Morning Thanks

Garrison Keillor once said we'd all be better off if we all started the day by giving thanks for just one thing. I'll try.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Anniversary Confessions

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It had been two years since I'd lived anywhere close, but Orange City was her hometown. That we would be married there was beyond question, and that was okay with me. A few of my old friends came around, along with a few old profs, and of course my family from afar. But that hot day in late June, First CRC, Orange City, Iowa, held hosts of her family, she being the oldest cousin in a hoard of Vissers, her mother's side.

We drew a crowd, all right, most all of them seeing, for the very first time, this soon-to-be husband, not a farmer, of their drop-dead gorgeous cousin. After all, we got married in a fever. Stem-to-stern, first date-to-alter oath took six months total. We spent our first Christmas together six months after we got married. How's that for heat?

The college chaplain married us, the Rev. John B. Hulst, who wasn't always sure I was driving down along the straight-and-narrow; but I found him trustworthy, and, more importantly, he'd been my soon-to-be-wife's childhood preacher.

Truth be told, I don't remember much about the wedding itself. It was hot--that I know, late June, rural, northwest Iowa, the reception in Northwestern College, Fern Smith Hall--that I won't forget, the first time I'd been at the college itself, not in the gym or baseball diamond.

What I do remember is that I wanted it over. Two reasons--first, the whole business was a bit over-the-top for someone who regarded himself as being, well, "counter-cultural," non-traditional. We fooled around a little with the oath, I remember, but already back then I had a firm enough grasp on my abilities--or lack thereof--to determine that I wasn't about to memorize what I'd written. I suppose that marriage vow is around somewhere, but I honestly wouldn't know where to look. That day I'd decided that weddings are really for women.

The other reason was another kind of heat: I was aching for the honeymoon. Oh, not the flamboyance extravagantly charted today--Cancun, Bermuda, Hawaii, France; that would have been far too "kitch-ish," far too "traditional." Less was always more to hippie types.

The truth is, I hadn't even reserved a motel room. 'Twasn't laziness either. It was principal. Fancy-schmancy honeymoons were Nixonian or some kind of evil. The world was marching into chaos--Vietnam, cities in shambles, etc., etc., etc. You can't dance in a bonfire. Power to the people. Whatever.

So I got what came to me, a cheap little dive in Worthington, Minnesota, a motel long ago torn down, a squalid place barely more behind a flimsy door than a bed and a toilet. That's where we spent our first night. The truth can be told now, all these years later: we should have gone to Vegas. It was not a night to remember.

And it got off to a horrible start because once the festivities were over, once the guests were beginning to go home, the two of us went out the car (I'd parked it at church like an idiot), got in after wiping out mounds of shaving cream, started the engine, put it in reverse, and went nowhere. We were up on blocks. Yes, there was a crowd who thought the whole mess richly funny. Me? I couldn't get away from that church fast enough, and when we left the church I couldn't get away.

I don't remember her wedding dress--she still has it--but I do remember that clingy "going away" outfit, maroon, I think. True. I do. There I was, cranked for the honeymoon, and our orange VW was going nowhere.

I was livid.

When fifteen--maybe twenty--minutes later, we finally got off the blocks, the shaving cream wiped up, when we finally got on the road, right then in our first moments alone as man and wife, 45 years ago just last night, my gorgeous bride heard language no man just married in a church should have uttered. And lots of it too.

So it's time I apologize for that unrighteous honeymoon outburst. I'm sorry, Barbara Van Gelder Schaap, for a tantrum far worse than any I ever threw in the next 45-year marriage; a
nd I'm oh, so thankful you didn't tell me to turn around and bring you home. I got us off to a shaky start, but you're the one, my dear. You're the only one.

Even if this morning, the morning after our anniversary, you're waking up as I write in a tiny little farmhouse in some obscure place in rural northwest Missouri, a couple dozen Angus neighbors right there in our backyard, three days of leadfoot museum trudging behind us.

Next year, Cancun :).

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