The Little Anniversary That Could…chug..chug…chug…

Written by Hollye Dexter

August 28, 2010

(not exactly Jamaica)

It started out the Worst. Vacation. Ever.

Oh Lord how we needed to get away and celebrate one another. How we needed to make the best of our 21st anniversary, after having to cancel our much anticipated trip to Jamaica (in lieu of a new septic system…..ahhhhh the romance.)

Just a jaunt down the coast to stay in a seaside hotel for three days, rest our weary souls after one of the worst Summers we can remember, and try to forget that we were supposed to be in Montego Bay right now. But no. Life was not going to let us have even this small respite. No, no. The morning we were scheduled to leave, our brand new $10,000 septic system failed again, sewage bubbling up into the yard like a cauldron from some underground hell. And on top of that, our greywater system was backing up, the pump motor shorting out. After my husband and his dad busted their butts to gerryrig it, we anxiously slipped away, crossing our fingers.

When we left the Valley, it was 111 degrees. ONE HUNDRED ELEVEN DEGREES. We packed three days worth of bathing suits, a few hats, sunscreen and headed for the ocean – a quick 45 minute trip up Pacific Coast Highway. When we got there, it was …WINTER! I kid you not. Freezing cold, cloudy with a bone-chilling wind. Well of course we arrived in shorts and flip flops, not at all prepared. So we headed for the local thrift store to buy sweaters and jackets.

(That’s us with our thrift store bags full of sweaters and coats)

There we were, in our cozy cabana chairs on the beach, sipping rum drinks…wearing winter jackets laying under blankets. Not exactly Jamaica but hey, the hotel was playing Reggae music so at least we had that. Or was that just life taunting us? All the while, my teeth chattering, we’re having these conversations: How could the septic system be failing? How many times a month do you think our family flushes the toilet, and how many flushes would it take to overflow the system? Pretty sexy anniversary so far….

The next day (our actual anniversary) we got a call from Troy’s parents who were staying in our home with Evan. In the middle of a record breaking heatwave… guess what? Our air conditioning went kaput. Here we are freezing on the beach, while our kids, Troy’s parents, our grandbaby and our pets are in a terrible, possibly dangerous, situation. A hurricane wind kicked up threatening our beach cabana, blowing the novel I was trying to read right out of my hands. We went back to our room, spending the rest of the day on the phone trying to reach our plumber, the air conditioning guy, neighbors etc…Both of us stressed, our stomachs in knots, just pacing the room. What to do? Nothing we could do but wait to hear back from the air conditioning guy and hope for the best. I suggested in the meantime we go to a funny movie to relieve the stress, and try to salvage what we could of our anniversary. So we went to see “Dinner for Schmucks” and all I can say is wow – did we ever feel like a couple of schmucks for paying to see that horrid, awful, unfunny movie. Let me re-emphasize…HORRID! And Troy had to leave to answer phone calls in the middle of it- his parents calling to say it was over 100 degrees in our house AT NIGHT, they were taking Evan and leaving.

When the movie let out (mercifully), we shuffled down the street for a late anniversary dinner, a cozy romantic candlelit place which just the night before had a jazz artist who looked and sang like Isaac Hayes. We were seated at a lovely booth with candles and pillows, low lighting….ahhhhh, perfect. We were going to salvage the last two hours of this day. We held hands across the table and sighed. Troy shook his head.

I know it’s been a rough couple days, honey, but…

Just then the walls of our cozy booth shook as the loudest, worst surf band we ever heard started to blare, the lead guitar resembling something between a dentist drill and an air raid siren.

WHAT? I yelled.

I LOVE YOU. He screamed.


We both started to laugh.



My stomach was so wrenched from all the anxiety that day that I couldn’t even eat. I had a dinner salad and a glass of wine, topped off with a couple TUMS. And that was our anniversary. The End. NOT. Because at 3:30 in the morning, our son Taylor called us saying there was a strange grinding electrical noise coming from behind the house. AWESOME! So Troy spent a half hour on the phone with him trouble shooting. And then of course neither of us could sleep at all.

By the next morning, we were bleary eyed, exhausted, stressed, miserable, sleep deprived. I lied there, dark circles under my eyes, staring at the ceiling thinking WTF? I looked over at my husband. He looked so beat down and sad it broke my heart, and that’s when I decided that dammit, we are not giving up!

I looked at him and said, “ I don’t care how hard life is kicking our asses this year. I am celebrating. You know why? Because I love you. Because you have stood beside me and this family, busting your ass to take care of us for twenty one years. Because I am so proud of all that we have withstood together; (Births, deaths, weddings, funerals, divorces, great successes, terrible failures, joys, depression, raising three kids, emergency rooms, birthing classes, packing lunches for school, packing kids for college, you name it…a lot happens in 21 years). We’ve weathered storms worse than this. We’ve lived through our home burning down, bankruptcy, betrayals by people we believed in, but through it all we stood strong by each other, and we still are. And we always will. So let’s party! You with me?”


After that, things started to turn around. Our repair guy fixed the air conditioning – and get this, it cost us sixty dollars. Both the sewage leak and the strange electrical grinding noise mysteriously stopped, at least for the time being, and we put it all out of our minds to concentrate on each other.

The last day of our getaway was spent freezing our asses off while having spicy fish tacos and beers on the beach, as we toasted our endurance. We went and saw a good movie, explored new beaches, hiked, walked, talked about our dreams, hit a few happy hours. Topped the night off with spicy curry, great music, good wine, and lots of laughs. So take that, LIFE!

What we learned from our trip is that we need the time to celebrate what it is to be a couple, for better or for worse, in sickness and in health, for richer and for poorer. And although our savings account may beg to differ, we felt pretty damn rich this weekend.

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  1. Lori

    With tears in my eyes, I say, thank you Hollye. For opening your heart and letting your beautiful words flow onto this page. You make me realize again (and again and again) that marriage is not perfect. However, I too choose to stand with my partner through the ups and downs of this life.

  2. Deb and Barbara

    Hollye, you have a gift for turning things around on a happy dime — or recognizing that in the midst of chaos, life itself turns on a dime. A GIFT, I tell you!!!

    Happy anniversary to you and Troy. You deserve all the beauty that life can offer on its best days.

  3. amy ferris

    you rock my world hollye dexter, (and TROY)

  4. Anonymous

    Absolutely perfect Hollye…your time away, though filled with mishaps and foibles was made perfect by the love the two of you have for each other. What a beautiful story that made my heart feel warm and put a smile on my tired face. It is so nice to see two people committed to each other through thick and thin. May that love grow only stronger…

  5. Hollye Dexter

    Thank you Lori and Barb, and miss Amylou I love you too! And Tracy I"m so darn glad I could put a smile on your face.
    I'm so darn lucky to have such beautiful supportive friends ( that are willing to read about all my drama and foibles, over and over!)

  6. Anonymous

    Hollye, you are my hero of the day. You truly makes lemons into lemonade and some rum didn't hurt. I wish you better times ahead and I know with your strong family values all is possible. Happy Anniversary!!!

  7. laurenne

    Thanks for sharing this! Sorry you had so much anxiety. Isn't it funny how we worry and worry and everything always turns out ok anyway? To worry is to be human.

    Happy anniversary! I hope to be in such a relationship one day. You are an inspiration! For better or worse.

    Oh, and I heard Montego bay is really boring this time of year anyway.

  8. Hollye Dexter

    Thank you Miss Madge and Adorable funny Laurenne!


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