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Anniversaries and Goldilocks


Mom and Dad recently celebrated their 71st anniversary without any fanfare. Actually, they were going to do nothing at all, but a late morning doctor appointment found them driving home, Mom sitting on her pillows so she could see over the steering wheel, past Pepe’s Mexican Restaurant on a Tuesday. They like the food, service and price at Pepe’s in general, and they specifically like Taco Tuesday, when they both can get a large lunch, chips and salsa included, for under $6 each.
While they were discussing what to order, Dad made the unusual offer, in honor of the occasion, they celebrate with one margarita and two straws. This is not normal. In his lifetime, I can count the number of alcoholic drinks I’ve seen him consume on two hands. “It gives me a headache,” he says, or even worse, “It makes me tired.”
Mom’s a Wisconsin girl at heart and, as such, likes the occasional beer. She originates from Wittenberg, Wis., which at one time boasted a population of about 800 people and 11 taverns. The Ratskellar was my favorite. If you brought in a program from any one of the town’s five churches on Sunday morning the first beer was on the house. The offer included a free shorty– six ounces of Rhinelander in a glass called a shorty– to any child who could see over the pool table, tiptoes allowed.
Scientists have spent their entire careers searching for Goldilocks Planets, orbs with a moderate temperature which contain water and an atmosphere. Me, I’ve searched my entire life for Goldilocks towns, ones with a ratio of about one tavern per 100 citizens and two bars for every church. Oddly enough, Solon is one of those towns, but I digress.
On our recent visit, I quizzed them about their other anniversaries.
Dad couldn’t remember doing any thing special for their anniversaries until their 25th or silver, when they travelled to Las Vegas. He did remember their honeymoon celebration was a night at the Leland Hotel, and recalled the address, 1201 Leland Ave., Chicago. He also remembered they scooped up a bunch of crackers from their wedding reception and luxuriated with saltines in bed for breakfast the next morning before getting up and reporting to work. They both punched in a few minutes late, perhaps for the first and last time in their lives: Harold at Marshall Field’s, where he was a driver, and Vernabelle at the Merchandise Mart, where she was one of about 10,000 clerks.
For their 50th golden anniversary, they rented a hall and well over a hundred people showed up including an extensive contingent from Mom’s side of the family. The hall was under the flight pattern for O’Hare Airport and the night of the event the Hale-Bopp comet was supposed to be visible. My Wittenberg relatives and I sat out on a deck and as each airplane passed over we shouted, “There’s Hale-Bopp!” and toasted it with beer.
By far their best celebration was for their 60th or diamond.
The folks, now in their early 80s, fed them all with homemade potato salad, baked beans from scratch and fried fish, each caught and cleaned by Dad himself or brother Bob. Catering for 100 seems like a lot but it’s hard to appreciate the half of it without knowing I can eat a plate of blue gills bigger than my head and only came in second or third for gluttony that day. More than a few ate until they floundered.
Mom and Dad still cook for themselves but, as of late, they order out if there’s company. Last year while celebrating their 70th or platinum with their four sons and respective spouses, they ordered out for Chinese. Dad sent Bob and I with a credit card to pick up the dinner, and I estimated we got 50 pounds of food for $50.
Could we all really have eaten five pounds each?
In the end, they opted to pass on the Margarita. There was beer at home and Dad planned on cleaning the garage (using his walker) when he got back. The good waiter, however, overheard their conversation and brought them each their own drink on the house. He split the drink into shorty glasses and gave them each a straw. To hear them tell the story, you’d think they won the lottery twice.
The list of gifts that go with each anniversary falls off to every five years after the 25th, so there wasn’t one to list for the 71st.
I propose Goldilocks.