Happy anniversary honey! Here's some ... paper?
It is easy to view love as materialistic. A day meant to celebrate it is associated with outlandish gifts and gaudy chocolate boxes. The proposal that starts the rest of your life is linked forever to an expensive gem, and the wedding that proceeds that proposal can rack up a pretty hefty price tag. When romance is portrayed on TV or in movies, it is accompanied by expensive dinner dates with fading candle light or Tiffany boxes stuffed secretly in a loved one’s jacket pocket. Given all of this, it may seem to the cynical eye that the meaning of love is to buy, to indulge, to show off. Perhaps I am an optimist, but I believe it’s quite the opposite.
There is a long list of gifts that traditionally coincide with a wedding anniversary. The fifth year is wood, tenth is tin, fifteenth is crystal and so on. Among this list, there is one material that sticks out the most to me — paper. That is the medium suggested for a first anniversary wedding gift. Plain old, traditional paper. Upon further investigation, paper as a first anniversary present is meant to represent the fragility of the young relationship. Well, no offense to whatever Old English town crier declared that, but they made some glaring mistakes.
Who dares to suggest the first year is when the couple is at their most fragile? I would have to argue that it's the fifth, when a routine has been established, or maybe the twentieth, when the kids have moved away and there is nothing but empty silence to fill the house anymore. But the first? Waking up on my first-ever first anniversary was like being a child at Christmas again. In the time the Earth completed her long orbit around the sun, I had found my own source of warmth — nothing about it felt breakable.
Paper does not constitute fragility, but strength. Strength to put your feelings and thoughts down on a page. Strength to be vulnerable and to share that with someone else. It is inherently romantic. Whether it’s the way a new book smells the first time you crack the spine or the feeling of a new pen gliding over crisp parchment, there is love in every detail.
As I sit in my bedroom writing this piece, I am surrounded by little slips of adoration. Taped onto my wall above me are cards from someone I love — silly designs printed on folds that open to reveal affection scrawled in ballpoint pen. On my bedside table is an impromptu poem given to my mother about her children, written out by a typewriter. “No contract attached / Signed my name on your sweet bones / Vowed to love always.” To my side are rows of pictures. Moments frozen in time, printed on a glossy piece of paper to reflect on and remember. Posters of my favorite lyrics, a business card of a restaurant that reminds me of my grandparents, photostrips catching me at my most candid. I am surrounded by paper, and in turn, surrounded by love.
Will paper ever be eradicated? Maybe in production, but never in meaning. Paper connects us to loves lost and loves found and loves soon to be. I can hold in my hands the wedding invitation for my grandparents. I can flip through a scrapbook documenting my childhood. I can open a book yellowed with age and see the markings of a hundred that read it before me. So is paper really the most mediocre of materials? Is it really only a gift to give with someone you may not be with the next year? Paper can burn, but the feelings it gave us don’t turn to ash that easily. Honor true love by rejecting materialism — who needs diamonds anyway?