down the boardwalk to the beach, but no toes in the sand, before heading north to the end of Will Rogers Beach where the bikeway ends.
On the return, we climbed 168 stairs (146 of those with my bike in hand) to get from the Ocean Front Walk to Ocean Ave. I wanted to go back to the 3rd Street Promenade – it’s been almost five years since we stayed at the Wilshire Motel and walked around all day and Caleb had to carry Sparky back later that night. We rode north through Palisades Park – beautiful, peaceful, spacious – before turning around and going left on Arizona Ave. We parked our bikes and walked one side and then the other of this three block eat – drink – shop plaza before deciding on Hummus Bar Express for lunch.
We ordered from the rush hour menu while the place was not crowded because it was a better deal. We got laffa bread, fries, and falafel balls with mushroom hummus, two servings of house hummus, and ketchup to dip it all in and a glass of tea. Then we rode our bikes south to the Venice Fishing Pier going by all the arts and crafts for sale and being too full to get a frozen yogurt, but willing to try a piece of Butterfinger frozen popcorn. We passed Muscle Beach – outdoor gym equipment, and took the bike path back to the parking garage after many stops to take pictures of everything.
We should have stayed on the beach for five more minutes, but Caleb thought the sunset would look great from the little ramps in Tongva Park. Oh well if there were people, cables, buildings, and cars in the way – even after all these years (and I know we haven’t been married for 25 or more yet) but we are still happy, healthy, willing, and able to make the most of this day and our time together while it lasts. We set out on foot to drink a beer and a shot of honey badger (Tuaca, sweet and sour, and pineapple juice) each and shared a molten chocolate cake, too sweet for Caleb, at an Italian place on the corner of Ocean and Colorado Avenues.
We left there to get closer to the tent for show time and the line at Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. was too long so we went to Rusty’s Surf Ranch across the street where we sat at the bar and I drank a margarita and ate four limes – one off a drink that was returned with lime and salt intact. Caleb ordered a double Jameson to celebrate the occasion and then we were headed down to the sand to enter gate number 8. We were seated 3 rows back and there was one couple to my right, a guard and path, and the stage. The place obviously isn’t that big – it seems everyone gets a front row seat, but that’s also because they have us packed in there – elbows on thighs and knees in backs.
The show started with empty seats, but the staff was more than helpful in flash-lighting the late drunks to their chairs next to us. Pardon the interruption while I stand and block the show for others so you can sit down. I asked them to hurry up. Then we were settled again and dazzled by the amount of details in the make-up and outfits, the choreography, the lights on stage, the music being performed live, the muscle definition in the acrobats, and the stunts pulled off so smoothly. Then came a fifteen minute intermission – more booze, more popcorn, more people squeezing by and blocking the aisle.
The show begins to start while people are finding their seats and soon cuss words are flying out of my mouth at an alarming rate and pitch. Caleb reaches behind me to stop whatever it is that has a hold of my hair that caused my head to jerk back. It happens to be the gut of the man who is sitting with his mother behind us – the same ones that were kicking me under my chair during the first half of the performance. Somehow, one of his buttons found its way into my brunette locks. Caleb was ready to rip the man’s shirt off, but the guy was able to untangle my hair and get possession of his clothes back.
The nice lady beside me asked if I was ok. I massage the spot, but don’t concentrate on it long. I’m here to enjoy the show with my husband regardless of the surroundings. I ooh and awe and point at shadows, sequins, smoke, and a few outfits I wouldn’t mind owning. Caleb is impressed with the lady singing. Only the five girls on unicycles dropped two of the many bowls used during their time in the spot light on stage. It was a spectacular show and even though photography wasn’t allowed we saw at least four people take pictures. I would love to be their photographer, but I think more of the staff cameras were aimed at capturing the audience.
Since I’m leaving the tent with no bald spot the incidence gives us something to laugh about – and for others to overhear and make faces about. We settle in at Bubba Gump’s for a night-cap and some artichoke dip. I had a dirty martini and Caleb got a margarita with a Coronita upside-down – a first for him, but he preferred to Facebook about his wife’s hair. We didn’t get the garlic bread that we asked for and then the menu’s and waitresses disappeared as the place started to close. We still had two hours to drive home, so we weren’t complaining – not until we tried to leave the parking garage and had to pay again because the machine wouldn’t read our prepaid ticket.
There were detours, and we got lost, and then we purposefully detoured. This is our anniversary and we weren’t going to let strange men, Los Angeles traffic, or waitresses mess up any part of it. They only add to the story and the memories and we managed to be up at midnight two nights in a row making sure that we are still happy, healthy, willing, and able as young adults to park behind a dark building and bring the best ending to an anniversary that we could. I would drive us home while Caleb attempted to nap in the passenger seat, but he wanted to be sleepy with me and then cuddle when we got home at 1:30 am – too tired to take the bikes off the car.
Then almost in a case of déjà vu, Caleb calls and tells me he actually lost his ID. He pulls into the driveway, enters the bedroom, checks his pants from last night, and then finds it hidden in his wallet. And as much as I love this man, no matter who we ask – best friend, sibling, or stranger – I’m the one who is lucky beyond the stars to be with someone who constantly puts up with my shit – my childhood aggressions, my conflicts in the Navy, and my emotions as I try to find myself somewhere between forever teenager and burgeoning adult that wants to be less selfish and more loving.