A dozen roses. Dinner at a dimly-lit restaurant. A weekend at a Victorian bed and breakfast. My husband has given me all of these things at one time or another over our 18 years together—in fact, we have a tradition of getting away for each anniversary, and that usually entails at least one night at a romantic inn.
But at times in our marriage these big-ticket romantic gestures were just not possible. A few years ago we were flat broke. We were both unemployed and living solely from what we'd tucked away in our checking and savings accounts. Each month, as I subtracted in our checkbook register—never adding a thing—the quivering pit in my stomach grew. Especially as our anniversary approached.
I realize it was selfish even to think about bed and breakfasts at a time like that—as my girls each rotated three outfits for school, and we dressed extra warm in the house to avoid jacking up the furnace. Still, I wondered how we'd manage to make the day feel special.
The morning of our anniversary, I awoke with a heaviness in my chest, saddened that things had to be so different this year, and fearful of how long this uncertainty was going to last.
When I went to wash my face, I found something odd sitting on my hand towel. It was a tiny white scroll, tied with red satin ribbon. I slipped off the ribbon and unrolled it, holding my breath.
On the scroll, in a fancy, cursive font from our computer, were the words to one of my favorite love poems. It was written by Elizabeth Barrett Browning to her husband, Robert. Only the pronouns had been changed so that it was meant for me.1