A Post for Nick & Julie on their 50th Anniversary

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I was a flower girl at my Aunt Julie and Uncle Nick’s wedding 50 years ago. I don’t remember much other than the feeling of their nuptials being a very important occasion, and running around the fancy tables at the Queen Elizabeth Hotel in Montreal with my cousin Robbie until my grandma told me to stop.

I was far too young to appreciate the enormity of the decision Nick and Julie were making, Julie being barely 20 and Nick just a few years older. Back then many young people got married as an express ticket to freedom, an escape from the rigid rules under their parents’ roofs. Living alone or with roommates as the stepping stone to adulthood was far less common in those days.

Many couples soon discovered that their romantic notions of liberation and love were a mirage, an allusive promise on which they only ever had a tenuous grip. Many husbands and wives found they no longer had the strength or the will to hold on tight. But Julie and Nick were different. Their bond only grew stronger with each passing year. Their love grew a family of three daughters, and was a magnetic pull to an extended circle of family and friends.

This weekend we are celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary. Nick and Julie have never been comfortable being the center of attention so we are only making a minor fuss. There will be a gathering at their chalet in the Laurentians with their closest friends and family. There will be food, a bubbly toast, and an amateur video of their grandkids, kids, nieces, nephew and sons-in-law saying a few words about what Julie and Nick’s love means to them.

I had an unfair advantage in deciding what to say on film. I have often tapped into Nick and Julie’s marriage as a source of inspiration for my weekly blog. So it was easy to re-purpose material from two posts in particular. My post, A Calculating Lover, explored why actuaries like Nick and mathematicians like Julie have among the lowest divorce rates. Nick’s opinion is that they are better at “not letting ideology get in the way of reality.” Translated into layperson’s terms: Pick your battles.

Another post, My Two Role Models For A Happy Marriage,” explored why it’s not grand gestures like expensive jewellery or vacations that demonstrate love but those ordinary acts of kindness—like how Julie makes the nokedli (dumplings) that Nick loves even though rice is quicker to prepare, or how Nick always brings tea to Julie in bed every morning.

Without a doubt, Julie and Nick have given me wise words to share with others. And if we can derive our own relationship wisdom from their experience and insights, that’s a good thing. But what is more difficult to convey on a page is the feeling you get when you are around Nick and Julie.

Words only make a tiny difference to our connection as people. Non-verbal communication like tone and body language matter much more. Clearly these are also the more reliable barometers of love.

Many couples say and do the right things. We have all observed husbands or wives profess their love but their words don’t ring true. They may hold hands in a public display of affection but it looks awkward. Or they pretend to listen with rapt interest to what the other is saying, but you watch as their eyes and minds start to wander. Perhaps some can fake it till they make it, but unfortunately too many can’t.

So, it’s not what I hear Julie and Nick say to each other that shows me how deep is their love, or even their small acts of kindness. It’s those imperceptible moments that create a feeling. In writing this blog post I had an image of which moment stood out for me that captures that feeling, and I asked my husband John (without telling him what I was thinking) what stood out for him. We both thought of exactly the same thing.

Our shared mental picture is of our big family gathered around the dining room table, chaos erupting around us. But when we look at just the right moment, we see Nick and Julie huddled together at the head of the table in their own quiet oasis—Julie stealing sips of Nick’s wine, and Nick looking content.

It’s in these small moments when I feel their love radiate and envelop me.

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