Santa Baby!

The sunny South has been pretty darned cold these last several days, so Dearly Beloved decided it was time to fire up the pilot light for the gas logs in our den.  The logs were here long before we bought the house and frankly, they’re showing their age, but we do love having a fire in the evening.  Every year we talk about replacing them with a prettier, more efficient model.

DB also wants to have gas logs installed in the fireplace in our downstairs playroom.  Oh, and a large flat screen TV.   He wants to make the room his office.  I do catch a whiff of man cave to his plan.  Although the fireplace down there has never been used, it has a hook for hanging a pot in it.  When I first saw it, I pictured us down there snuggling on the sofa in front of the fire during power outages, homemade soup bubbling in the pot.

Two problems with that.  First, it’s much simpler to drive to a restaurant with power than it is to assemble ingredients by flashlight.  Secondly, we don’t have an iron pot.

But I digress.  Back to the old gas logs in the den. . . .

It’s always a chore to get the pilot light going.  No flipping a wall switch; it’s a messy,  inside-the-fireplace job.  This year, DB decided to work on the logs first to see if he could make them more efficient.  That entailed a few trips to the garage to assemble wrenches,  pliers, etc.

photo 1

I was sitting close by, watching all this.  Finally, he was ready to strike the match.  Just before doing so,  he pulled his head back out,  turned to me and asked,  “Do you want one last look at these eyebrows?”

Ho Ho Ho.

Get the Picture?

When I was born, one of my mother’s aunts (the one after whom I was named) began a photo album which she gave  to me when I was 13. . . a very wise move, since by then I was all knobby knees, frizzy perms,  braces, and terminal camera-shyness.

The album was a lovely idea.

The photos, all black and white, were taken in the days of boxy Brownie cameras and one-time usage flashbulbs which bubbled and popped and temporarily blinded a generation of startled babies.

I realized later that, although the album was full of photos,  it wasn’t exactly a pictorial diary of my childhood.  My aunt lived in another town, so the occasions that she visited and remembered to bring her camera weren’t that frequent.  A dozen or so photos of me as a baby show me in a sunsuit lying on a blanket on the front porch, along with another dozen or so of me as a toddler in a snowsuit.  A couple of pages were full of my cousin Margaret and me about 3 or 4, wearing the same plaid dresses in every picture.  After that, it skipped to a spring when I was 7 or 8.   I can tell that it was Easter by the corsage pinned to my jacket (which was called a “topper”) and my sporty white tam.

Welcome to the pre-digital camera age.

I got through childhood in four outfits.

When Dearly Beloved and I bought an expensive 35mm camera, digital cameras were already becoming popular, but we were purists.  Besides, DB was mightily impressed that big green camera case on a strap around his neck made him look so official that a press pass would have been superfluous.  He assumed the role of Photographer Pompous Presidentus.

He bought a magnifying lens after an impressive demonstration by the sales clerk allowed  him to read the Do not leave child unattended warning on a shopping cart left in the back of the parking lot across from the store.   I doubt that the lens cap was ever removed from that sucker.

Nevertheless, DB’s photography sessions mimicked my aunt’s except that his rarely included people.  The envelope of photos he’d probably have called Cardinal, would have been more aptly identified as Red Dot on a Branch.

The camera broke, the manufacturer went out of business, and we bought a Point and Shoot in which DB has absolutely no interest.  BUT, even though he protested when Good Egg Son gave him an iPhone for his birthday, he has surprised us by becoming an iPhone Fiend, regularly e-mailing pictures, especially to our kids.

Many are taken while walking on the beach.  He called this one Mother and Daughter in the subject line of his e-mail and included a note that he’d asked the woman’s permission before he snapped it.

Slacker explained the marijuana haze just ahead of him as he walked back to his car.

DB is merciless about sending pictures of sailboats and ocean waves to our son and SIL’s… during their working hours, of course.  They’re clearly recognizable as boats, not dots on the sea.   This one looks like an oil canvas to me.

Here’s  my current favorite.  He took it a couple of weeks ago, looking out the sunroom windows.  He thought of it as Reflections.

Thinking back to that red dot on the branch, I’d call it  Enlightened.

I hate cameras. They are so much more sure than I am about everything.
John Steinbeck

How can a society that exists on instant mashed potatoes, packaged cake mixes, frozen dinners, and instant cameras teach patience to its young?
Paul Sweeney

The Poke Salad Saga

Here’s another one of Dearly Beloved’s stories from his college days on the cattle ranch.


Yes, poke salad is real.  I had never had it unt il my junior year in college.  I was staying at a boarding house in the small town near the cattle farm where I worked.  After my morning classes I would go back to the boarding house and have lunch in the dining room with the locals.  Mr. and Mrs. S. ran the boarding house and turned the dining room into a family style restaurant at mealtimes.  Mrs. S. was an excellent cook and was well known for “down home” meals.

Prior to running the boarding house, Mr. and Mrs. S. ran a small restaurant in town, and Mrs. S. also cooked for the jail where Mr. S. was the jailer, working for the sheriff.  Mr. S. was a lazy man.  I’m not sure why they went into the boarding house business.  Maybe being the jailer was too much like work for Mr. S.  In any event, Mrs. S. did all the work at the boarding house, from cleaning the rooms, buying the groceries to cooking and serving the meals.  She was as industrious as Mr. S. was lazy.

She was slightly plump, wore a hairnet over her salt and pepper hair that was generally in a bun.  She always wore an apron except when she sat in one of the rocking chairs on the wrap around front porch.  This happened most nights after she had cooked three meals for 5 to 15 or so at each sitting, cleaned the house and taken care of the other chores.  She did this all with a smile, but there was a furrow in her forehead that never left.  In the evening, when everything was quiet and her work done, she would take off her apron and almost ceremoniously fold it over her rocking chair’s arm and sit peacefully.

There were five boarding rooms with two or three occupied by regulars and the others by short-timers that would stay for one night up to a month or so.  She was careful not to rent to troublemakers, but there were several who had checkered pasts.  Mr. S. was quick to declare his friendliness with Sheriff C., who lived around the corner, so there was never any real trouble.  Mrs. S. was nice to everyone.  Not so much, Mr. S.

Mr. S. was a big man, well over 6-feet.  He had broad shoulders, large hands, but looked soft, and he was.  He had red hair, a large hooknose and always wore a 10-gallon cowboy hat, except when he was eating.  He had no teeth.  Well, he had some, but never put them in.  Eating was somewhat of a problem, but he accomplished it nonetheless.  He was partial to Mrs. S.’s biscuits with honey and chicken and dumplings.  He constantly smoked Pall Mall cigarettes through an FDR type cigarette holder.  There was nothing else about him that would remind you of FDR, other than he was always sitting.  His favorite TV program was “The Rifleman”, which he never missed.  He was fond of saying “Wooo!” about things he liked, which he would say about most anything the Rifleman did.

After lunch each day, I would change clothes and go work at the farm.  One afternoon I was trying to build a new feed trough for the cattle.  I wasn’t having much success.  The incessant cackling of a bantam rooster increased my exasperation.  Just when I slammed the hammer into my thumb, the rooster ran across the yard.  He was about 20 yards away, but seemed like he was in my ear, cackling louder than ever.  Now it sounded more like a loud laugh.  I turned and in one motion threw the hammer at him.  The hammerhead hit him in his head.  He was dead immediately.

The rooster was wild and had hung around the barn living off of whatever bugs and seed he could find.  Apparently he had not done too good a job of it because he was skinny.  Nevertheless, I thought Mrs. S. could put him to good use, so I put him in a burlap bag and headed to the boarding house.

I arrived several hours before I normally did and Mrs. S. was in the kitchen.  She was delighted when I showed her the rooster.  She had planned for supper to be a redo of lunch.  In addition to Mr. S., there were others who would have supper that also had lunch there.  She was ingenious at leftovers, but there was only so much even she could do.  And she took pride in her meals.

She immediately began work on the rooster and asked me to go outside and pick some poke.  I had no idea what she was talking about.  She said, “It looks like a cross between dandelions and turnips.  It’s wild.  You’ll know it when you see it.”  Outside I went.  I knew it when I saw it, picked a grocery bag full and brought it in.

She said she didn’t need my help any more.  She would call me for supper.  I went upstairs to study.

Dinner came and she had a nice crowd of about 10 or so.  The menu was chicken and dumplings cooked with more butter, pepper and salt than normal.  The green side was poke salad.

When I sat down, Mrs. S. put a finger to her lips signaling me to say nothing.  The normal chatter included compliments about Mrs. S.’s cooking and this night was no different.  Mr. S. let out a “Wooo” when he tasted the chicken and dumplings.  She had worked magic cooking that tough skinny old rooster.  We had homemade chocolate pie for dessert.

Later that evening, I went out.  As I drove away I saw Mrs. S. sitting peacefully by herself on the front porch, her apron folded neatly on her rocker.


I’ve mentioned before that Dearly Beloved ran a cattle farm one year when he was a full-time college student.  His stories about that period are alternately funny, sad, and amazing.  It was a memorable year for him.

He has kept the book he used to consult about raising Angus cattle and it holds a place of honor on a shelf alongside a photo of our family at a Cubs game and a purple pencil cup that daughter Pogo made for him when she was in kindergarten.

(He also holds on to at least a half-dozen broken briefcases, his entry numbers from races he ran years ago, and several pairs of old tennis shoes “for working out in the yard.” But that’s beside the point.)

This video of a Utah jazz band playing for a herd of cattle in France is familiar to about 4,000,000+ people, but when someone sent it to me again recently, I showed it to DB, thinking he would like it, too.  The video links are being temperamental, but you can see the ‘official’ version on the band’s website.

He was not impressed.

“That’s nothing.  I used to yell ‘Hoooooo, COW’ and 300 cows would come running.”

I’ve been telling him that he should write a book about that year.  He has written a few stories and maybe I’ll post some if he agrees.  It’s a shame he has no pictures from that time.  I suppose I could video him doing his cow call.

Wouldn’t it be hilarious if Miss Piggy came running.

Does ET Have a Cousin VINE-y?

In the South, often we don’t say that someone died, we say she passed. Irene has gone further up the coast, but for millions, she has not passed.

The beach-house-not-on-the-beach must look like it’s in full camouflage cover, with soggy leaves plastered all over it. The big thump Dearly Beloved said he heard in the middle of the night turned out to be a large Sweetgum branch hitting the house.  It wasn’t from one of our trees.

No news of seeing a fat Copperhead sail past.

I’m watching the Weather Channel guy stagger all over the screen at Nags Head.  I haven’t seen BroJoe or his two-wheeler fly by. He sent an e-mail a while ago that they were watching TV, so I suppose he’s seeing the staggering guy, too.

Good Egg Son and DIL sent a reassuring photo.  She had a Mimosa in one hand and Stella, the storm-phobic Weimaraner, in her lap, so everyone looked quite happy.  Stella doesn’t have one of those thunder shirts, but they put her in her Christmas raincoat and it seemed to work the same, calming her considerably.    Here she is at Christmas, when she was mortified about having to model it.   I’ll bet she’s changed her bark about it now.

This was NOT on my Christmas list!

Their Norfolk condo is on the sixth floor and I pictured them having to lug a trembling Stella up and down six flights of stairs in the dark, but it turns out their building has a backup generator, so the elevator will be running. They also have cement floors– good, in case of accidents.   Maybe we’ll give them doggy pee pads for Christmas to add to their hurricane supplies, generator or not.

I’ve talked to Dearly Beloved several times.  The power went out there about 5 AM.  He sounded fine about it until I mentioned that he’d have to clean out the freezer if it stayed off too long.  The electricity returned not only in time for the Little League games, but in time for him to make a mid-morning pot of coffee.  He’s freezer duty free.

I guess the octogenarian hurricane party is still on next door there, unless enthusiasm was dampened this morning when the pajama party ladies woke to no power.  At least they could flush.

That reminds me.  I thought I heard something about a wastewater treatment plant being breached in that area.   While Miss Piggy would probably love it,  I hope DB drinks bottled water for a while.

Here, we’ve had some blustery breezes and the air pressure was weird this morning.  Miss Piggy put on the brakes at the front door when I tried to let her out, so I had to give her a nudge and go out with her.  I had slept in the short, comfortable nightie that DB hates because it rides up my butt.  I forgot to tug it down when I bent over to pick up the newspaper, but since it was early on a Saturday morning and in front of my own house, I shouldn’t show up in a Wal-mart People e-mail.  Right?

There is something strange going on here.  Even though it was too hot to do anything in the yard this summer, we should have turned the compost pile (Where IS that jackass when I need him?!)  because there’s a strange mutant vine growing out of it like it’s on a mission from the devil.  I already cut back the stalk that had climbed the fence, but the other ones are running wild.

Look how big the leaves are on this monster!

When a plus-size fig leaf is too small...

I’d like to try and make some concrete leaf castings like one daughter Boo made for me once.  I think we have a bag of cement mix around here somewhere.

About that viney thing….  I am not joking.  This could be trouble.  One of the leader stems has its head raised a good foot off the ground and has some kind of antenna atop that. Not only that, there are legs growing out its side. I can almost hear it marching  and it is throwing out tendrils strong enough to pin a boa constrictor.  

When the guy cut the grass Wednesday, it wasn’t even there and now it’s a good ten feet out onto the lawn and heading for the house.

From now on, I’m coming and going by the front door.

You think it wants to borrow the phone?

PS.  While my folks had no problems with Irene, the storm looks angry and mean as she heads up the coast.  Think good thoughts for the millions in the Northeast, as well as those who have already been affected… devastation.  I saw a newspaper headline recently that said, “What’s Next… LOCUSTS?”   Sometimes it feels like that.

Good Golly, Miss Molly and Goodnight, Irene!

Although Miss Piggy and I kept our ample behinds firmly planted in Charlotte, Dearly Beloved headed for the coast this week.  Yes, he realizes that Irene is going coastal, too.  In fact, that is one of the reasons he went–to batten down the hatches in preparation.

Another reason, he joked, was that he could watch the Little League World Series in peace and quiet, wherever and whenever he wanted–meaning bedroom or sunroom–without having to wrestle me for the remote control.

Have you watched any of those games?  (I’m going to guess “not likely.“)  You can pick out the boys’ moms in the bleachers.  They’re the ones holding their heads in their hands, going nuts from the tension.

I’ve been surprised to hear how many people are watching.  The overflow crowds at the games top 30,000 and the games are televised, so DB isn’t the only one watching.  He has seen enough that he knows the names of boys from Montana to Mexico and believe me, the man is not good on names.

While DB may have complete control of the remote, it’s not like his time is all his own at the beach-house-on-the-beach.  After all, he has Groupies there–the two octogenarian neighbors who live on either side of us.  They are not friends with each other and are fine with minimal contact with me, but DB?  Rock star status.

Both of them have NEIGHdar and can spot his car no matter how quickly he pulls into the garage and closes the door. They always manage to come forth with a list of “a few little things” for him to do whenever he hits town.  I think it’s more the comfort of a familiar face, since both could afford to hire someone… but free IS better.

One of them is out of the state this month, so DB can concentrate on his favorite–the neighbor to our right: in her upper 80’s, hard of hearing and has difficulty walking, but with a positive outlook on life that is refreshing.

When DB hits town, she calls to welcome him back and tell him she’ll sleep better, knowing he’s next door. She has a host of grown children and grandchildren, at least some of whom visit her every day, but she loves talking to DB and, of course, there’s that little list of To Do’s she’s saved just for him.

She invites him over for a drink, but he’d better sip fast because her cocktail hour lasts only about 30 minutes. That’s unfortunate for Dearly Beloved, a slow sipper and a long talker. (Actually, I applaud this because he’s been telling me all these years that he’s not slow, it’s that I’m a fast drinker. I feel validated.)

The evening he arrived, she asked him over for a drink.  She talks about her grown daughters… how they think she’s running a restaurant, they way they walk in and start raiding the refrigerator and eating all of her snacks.  She gestures often with both hands, raising them beside her face, then brushing them downward to show her exasperation.

He, to amuse her, told her about how I had called him a jackass recently.  And of course, she WAS amused, because how could anyone really think Handyman a jackass, right?

The next day when he went outside, she was already out among her potted plants, a white bucket in her hand. She beckoned him over and reeled off some of the things she wanted him to do.  As they walked around to the back, she handed him the bucket she’d been carrying.

One of his To Do’s was to refill her bird feeders.  He removed the cover from the first feeder and asked,  “Where’s the birdseed?”

“It’s in your hand!” she retorted, pointing to the white bucket she had handed him earlier.  She made her exasperated gesture.

“Mary’s right.  You ARE a jackass.” 


Not to worry.  She’s having a Hurricane Party and DB is at the top of her guest list.  In fact, she decided to do it only when she saw him arrive.  The widow up the street is coming and will spend the night, as will some of her daughters.  DB is pussyfooting about giving a formal acceptance, promising only to come over for a quick cocktail. He doesn’t want to get stranded there in the hurricane and be forced to stay for the pajama party.  Besides, there are the Little League games to watch. Now if she had a generator…!

DB has carried in our deck furniture and plants, as well as doing so for those who needed assistance.  We have bottled water, an emergency radio, and flashlight batteries already at the house. He even mentioned making a supermarket run today.  That surprised me, for generally, he opens the pantry door and if he sees cans, he figures he’s stocked.  He would rather eat a can of whateverisinthere than go to the grocery store anytime.

Our neighborhood was designed with a series of interconnected retention ponds.  Most of the time they’re simply water features, but when this kind of weather is forecast, the water levels are lowered to offset any flooding potential.  Winds are another story.

Will I worry?  Oh yeah.  There’s my Dearly Beloved in Wilmington, my stubborn BroJoe in Nags Head, and the Good Egg Son and Daughter-in-Law in Norfolk.  Irene’s projected path up the NE coast to the heavily populated areas looks ugly and mean, something for everyone to worry about.  As my friend Lulu says, we’ll all look forward to singing.

PS.  I e-mailed BroJoe to ask was he evacuating, even though I knew the answer.  He wrote back that he was staying, but he was ready, and offered this reassuring picture.


PPS:  DB has been receiving e-mails from family and friends, asking is he going to ride it out at the beach.  Here is what he responds.

I am.  Mary’s in Charlotte w/burglar alarm on.


My Beach Bum’s Back and I’m Gonna Be Blogging…

Dearly Beloved and his canine sidekick, Miss Piggy, have returned to the homeplace.  They remained at the beach-house-not-on-the-beach when I drove to Charlotte for my dentist appointment a couple of weeks ago.  I’d planned to re-join them, but decided it was too darned hot to make that drive again.

I worked on some projects here that are easier without a husband and dog around:  polished the hardwoods, sewed, watched movies I knew DB wouldn’t be interested in, even tried a quick diet before my physical this week.  He walked daily on the beach, played golf, looked for the Copperhead, and subscribed to the baseball channel.

Although we’d talked and e-mailed at least a dozen times a day, after he came home, DB confessed that he’d been concerned that I hadn’t been blogging.  I explained there really hadn’t had anything worth posting, thus confirming his belief that without him, my life is boring and meaningless.

He may have a point.

Yesterday he said he was going for a walk.  However, instead of leaving, he kept wandering through the house, from one end to the other, then back and forth again and again.  Finally, he came and stood before me.

Jokingly, he said, “I’ve got something you could blog about, but you’d be too embarrassed to tell anyone.  You may have wondered what I was doing.  I couldn’t find my glasses.  I’ve been searching for the last 10 minutes.”

“So, where did you find them?” I asked, looking into his bespectacled eyes.

“Where they are right now.  I looked in the mirror.”

So wrong about my being too embarrassed, DB!

As for Miss Piggy, she came back looking shaggy and grubby, so we took her to be groomed yesterday.  When I retrieved her in the afternoon, she was all coiffed and sporting a stylish pink print bandana.

This morning she wanted to go with me when I went in the back yard in my daily effort to beat the birds and squirrels to the figs. That was unusual for Miss P, since DB had already taken her for a walk.  She doesn’t like the heat.

I idly munched on a fig as I watched her rooting in the grass.  Then I realized that she was munching, too.

I yelled, “MISS PIGGY, NO!!!”

She ignored me and stuck her nose back into the grass.  I screamed again.  DB came out and watched as Miss Piggy finally ambled toward the house.

“Why is she licking her lips?” he asked, even though I knew full well that he’d heard me hollering at the top of my lungs, “DROP THAT TURD!!!”

Jon Stewart often gives a news report, usually about Congress, then shakes his head and says, “There’s just no way you can polish that turd.”  

He’s right.  But I’ll write about it… you know,  now that my life has meaning again.

Old photo of our cigar-smoking poop eater.

The Squirrel Chronicles – the end?

The baffler has baffled the damnsquirrel!

Not that he’s giving up.  At this very moment he is sitting sulkily on the bluebird house, pondering the situation.

When Huckleberry Crusoe (aka Dearly Beloved) returned from the beach yesterday, he was horrified at how disrespectful the damnsquirrels had become in his absence.   He was right.  The little sumbitches knew they were winning the war.  And have no doubt, it has definitely been war.

Yesterday, when Miss Piggy and I went for a walk, there were nine–count ’em–NINE squirrels in the yard across the street.  They pointed and snickered when we passed.  NAH, nah, nah, NAH, nah.

Little bastards.

I have been so humiliated I couldn’t bring myself to write about my failures.  After the baffle didn’t keep them away from the feeder, I pulled out the only artillery left in my arsenal:  my stash of plastic jugs I have been collecting to use for watering my plants when I’m going to be gone for several days.  (I can punch a small hole in one and set it near my plant to do a slow drip.)

Picture a row of milk jugs lined up on the porch rail, filled with just enough water to give them throwing heft.  If I had been able to bean a few, it might have made a difference, but my aim was so poor, the damnsquirrels didn’t even bother to run when I let ’em fly.

I can’t throw worth a damn.

Only when I ran outside, shrieking and waving another jug, would I get any notice.  The damnsquirrel would shrug and reluctantly shimmy down the pole.  Even then, he would swagger over to lean against the basketball goalpost while I threw my hissy fit.  Finally, he would climb the oak tree, smirking just out of reach, while I banged against the tree with my milk jug.

I’m lucky that no one called the police about the pajama-clad woman standing in her driveway, looking wild-eyed and hysterical as she yelled threats and beat on a giant oak with a milk jug.

Dearly Beloved kept abreast of my efforts–and my failures–while he was away and had hinted that perhaps I was over-reacting.  However, he hadn’t been back home 20 minutes before he was out there hollering and tossing a broom, javelin-style, at one of the little varmints.  (He says he missed by only a squirrel hair and they now run when they see him.)

This morning we were having coffee and standing together, looking out the sunroom window when we got lucky and saw the damnsquirrel’s sneaky route.

The scene of the crime.

The little turd went up the back feeder pole that holds the thistle seed he doesn’t like and JUMPED from the top of that post over onto the suet feeder hanging on the destination post.  From there, it was easy for him to climb up and over to start draining the feeder.  I’ll have to admit that it was an impressive leap.  The little bastard gets points for ingenuity.

DB took that to mean that the baffle had confounded them, since they were finding new routes to circumvent it by coming up and over with an aerial attack.  SO, he has now moved the thistle feeder far enough away that even if a caped Supersquirrel is out there, he can’t make that leap.

Thus, the sulky stance on the bluebird house.

Dearly Beloved and I are giddy with success (actually, he says I may be giddy, but he’s cocky) but we aren’t taking anything for granted.  I wouldn’t be surprised to look out and see nine squirrels, totem-pole style, with Beelzebub on top, shaking seeds out of the feeder.

DB says they’re way beyond that.

He claims he saw a crew of them working with a slide rule and Stadiametric rangefinder.

Bring it on,  you little bastards.

Just Getting Started

Another anniversary.  We’ve been married so many years that I now have to tell people we married when I was ten.

We’d do it again in a heartbeat.  Sooner.  Maybe in the womb.  Once I heard an author say, “I loved him before I was born.” I knew exactly what she meant.

Here, once again, is another telling of  That Day.  Tissues ready?


“Why am I referred to as Dearly Beloved?”

Hotlips in his 30's.

Gee, he must have looked at my blog because this is the only place I ever call him that.  He never reads it.  Since he’s retired and home all the time,  he assumes that he can’t be missing much.

True enough.

Well, because when she said, “Dearly Beloved, we are gathered here. . . “ you were the only other person there besides me.

He shrugs.  “I knew where it came from;  I just wondered why you picked that.”

He would prefer Handsome or Studmeister, but it’s no big deal.  He settles in to read the paper and I am left thinking that my statement about the day is not exactly true.  We were definitely not alone;  there were throngs of people there that day.

DB has a romantic streak but sometimes it goes very wrong.  Dreadfully wrong.  Like the day we were married.

Neither of us wanted the hassle and stress of a big wedding.  I mean, just how many crazy relatives would we dare to invite?   I still had some he hadn’t met and was hoping to keep it that way as long as possible.  (He was definitely not ready to visit the cousin with the huge “Jesus Died Here” neon sign on a pole in front of her  house. )

We weren’t really eloping; we just decided on a quiet civil ceremony. . . just the two of us.   He would plan everything.

At first he was talking “cruise” which sounded perfect to me.  A wedding on the high seas?  YESSSSSS!!!  I fantasized about it for some time, but then he said he’d nixed that and  was thinking “beach resort.”   (Read “golf resort” because that’s what he was REALLY thinking, although I was clueless back then.)  That cruise had really sounded nice, but okay, this option was fine.

That he had to move his golf clubs around to get my suitcase in the trunk of his car when he arrived at my house that morning should have been a hint.

We stopped for breakfast at a diner  in the middle of nowhere,  our dress-up attire and my corsage looking odd among the bibbed overalls and jeans.  He spilled tomato juice on his pants.

“We aren’t going to be able to get married ON the island,” he clarified.  “The county seat is on the mainland and that’s where the courthouse is.  We have an appointment there at 1.”

The trip took several hours,  but I felt like we were flying.  I kept braking involuntarily on the passenger side, trying to slow the breathtaking speed.   I needed some more time to make sure about this, needed time for second thoughts.  I looked over at the speedometer. . . 50. . . 45.    I looked at his face.

Serious and pale.  Very pale.

We found the courthouse in the tiny county seat without any difficulty.  Old it was… scenic, it was not.  Pickup trucks and cars were parked all over the courthouse grounds and people–mostly men– were milling outside.  What was this–a hunt club?   Everyone there had at least one dog by his side.

Then we saw the sign:  RABIES CLINIC 1 – 4 PM.

Picture it, please. . . the two of us:  I in the new dress I’d accidentally hemmed too short,  he in his spiffy blue blazer and tomato juice-stained pants,  walking through what seemed the entire county citizenry and their critters.   The bib overall industry continued to thrive in this neck of the woods.

The judge, a woman, had apparently decided against separation of church and state and had written her own ceremony,  for she proceeded with vows to delight the most devout Baptist congregation.   What we both remember most about the ceremony was being mesmerized by the ceiling fan directly above us.  It seemed to be lowering ever so slightly with each  s-l-o-w  revolution.   Edgar Allen Poe had surely overseen its installation.

We departed as newlyweds, walking out through the two lines of dogs and owners,  most of whom were enthusiastically supporting the tobacco industry.  Blowing smoke, not throwing rice.

At least it wasn’t a spay/neuter clinic.

I was thin then (really!) but as he carried me over the threshold and up the stairs,  he accidentally hit me in the mouth when he tried to kiss me.   My lip deteriorated from “normal” to “beestung” to “Lucky you’ve still got your teeth” in seconds.  He staggered  from bedroom to bedroom,  still hauling me around, trying to decide…. It seemed that the four bedrooms in the deluxe villa were all furnished with twin beds.  Even the master.

We slept on a single twin bed the entire time.

Dinner in the candlelit restaurant was embarrassing:  we could barely eat our steaks with one hand, but it seemed the polite thing to do, since our matching gold bands gleamed so brightly we feared they would disturb the other patrons.  We kept our left hands in our laps.

The next day,  we walked along the beach and I waded out to sit for a moment on an unusual large rock in the surf.  He stood facing me as the waves lapped around his calves.   Years later  he confided that he’d  looked at me at that moment and seen a complete stranger.

He said, “I was thinking,Who IS this girl?” and asked if I could recall that moment.

Oh yes, I remembered.

I was thinking,  “What have I done?  Who IS this guy?”

Have we figured that out yet?  Maybe.

This I know:  he is, indeed,  my Dearly Beloved.

Five grandsons later, wearing Boo's pink glasses.

In our 30's at an outdoor restaurant in Mexico, he's wearing the same blue blazer.

Christmas Eve, 2009... still dating after all these years.