We were like three little kids. We crammed onto my parents’ couch with a blanket pulled high over our heads, giggling. As my parents opened the door, we shouted, “Surprise!” and started full on laughing.
My two brothers and I, all in our 40s, had pulled off the ultimate surprise for our parents: flying from Austin and New Orleans to Northern California to be with them on their 50th anniversary on Jan. 15. Oh, and we had broken into their condo, too.
The weekend had us reminiscing of all the good times and not always good times of being raised by these folks. We shared stories of watching football with Dad, memorable camping trips and European misadventures, horrible meals made by my mother in her wheat germ phase, pets we loved and hated, and told tons of family jokes and Dadisms.
My parents taught us all about what a loving relationship is. They taught us about having extraordinary patience with one another. And they taught us how to make it during thick and incredibly thin; and there has been thin: The time when my dad lost his job and we had to move states. The years of children struggling with mental illness or drugs. And in recent years, struggling with their own health concerns and coming to terms with new limitations.
We should all be so lucky to have someone with which to go through life’s struggles.
One of the greatest pieces of advice a counselor gave my husband and I as we have shepherded our own child through a tough time was to not lose sight of our relationship, to make sure that we were taking time for each other away from work, kids’ school and activities, and our child’s medical appointments.
A lot of research has been done about the affect of divorce on children and the impact stable loving relationships can have on childhood.
Dr. Jane Anderson, a clinical professor of pediatrics at the University of California, San Francisco, studied three decades of research studies surrounding children and divorce and published her findings in 2014 in the peer-reviewed academic journal Linacre Q. She cities study after study that points to the conclusion that “children living with their married, biological parents consistently have better physical, emotional and academic well-being.” The notable exception is when there was violence in the home. Anderson also noted that the studies didn’t seem to indicate a difference in heterosexual marriages or homosexual marriages or other long-term commitments.
A few weeks ago, I met Moses and Anna María Saldaña. Colleague Michael Barnes did a profile on the Saldañas two years ago and the affect their relationship has had on their 10 children. The Saldañas met at Austin High School when he was 18 and she was 16. “He was the best dressed man in the school,” she says.
On February 15, they will celebrate their 60th wedding anniversary with a mass at San José Catholic Church, the same church were they were married in 1957.
They remember their courtship as one that took awhile from dating to marriage and of two very different people coming together. She was from a Catholic home in South Austin. He was from a Methodist home in East Austin. Each school day, they would see each other at a bus stop on Congress Avenue waiting for their perspective buses to arrive to take them home.
They officially got together when he visited her church’s Jamaica festival with a bunch of their friends. It was a big deal for his friends to cross the river in South Austin.
When he left school to join the Marines in 1951, they were separated by miles, but the separation didn’t last. About a year after he left the Marines, they married. He says her parents didn’t like him too much. When he went to talk to her father about marrying her, he asked Saldaña if he had a job. Saldaña’s response, “She’s got a job.” And while he was going to school under the GI Bill, she supported them. He later worked as a salesman at Western Auto on South Congress Avenue. She worked at the University of Texas law school.
They remember the wedding for a couple of things: His parents didn’t attend (she was Catholic, after all, and they didn’t approve). He paid $500 for a suit and shoes. She borrowed her older sister’s dress. He showed up at 5:15 p.m., 15 minutes late because the friend who brought him to the South Austin church didn’t know how to get there from East Austin. They went back to her parents’ house for the reception.
The first baby came that August, followed by nine more in the next 16 years. They lived in a small two-bedroom, one-bathroom house until 1978 when they moved south of Ben White to a three bedroom, two bathroom house, where they still live. “We thought it was a mansion,” daughter AnaMaría Lawrence says.
There were definitely good times. The kids recall the whole family piling into a Plymouth and going to San Antonio to visit. They’d stay in a hotel with an all-you-can eat buffet and swim in the pool. It was the millionaire lifestyle for them.
There was also really hard times, like when they had moved for a brief time to San Antonio for his job, which didn’t last. They returned to Austin with no work in sight and six kids.
The Saldañas say the don’t remember ever getting into a really big fight. “My kids were too important to do that around them,” Anna María Saldaña says. “We could always work things out.”
They say they didn’t tell their children how to have a good marriage. “They led by example,” Lawrence says. “We tried to follow the best part of what we saw.”
Son Mario Saldaña says he and his wife have remembered this lesson: “God first. Everything else will fall into place.”
For Moses Saldaña, who has written poetry for his wife since they were dating and jokingly refers to her as his ex-girlfriend, his biggest piece of advice about marriage is “get a job.” It would have made things easier.