Who Thought that 35 Years Would Be So Easy?

Published January 31, 2018 in Warp & Woof

Who Thought that 35 Years would Be So Easy?
William Sundwick
Thirty-five years later, I’ll admit to having some trepidation about the future back then. I suspect my wife-to-be shared at least that much!

Winter, 1982-83. We were planning our January 15 wedding. Lots of thinking and work. We were about to embark on a great adventure. Our 1983 frame of reference was rather optimistic, considering what some were predicting. Still embroiled in the Cold War, but the West had the upper hand, still recovering from a recession, but a mild one by most standards. Anyway, we were not invested in Wall Street. Both my career and wife’s showed promise in the federal government. I was a full-time grad student, on sabbatical, seeking a career change (secretly). We had plans to start house shopping despite mortgage interest rates as high as 13 percent — we each owned property, if only one-bedroom condos, in Arlington, VA.
But, we both knew we could handle increased responsibilities – after all, we were in our thirties! And,

the wedding and reception that cold, snowy January evening in DC went well, we thought. Our social obligations had been fulfilled. Our family and friends were all very supportive – they had confidence in us! That first night at the Tysons West Park Hotel came as a huge relief. The rest of our life was about to start.

The next morning, off we drove into the fresh snow in my Dodge Omni. Front wheel drive was a novelty for me then, made me think I had a “snow car.” We headed for Virginia hunt country — out west on US 50. Middleburg was only an hour away, even in the snow. We had two nights reserved at the historic Red Fox Inn.
It seemed an ideal romantic honeymoon getaway, especially since neither of us were in position to travel very far – and, the weather. But, on the second day, my bride got sick. It must have been a stomach virus. Not very romantic! On the third day, heading home, I got the same virus. Equally


Thus ended our honeymoon in Virginia hunt country. But our life together began, nevertheless. The first year we lived in my condo in Fairlington Villages, while I was still a grad student. I was a kept man. In 1984, we bought the house where we still live, in a North Arlington neighborhood largely intact from its original development in the 1940s through 1970s. Brick colonials like ours characterized the “old” part of the neighborhood, split-foyers and split-levels characterized the 1950s and 1960s, A-frames on slabs the 1970s. The East Falls Church Metro station was on schedule to open the following year, but its effect on real estate values still lay in the future — and, only a nine-block walk from our house!
The house seemed huge in 1984, compared to our one-bedroom condos. Eight (tiny) rooms! In it, two sons would grow up – the first born in 1985, his brother in 1988.  I had returned to my old job in January 1984, writing off the investment in a second M.S. degree as a risk whose reward remained to be seen (embedding IT professionals within organization charts was an emerging fashion, but not so much in the federal government). My wife continued to support me – so it seemed — with her higher salary.
For the next 30 years it would be all about the kids. Through toddlerhood, preschool, school years, sports, academics, college applications, college success, career choice. Finding mates! Even a grandchild in 2015. Although we needed more space, we built on only when the oldest was entering his senior year in high school, and then again when the youngest was in college. Our financial circumstances had prevented action sooner, easing only as we approached empty nesthood. Within a year after the youngest graduated from college we became true empty nesters. Both sons live in the area, but in their own housing.

Finally, it was time to consider retirement, at least for me. By 2015, I would cut the cord from my long-time employer (The Library of Congress). Stalwart wife has not (same agency). But, I was no longer a kept man! Fortunate in so many ways, I should seek a tone of humility, but can’t resist a bit of self-satisfaction in my “golden years.”
Thirty-five years is a long time. It is half of my life. It’s time to think about things – have I given as much as I’ve received? And, who could be an impartial judge, anyway? Surely, we’ve “gone the distance” by now. We both know where we’ve been, and can look clear-eyed at where we are. The future will take care of itself. The kids are never done, of course, but any further development for them is going to be up to them! Do we have a name for this place we’re at? Bliss? Resolution? Harvest? Whatever we call it, I’d say the reward is palpable.
Well, the time came this year for the great return. I made reservations for an anniversary stay at the Red Fox Inn back in Middleburg. It is still there, looking much as it did 35 years ago. The same antique furniture (it could be different antique furniture, I wouldn’t remember).

The flat screen HD TVs were new, but the hunt country fare on the menu at the Red Fox Tavern looked very familiar – but heavy for my current taste. The selection of Virginia wines, and
complimentary gourmet chocolates in the room, were intended to promote local Loudoun County businesses.

No snow this time around, but it was cold. We managed the drive out US 50 in the same hour that it took in 1983. This time, we made it on our Chevy Volt’s battery charge — no gas used until return trip! The view along the route has changed, however. Loudoun County is not the same as it was 35 years ago. One doesn’t leave suburban development now until Aldie, still a quaint 19th century rural village, but with a large banner across its only commercial buildings proclaiming the project to “Save historic Aldie!” Middleburg, too, maintains a similar ambience. 
Although the Red Fox Inn and Tavern has an image to preserve, some of the other local businesses show more panache, like the Julien Café and Sandwicherie with its Help Wanted sign out front advertising “Norwegians Only Apply!” — echoing the latest Washington buzz. Visiting and wine tasting at Cana Vineyards in Aldie reminded me of a similar experience at a Temecula, CA winery two years ago. Both were relatively new businesses (Cana only five years old).

The view from the wine tasting room to the hills beyond had the same feel, except the Temecula hills were higher.

This time nobody got sick. We returned home to continue our anniversary celebration with Monday dinner at our traditional anniversary haunt – the Panjshir Afghan restaurant in Falls Church, in a new location since last year.
Wife began her work week refreshed, and we both awakened to a 35-year job well done. We are the better for it. And, I’m confident, the world is a better place, too.

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