Note: As explained in this post, in honor of me and my wife’s first year of marriage, I’m going to spend the second year posting monthly reflections of the same month a year earlier. This is the sixth installment.

January is a milestone month in a number of ways. For many, the start of the new year marks a time of change, of promise, of hopefulness, the anticipation that good things will come. The aches and pains of the old year start to fade into the background just a little, as the spotlight swings around to highlight all of the things we hope will happen in the new year, the personal goals we hope to achieve, the silent promises we make to be “better” people; more active, more well-organized, more efficient, and less prone to letting minor obstacles derail our optimism.

For us, January is a milestone of a different kind, the annual marker of our “couplehood,” the anniversary of our first date. 2013 marked the 6th year since our first date, as well as the half-way mark of the first year of our marriage. It seemed an occasion that called for a grandiose celebration, at least between the two of us — a lavish dinner and night out on the town, or a weekend getaway.

But life has a way of interfering with such grand plans and schemes, and last January was no exception to that rule. The winter quarter started under a fog, with the confirmation that the final first round of academic interviews was completing, and the spring round had yet to materialize. I had a very busy schedule of writing classes to teach, and you had to juggle a strenuous start to the concert season with traveling to audition in other cities. One of those auditions came right over top of our anniversary. We talked about going together, but it wasn’t feasible, with the term just starting for me. I had my hands full, and you weren’t going to have time to relax or take in the sights on the trip anyway; better to save the cost of additional airfare and meals, to use the funds elsewhere.

So you went, leaving early in the morning. You called me from your hotel, where you went downstairs to have a meal, by yourself, and we talked while you ate, then went back up to your room, which was very cold; the city, known for its abundance of sunshine and heat in all seasons, was experiencing a strong cold snap, and the hotel’s heating system was not designed to keep up. You called again the next day, after having spent the day practicing and preparing for your audition, sending me pictures of the city skyline and the mountains beyond, and we discussed how we would handle the coming year. Would we both move to this new city, where I have a few family connections, and hopefully I would find temporary work while hunting down other opportunities? Would I stay in Oregon and teach another year, applying from afar? In the waning optimism of that new year, these seemed to be the most important questions to discuss; the issue of whether or not we would be moving to this new place at all seemed irrelevant.

And then you called again, telling me that the audition had gone very quickly, and that you were going to be looking to bump up your flight home, since you wouldn’t need to worry about staying for a second day of auditions after all. I was momentarily enraged — what kind of morons were they, to ignore you and your talent, your hard work and dedication, the fact that you were obviously one of the best candidates they could ever hope to have — and then secretly, somewhat guiltily, glad for the fact that you were coming home early. I wanted you back as quickly as possible, so that we could start together to brush the dirt off of our collective shoulders and move on.

We did get to have our anniversary meal together, when you came back, although it was hardly a grand event. Instead, we walked a few blocks over to a nearby restaurant, where we were seated at the only booth available, it’s seats so battle-scarred and patched up with duct-tape that even the teenage server felt compelled to apologize, and had to stifle a laugh when I sank half of a foot, thanks to the tired and wornout springs. I don’t recall what we had to eat, and I do know that we never found our way back again before we moved away from town several months later. But you were home, and we were having dinner together, and the food was at least acceptable enough to not be memorable for all of the wrong reasons, and it was a warm, cheerful place, almost in spite of itself. Already, the dust was falling from our shoulders, already the crisp air of the still-new-year was rejuvenating our spirits, and we walked home again just as happy as we had been on that first night six years

Happy 1.5 Anniversary, HP!