47 years

The planet Mars takes 780 days to complete an orbit around the sun if you measure in terms of earth days. Each time it completes 22 of these journeys, it returns to the same place in the sky in relationship to the earth. This cycle of motion was discovered by the ancient Mesopotamians and has been known to astronomers ever since. Here on earth that journey takes 47 years, or to put it another way. Once every 47 years the planet Mars aligns with other astronomical bodies in the same relationship as was the case 47 years ago. I’m not quite sure how the ancient Mesopotamians discovered this cycle. I know that making accurate observations of heavenly bodies was a passion among some ancient people. I also know that they had systems of recording their observations so that their learnings could be passed on. Still, it would have required multiple observers remembering data from nearly a half century ago in order to make that observation. And certainly they wouldn’t have discovered the meaning of their observations in the first cycle.

However they did it the pattern has been established and the number 47 has a place in the lore of astronomers. The role of 47 in astronomy combined with a special interest in the number by students and graduates of Pomona College in California to give the number a special role in the television series Star Trek. The number kept popping up in episodes. For example, in the Voyager episode "Parallax", we learn that the Emergency Medical Holographic Channel is 47 and that the EMH has the experience of 47 individual medical officers.

The story of the number 47 and Pomona College has to do with a mathematics teacher who was trying to illustrate the concept of mathematical proof and used 47 as a random number in his illustration. Somehow the lesson stuck and the number became a kind of mathematical joke at the college.

Forty-seven is a prime number - the fifteenth prime number if you are counting.

Yesterday we celebrated our forty-seventh wedding anniversary. The celebration was about as good as it could get. Our day started with breakfast with our grandchildren. Pancakes and French Toast - your choice - or you could have both. It also was, for us, a day without a formal agenda. We did some of our usual routines. We had tea together. We went for a walk. We played with our grandchildren. We shared meals with our son’s family. In the evening, after supper, we had a little family celebration because we had not been together on some recent birthdays. I received a hand made and hand painted bird feeder that started as a boy scout project of our grandson and was enhanced by the artistry of our granddaughter with the paint. The result is marvelous. It will have an honored place in our new home when we get moved.

We had an opportunity to video chat with our daughter and grandson, who live in Japan. He is starting to respond to our voices, faces and attention on the screen and his smile and responses make us laugh.

There was also time to just sit in a chair and read a magazine. I even took a short nap. The evening ended with three grandchildren sleeping in our camper - a treat for grandchildren and grandparents alike.

I can’t think of a better way to celebrate 47 years of married life.

Shortly after we were married we attended the 50th wedding anniversary celebration of a couple in the church we belonged to at the time. It was a fun celebration and much was made about the fact that we were newlyweds at a celebration of a long-term marriage. We enjoyed the attention. At the time, I couldn’t imagine what it would be like to get that old and to have been together for that many years. I assumed that one day we would get there, but it was so far in the future that I couldn’t think what it would be like.

These days 50 doesn’t seem like that big of a number. In just a few years we’ll be at our 50th anniversary. Over the years there have been some memorable anniversaries. We were traveling in Europe on our 5th anniversary. We had a new baby in our family on our 8th anniversary. Then there was the year when I was in Hawaii on our anniversary, but Susan was in Idaho. I was chaperoning a delegation of youth at a church gathering. Most of the years, however, we have noted our anniversary with a special dinner or other celebration of one kind or another.

Looking back and remembering all of our friends who have experienced divorce, I realize that there was probably a bit of luck in the way we found each other. We were serious about our commitment when we were married, but we didn’t know what the future held for us. In our case we found the right person with whom to share a life, and it has been exactly the right partnership. We have shared a career. We have shared parenting tasks. We have shared travel. We have shared so much. We can tell each other’s stories and laugh at the old jokes we’ve heard a hundred times before.

In the span of a lifetime perhaps there is nothing particularly unique about the number 47, but for us it is just the right number for this year. Episodes of Star Trek and Pomona College in jokes aside, 47 is a good number of years. We’ve been together long enough to be comfortable with one another. We are at the beginning of a whole new life adventure. We have our health and the promise of many more years. And 47 isn’t one of the big anniversaries that demands a party or a gathering. We kind of like the quiet, private celebrations that don’t require too much fuss anyway.

And at one day past 47 years, we will wake to our grandchildren arising and expecting pancakes for breakfast once again.

Life is good.

Copyright (c) 2020 by Ted E. Huffman. I wrote this. If you would like to share it, please direct your friends to my web site. If you'd like permission to copy, please send me an email. Thanks!