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Fresh Eyes Column

by Caroline Downs

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Through the first 50 . . .

Posted 11/29/11 (Tue)

It’s kind of nice to hear someone say you made their dream come true.


And my mother said it plenty after the Thanksgiving holiday, which also happened to be the exact date of my parents’ 50th wedding anniversary.


So Mom’s dream was to have her children, their spouses and grandsons, along with my aunt and uncle and their kids and grandchildren and another aunt, share the meal and the day down at the two family cabins in the Black Hills.


Mom even sent invitations, and I think I’ll keep mine forever because she was so excited to plan all this. Since September, she has been baking cookies and cakes to take along, planning for turkey and fresh pies, and calculating just how much milk and orange juice she would need to keep my two nephews, ages 11 and 14, happy.


Late November can be a tough time of year to travel, and I admit to encouraging Mom to schedule an earlier celebration date, perhaps during the summer, when the roads from Wyoming, Montana and North Dakota would be clear for traveling and the skies from Alaska wouldn’t be stormy.


She considered my suggestions but decided she wanted the party on the actual date of the wedding itself, which took place in 1961 in the midst of South Dakota’s deer hunting season and everything seemed to turn out all right then.


My uncle shared my concerns about the date and grumbled about it a little through September and October, but he told me after I arrived last week that Mom was one of the luckiest people he knew and he wouldn’t doubt her abilities to control the weather again.


Mom does have that way about her, of getting people and nature to mostly do what she wants.


At the cabins, Dad joked with me about making reservations at Perkins. There were points during the day and a half of cooking preparations that I agreed with him--using two unfamiliar kitchens with four people working on various aspects of a meal that required various cooking schedules got interesting at times.


Not to mention crowded.


However, you don’t get three days’ worth of leftovers from turkey dinner at Perkins, you don’t learn new recipes for making sweet potatoes taste delicious, and you don’t get to sample the pie filling early.


Perkins also would not have provided the story-telling atmosphere we created at the cabins.


My nephews are good about asking questions and curious about their grandparents and extended family, especially after looking through the stack of family photo albums we had there. So Dad told stories about his little brother--our uncle--and my uncle told his versions, and nobody knew quite what to believe.


Then Dad told the story about meeting Mom at one of the college hangouts in Huron, SD, and Mom corrected the exaggerated details, although Dad insisted his version was true.


The one story they agreed on was the story of their engagement, with Mom working for the summer at Wall Drug and Dad back at home with his parents in south central South Dakota, borrowing his big sister’s red and white Ford Thunderbird and traveling out to Wall with a diamond ring in his pocket, and then taking Mom out after work, in the dark, for a drive that landed them next to the town’s dump (which he didn’t realize at the time).


Best of all, a skunk walked under the Thunderbird as Dad was proposing.


The skunk made its own statement about the whole affair.


Mom managed to say yes, and Dad drove home an engaged man who had to explain the stinky Thunderbird to his sister.


We all enjoyed hearing that story again, and I think Dad and Mom enjoyed telling it.


Fifty years is a remarkable milestone--golden even. Not every married couple reaches this mark, for several reasons, but for most of their time together I’ve been fortunate to watch and learn from these two people who love each other and make a life for themselves and their family.


And somehow I don’t think my parents are stopping at 50. They woke up Friday and announced they were starting the first day of the rest of their lives.


Then Dad said he was going to be in charge for the next 50 years.


This ought to be good for a few more stories.