This is Wink, my wife, and me updating our marriage vows after — ready? — 58 years.
We are not talking "from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer," with a promise to part only at death.
All that was covered June 8, 1963, at St. John’s Lutheran, Prospect Avenue, Brooklyn, the Rev. Werner Jentsch presiding and, sooner than expected, put to the test.
Reception followed in a modest catering hall above a fish market, Fifth Avenue, Bay Ridge.
We arrived too early and killed time with a quick drive to Coney Island, Wink still in her wedding dress, I, in my tux. At the party, I ducked when Wink tried to smoosh wedding cake into my face, a false attempt at dignity she has never overlooked. It was the first opportunity to learn the meaning of "worse" and I blew it.
"Spoilsport," she still insists.
The matter under discussion recently dealt only with forgoing gifts this year and maybe just celebrating nearly six decades with takeout from the Middle Eastern place over by the boatyard — nothing like hummus to keep a couple happy — and a night watching some British TV detective solve yet another case of murder or assorted other malevolence.
Anniversary presents are lovely, of course, but we haven’t been in shopping mode for months because of you-know-what. Best to ease the pressure, we thought, and summon the wisdom of the late George Carlin.
A small blue sign above my desk — long forgotten is how I came upon it — quotes the dearly missed comedian.
"That's all you need in life, a little place for your stuff," said Carlin, whom I loved for his deep suspicion of everything overstuffed and his memorable version of the classic 1954 Marvin and Johnny tune "Cherry Pie," performed on the old "Arsenio Hall" television show and still floating around on YouTube.
Yes, Carlin could do more than deflate the pompous and powerful. When the occasion demanded, he could sing and grind out a decent bit of honky-tonk piano. As a person who took lessons for six glum pre-adolescent years and now cannot even play "Turkey in the Straw," I am awed. As for singing, you wouldn’t want to be in the same room.
Pounding the keys while Arsenio contributed a do-do-do-da, Carlin crooned, "Like Little Jack Horner, sitting in the corner, eating his cherry, cherry pie … only I didn’t put in a thumb and pull out a plum …" Ah, that was music, wasn’t it, members of the Rhythm ’n’ Blues Regiment? What melody, what lyrics, what memories.
On the question of excess, Carlin was bull’s-eye, seems to me. Anything more than a cigar box to keep your old baseball cards or drawer for pajamas, you are edging toward conspicuous consumption.
Once at Newsday I interviewed a famous person who lived in a big house on Long Island — too big she readily confessed.
"What do I need with 14,000 square feet?" she asked as if I was the real estate agent who urged buying up half the North Shore.
She was asking the wrong guy, anyway.
Wink and I are not in the upper-crust category but want for nothing. Sweet little house, couple cars that still run after 10 years, enough money to fix the dishwasher when it breaks down.
Plenty aren’t so fortunate.
A survey earlier this year showed that more than half Americans live paycheck to paycheck and another reveals that millions have to borrow if socked with an unexpected bill of $400.
That would have been us when the kids were growing up — four in five years, a round of applause, please, for the indomitable Wink — and in constant need of sneakers, lunch money and a few bucks for the new Jackson Five album. More than once, we had to ask for help.
The children are long since on their own. We have some breathing space. But you don’t — shouldn’t — overlook the tougher times.
On our anniversary, we said, oh, forget takeout, let’s get a table at the Mexican place downtown. We ate enchiladas and brought leftovers home. We watched the British good guys go after the bad on TV. We sat on the couch, knit summer blanket over our legs, and said, wow, 58 years, imagine.
No gifts necessary. All we need in life.
Do-do-do-da. Cherry, cherry pie.