Today is the day Kathy and I celebrate 38 years of matrimony. Or at least we think it’s 38 years - we don’t have our marriage license available to look at just now. Moreover, it gets confusing because we were together for years before making things legal. We’re actually closing in on 50 years together.
Our wedding day was perfect, at least for us. Because it was totally spontaneous and decidedly modest in scope. At the time we were living in a genuinely nice mobile home in southern Indiana, a scenic location which suffered only slightly from proximity to the city’s open-air sewage-settling pits at the water treatment plant. If the wind was blowing from that direction, we darn well knew it.
My older brother lived in Hawaii and was getting married. Being of very modest means, we didn’t plan to attend and had already sent our regrets. But with the travel bug in our heads, we considered instead making a trip to Disney World. To put us in the mood, I hung a sheet from the ceiling and projected pictures of Disney World from a Viewmaster projector - the kind that displayed those little 3D discs for kids. After going through the Disney World slides, we started looking at pictures of Hawaii (I hate to brag, but I have an extensive collection of Viewmaster discs). At which point we decided “what the heck, let’s go to Hawaii and surprise everyone!”
However, it also occurred to us that Hawaii is a classic honeymoon spot, so we could kill two birds with one stone simply by getting married at the city courthouse (did you see the movie “Breaking Away”? It’s the same courthouse where the kids get married).
On the big day, I decided to get Kathy a lovely corsage which would live in her memories (and perhaps a Tupperware container) for decades to come. So of course I went to Kroger to get one. When I told the gal behind the counter what the occasion was, she was tickled and put together a genuinely lovely corsage - then insisted on giving it to me free as a wedding present. Score!
Kathy and I arrived at the courthouse with our witnesses in tow - we each brought a friend from work. And once we were ushered into the courtroom, we had to wait our turn while the judge finished some other business. He threatened to throw one guy in jail for reasons I can’t recall, then listened to the details of another case and demanded a rape kit be put into play. Romantic, huh?
But the judge couldn’t have been nicer as he summoned us up front and began reading the all-important words which would bind us. Unfortunately, every time he came to a spot where my name should be inserted, he just read “John Smith” off the page. I was afraid to dispute this for fear of being thrown in jail or being subject to a rape kit.
As Kathy and I emerged from the courthouse as man and wife, we encountered a TV cameraman from the local station where my twin brother worked. So in a time before consumer video was even a thing, we got professional video of us walking, talking, and waving happily without needing to pay an actual photographer. Score!
Despite our modest budget, we wanted to throw a nice little reception for our friends, so we invited them to a nice little fern bar that had cheap drinks during Happy Hour ("I'd like to make an announcement! You all have to buy your own drinks!") and free finger food munchies. A good time was had by all, and we were soon joined by my boss from the radio station where I worked (not coincidentally just across the street from the bar) and the good man not only toasted us but insisted on picking up the bar tab for the entire group. Granted it was only a group of about 10 and the drinks were half-price, but it was still a lovely and appreciated gesture. A free wedding reception? Score!
As things wound down and Happy Hour pricing went away, a friend from work and her husband offered to take us out for a really good steak dinner. And in Bloomington, Indiana that could only mean one thing: “Janko’s Little Zagreb” (it’s still there - you can see it online).
We ordered steaks and all the trimmings and the best wine we knew how to order (“Is red good with meat? Let’s do red!")
When the bill arrived, our friends reached for it - but I grabbed it first. I hadn't paid for anything all day, so insisted that I pay for the meal and drinks. And the bill was...$38. Which may even have included the tip - I don't recall. But we definitely DID tip. You don't want to get sideways with Janko in a town as small as Bloomington.And shortly thereafter we flew to Hawaii which is when and where the picture above was taken.
As far as I'm concerned, it was the perfect wedding day - especially since I'd managed to land my perfect soulmate. Today, we celebrate that occasion 38 years ago and ask you to celebrate with us. And in the spirit of tradition, you'll have to buy your own drinks.