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The key to a half century of marriage

Dorothy and Stuart Blumner, shown on their wedding day, 50 years ago today.

Courtesy of Blumner family

Dorothy and Stuart Blumner, shown on their wedding day, 50 years ago today.

Fifty years ago, on June 1, 1958, two young public school teachers in New York decided to make a life together. Today, at a big party on Long Island, more than a hundred family members and friends will celebrate that decision.

My parents' marriage has spanned 10 presidencies and three or four wars, depending on whether you count Grenada. This longevity alone is an achievement in this age of disposable spouses, but what makes their merger more remarkable is the glue that their shared values proved to be.

My parents' recipe for the pot au feu of a successful marriage is: a shared curiosity about the world, a shared inherent sense of justice and a shared delight in the social whirl of good friends and interesting people.

From a multitude of angles this has been a synergistic match, with each receiving added vim from the other's vigor, including the daily ritual of Mom helping Dad solve the last few clues of the New York Times crossword puzzle — which he does in pen!

While I, of course, believe they are unique and special people, their story is one that could be told a million times in a million homes across America.

During his stint in the Army, my Dad was stationed in peacetime Europe and captained the Army's soccer team, which got its butt kicked across the continent, he says. To this day my father gives money every year to the USO, which, he says, made a soldier far from home feel cared for.

My mother became a school teacher at a time when that was one of the few fields open to a woman with aspirations of a career. She always loved teaching, which was handy, since it was either that or nursing. A mere 28 years later, I, as her daughter, would have an unlimited universe of options by comparison.

They started out in an apartment in Queens, but as their third child was born, (I'm the oldest) my parents followed the exodus to the suburbs. The family moved to a modest ranch house on a corner lot in a leafy neighborhood in Glen Cove, on the north shore of Long Island. That's where my parents stayed put until the call of Manhattan became too great.

As retirees, they are now full-time city dwellers, for whom no detail of this robust metropolis is too prosaic for their interest.

On any given day, my parents may be found taking a tour of the water towers of New York with the municipal guy in charge of such things or listening to a lecture on Japanese lacquer at the Japan Society. They are members of so many museums that when I said once on a visit that I was going to the Dahesh, a smallish museum devoted to 19th century European academic art, Mom pulled out her membership card for me to take along.

Travel has always been their muse and at this point there isn't much of the world where their footprints haven't been left. My parents have seen the pyramids at Giza, the Great Wall of China, the carved sandstone of Petra, Jordan, the fjords of Norway, the elusive quetzal of Costa Rica, and Darwin's finches at the Galapagos.

Their causes are many, from saving the oceans to saving civil liberties. Even during the days of runaway inflation in the 1970s when a teacher's salary didn't cover much beyond basic living, my parents donated their money and time to environmental and progressive political causes out of a sense of civic duty.

This is the 50-year journey of heart and mind being celebrated today. It is an American story of love and family ballasted by unified values, enriching adventure and engaged citizenship. And if you want the secret to keeping a marriage solid and fulfilling over the long haul of life, here it is.

The key to a half century of marriage 05/31/08 [Last modified: Wednesday, June 4, 2008 9:53am]
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