50 Years and Counting

This morning I am sitting on the deck of a sailing ship looking across a turquoise sea to a Caribbean Island.

The scene has changed from 1959. Then it was an emotional and spiritual crisis for a Catholic to marry a Protestant. Then it wasn’t common, but neither was it unheard of, for children to marry in their teens. It wasn’t smart but it wasn’t impossible to marry without finishing college, without jobs, without prospects.

This is a story of young people embarking on life without thought of consequences:

Our wedding was in the Episcopal Church, which was a compromise of sorts between a girl raised in a fundamentalist church and a boy raised in the Catholic Church. It was a perfect wedding. The poinsettias and red velvet bridesmaid dresses were a perfect foil for my white lace gown. We were surrounded by family and friends and sent off in what we considered to be great style

I can’t remember how much money we had…maybe $100.00. As we were leaving, my brother-in-law handed us his Shell credit card to cover our gas. What more could we have possibly wanted?

My husband’s cousins loaned us their apartment in Berkeley for a few days. We felt so married to be staying in a city apartment. We danced to “Scarlet Ribbons” at the Tonga room at the top of the Fairmont as guests of the cousins. We watched pizza dough thrown in the air and tasted real pizza for the first time. We wandered through an amazing world of students who lived their own lives. To us it was an exotic honeymoon.

We decided to go through Reno on our way home. We had about $50 left and it seemed worldly and daring to try our hand at gambling. Foresight has never been our strong suit. Even now we encourage each other in our recklessness rather than sustaining each other in wise choices. So, although we saw that it was snowing in the mountains ahead of us, we were young and invincible and kept driving. We noticed some stations in the foothills advertising chains, but we didn’t really have the money, so we assumed that meant we wouldn’t need them. Suddenly the snow was deep, the traffic stopped, and we were told that we couldn’t go on without chains. When we tried to turn back, we were told that we couldn’t go back without chains. A roving tow truck was there to sell us chains for $20. Almost half of our money was gone.

Onward and upward! We got to Reno, found a hotel for $20 and began the search for casinos where they wouldn’t question our age and would give us nickels in exchange for the coupons left in our motel. A cheap dinner and an hour of losses on the nickel machines found us discouraged, down to the price of the motel, and miles from home on Christmas Eve. Christmas morning found us embarrassed. We hadn’t realized there was tax on the motel and we were unable to pay it. Feeling guilty, we ate the free donuts and headed for home.

In good weather it’s a 5 – 7 hour trip home. In bad weather it’s longer. We were crabby and hungry and trying not to think about the dinners being eaten at our parents’ homes. we worried about the gas gauge and prayed for a Shell station. After miles of desert and god-forsaken terrain we found one. The attendant had the Christmas spirit. He loaned us $2 extra on the credit card.

We drove to the next town, stopped at Idella’s Market and bought the best meal imaginable with our borrowed cash: bread, milk, lunch meat and sandwich spread. Well-fed and revived we drove home to our small upstairs apartment, turned the lights on our tiny tree and began playing at married life. It was a Merry Christmas after all.

Times have changed. Fifty years later we’re celebrating in style. Tonight we’ll eat under the stars and remember the people who have helped us in our journey from there to here. We’ll talk about our children and grandchildren. We’ll laugh. We may cry. We’ll dance to music in the lounge and hope they’ll play “Scarlet Ribbons”. We’ll walk the deck in the warm breeze while watching the white waves on the black sea.

On Christmas day we’ll have a sumptuous feast. It won’t be as satisfying as our first Christmas dinner, but it will be a marker. Our choices may have been reckless, our path may not have been well thought out, and we still made it. We are blessed…with love…

xxoo

Comments

  1. I Know I Can Salsa says:

    I remember…most of it. So much fun reading details that I’d forgotten or never known. I seriously love you two! Might add.. again.. you are such a gifted writer, one of my favorites! xoxo

    Like

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