In the aftermath of the most notorious school shooting of them all, the inestimable Ed Quillen of Salida, who among many other pursuits was a Denver Post columnist with a large and dedicated following, wrote a highly personal column lamenting the loss of the casual use of his daughter’s name, which is Columbine.
We have a similar sort of issue in our family, because Sept. 11, which now stands as short-hand for the worst attack by foreigners on American soil, is also the anniversary of the day my mom and John got married.
For the last 18 years John in particular has not felt much like making this a day of celebration, but if I’ve counted correctly, today marks 37 years of matrimony for the two of them, which seems worth at lest acknowledging, if not outright celebrating.
They got married in our house on Tincup Drive, way back when I was in college. The ceremony was supposed to be in the back yard, and I had marshaled an entire force to make the yard wedding worthy. Okay, I hadn’t marshaled anything, but my mom’s friends all showed up to help her get ready, and there were all their husbands, wanting stuff to do, asking me for assignments. So the back yard looked better than it ever had.
And then it rained. Usually September in Gunnison is the perfect month (although I guess it’s been raining off and on this last week, so perhaps my memory of nothing but halcyon days is somehow faulty), but it started raining mid-afternoon and never stopped. So we mashed everyone inside the house.
Now, all these years later, I don’t remember much about the wedding, but I’ll bet it’s more than my sister Terri recalls. She was still in high school, and an athlete who normally took her athletic code, which included not drinking, very seriously, but on this night she pounded seven glasses of champagne in 15 minutes. It must have been quite the party. If only she could recall it.
With this union, my mom traded the staid life of academia for the rather more peripatetic U.S. Forest Service. They were in Gunnison for awhile, then John opted for management school for a year at Colorado State in Fort Collins, after which they went to Montrose. Then Santa Fe and finally Pueblo, which became the position John retired from.
(They moved one more time, post-retirement, to Arvada, when they decided being closer to grandkids was easier than fighting traffic on I-25.)
Along the way my mom learned to play golf and John watched more girls’ basketball games than he probably ever in his life imagined (first Terri’s and then granddaughter Ellie’s). My mom gained in-laws that were much closer (in both proximity and temperament) than her first set, and John got to learn about the joys (I’m sure it was all joy) of raising children.
They’ve traveled several places perhaps neither ever expected to go and made friends across multiple spectra as they have moved around the region. They’ve taken care of parents as well as kids, and been there for each other for everything, good and bad, for nearly four decades.
If that’s not worth celebrating, then what is?
While we should always mark 9/11 with the solemnity it deserves, before it deserved that, it deserved celebration. It feels like the day is big enough to accommodate both.
And so happy anniversary to my mom and John, and here’s to more years of happiness ahead.
This is short because the morning has been filled once again with interruption (including an errant smoke detector announcing a not-actual fire at 3 a.m.), and Lynn, incredibly enough, is anxious to get to Montrose for her dental appointment that doesn’t start until 1:30. But before that is Recla Metals and any number of other errands, and so I should humor her — and not get yelled at for lolly-gagging around.
There’s no such thing as a “little” Leonard Cohen, but here’s an anniversary song for the day: