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…on anniversaries

Ten years ago yesterday, I begin my first visit to England. It was my last year at university, and I came to visit my friend Lauren (who was studying abroad at UCL and living on Gray’s Inn Road) and my friend Allison (who was studying abroad at Girton College, Cambridge). To say that I enjoyed myself is an understatement. I was, at the time, finishing my undergraduate honors thesis on the Marriage Reform Act of 1753. And I spent two days in the British Library, the ostensible purpose of my visit. I spent the rest of my time going to awful restaurants and awesome student club nights. By the end of my week, I had resolved to apply to Cambridge for grad school and, specifically, to study London history.

Such are the twists and turns of life that I ended up at Oxford, and although I still acknowledge that Cambridge is a prettier town, I can say with all honesty that I would rather be a leper than a tab.

I’ve always thought highly–or at least often–of anniversaries. They offer an opportunity to reflect on the past, on the people we were when things happen in the past, and the way our experiences–both those we commemorate and those that from the intervening period–have changed us. All of this, I suppose, falls into a what might be called ‘personal history’. Like all history, the chains of events seem much more certain in retrospect. The thread of narrative that we can follow into our pasts makes it easy to ignore the complexity of previous moments. After all, we each make a dozen decisions each day that shape who we become, what opportunities open before us, and which are shut down. As one proceeds down one’s current path, it takes a good deal of concentration to remember that the alternate paths one might have taken were not always side streets or alleyways, but the potential to be a main road. I, at least, find that anniversaries are invitations to reflect, the be thankful, and to be more intentional about the choices I make.

This week, it seems, is filled with anniversaries. Sunday, for example, was six months since Andrew and I got married (hurrah!). As seems to be our habit, we spent the day in different countries. Ah well, we’ll hopefully be in the same place six months from now. Tomorrow is the 20th anniversary of our dog Missy having puppies. She was a good dog. I was in 5th grade. It was a leap day. I wonder if any of her puppies (or grandpuppies) is still alive. I wouldn’t bet on it, but considering Missy lived to be 19, there’s definitely a chance. I’m also pretty sure that tomorrow is the first anniversary of my first drunken purchase at a charity auction: a portrait of Lord Nelson that was painted when he was 25 or so. It’s still in the box. Don’t ask how much I spent on it. Same auction is happening Thursday night, but thankfully I’m not drinking this year in Lent. And that’s worth remembering.


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