In the Suburbs / Happily ever after
Published 7:44 am, Thursday, February 2, 2012
It was Jan. 31, 1943 -- 69 years ago -- and it was wartime. There were few frilly white gowns and ritzy weddings.
My mother, Naomi, just 20 at the time, wore a beautiful brown suit. And my dad, Chester, 22, donned his finest suit as they married at Humboldt Boulevard Temple in Chicago in the midst of a snowstorm and embarked on a happily-ever-after journey that still continues today.
At the time, dad worked for my grandfather's airplane-design firm, which was doing very well with war contracts and was expanding to Los Angeles. Grandpa wanted dad to run the L.A. operation, so my folks left immediately after their reception for a honeymoon / work assignment in California that would last six months.
They returned to Chicago, and a little over a year later -- by the time I made my entrance in August 1944 -- my grandfather wasn't designing airplanes anymore and dad was helping him in his new woodworking-machinery business. That business carried the family through good times and bad and into the mid-50s, when my dad opened a package-testing business that still carries his name.
My parents were a warm and loving couple. When dad came home from work, he and mom shared a few romantic moments in the kitchen before we all sat down to dinner. I liked that. I thought it set a wonderful relationship example for me and my two brothers, who came along in 1949 and 1953.
And my folks loved music and absolutely loved to dance -- they still do. Whether dad was twirling mom around in her frilly skirt in the kitchen while the radio played or at a wedding, Bar or Bat Mitzvah, dancing was their operant word.
In the late `50s, dad bought a 1958 black Oldsmobile that resembled a Sherman tank and announced that we were going to Niagara Falls on the new Indiana Turnpike that was scheduled to open that summer. So, 15 years into their happily-ever-after journey, mom and dad started a long run of pleasure trips by car.
We sometimes called Mom "Lucille," like the lady in the catchy Oldsmobile song, as we expanded our road travel to Washington, New York, Wisconsin -- or Michigan, where we visited our grandparents every summer at a wonderful resort called Fiddelman's. It was always fun to get away.
By mom and dad's 25th anniversary in 1968, I had already been married for nearly two years. I can't recall if they threw a party for themselves, but I know we had some kind of celebration, because that was mom and dad's other operant word -- "celebration." And their travel expanded to Europe and Hawaii by air.
Mom and Dad's 35th anniversary in 1978 was a blow-out bash with lots of dancing My brothers and I performed a skit, which would be one of many during anniversary celebrations. I remember vividly that when we finished the skit, my father, who has not always been the most demonstrative kind of guy, rushed up and hugged all of us. That was an overwhelming moment there wasn't a dry eye in the room.
Sunny Florida was the spot for Mom and Dad's 40th bash in 1983 and my grandparents, who were living in Florida almost permanently by then, selected a lovely restaurant. And , of course, there was plenty of dancing.
Their 50th in 1993 was lot more informal, but my folks invited a huge crowd to a great Chicago barbecue place. My mom wasn't going to let the occasion pass by without a skit, so my brothers and I outdid our 1978 performance and my older daughter, Stacey, joined us for some of the vocals. Then the anniversary couple took to the floor and barely sat down.
I surprised Mom and Dad for their 60th in Florida and spent a l weekend with them. Mom was really stunned when I arrived at the door with a bouquet of roses and a suitcase, and dad was thrilled.
We spent a wonderful weekend, and we all went dancing at a local seniors' ballroom. My dance card quickly got filled with requests from 70 and 80-year-old widows and divorcees, some of whom who hardly noticed I was their partner. They were in their own dance world. My parents loved it.
I also surprised them for their 65th, and they took me to a wonderful local deli where a pianist played wonderful dance music. The high point of that evening was when the pianist asked my parents to come up for a special dance. There wasn't a dry eye in the place, and we gave them a standing ovation.
Things were very quiet for mom and dad as they celebrated 69 years this past Tuesday. They're in Florida, and I'm not sure whether they got out to dance or not. But their happily-ever-after journey continues, and our family remains hopeful that we can be together to celebrate 70 years next January.
So, happy anniversary, mom and dad. Many more. What a run you've had on your happily-ever-after journey.
Steven Gaynes is a Fairfield writer, and his "In the Suburbs" appears each Friday. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.