I started to write a column about Thanksgiving, and then it occurred to me that one of the things I’m thankful for is my 39th wedding anniversary on Veterans Day. This is a marriage, they said, that would never last.
It all began when Mr. Z came to town in the late ‘60s from Detroit. He and his mother, Frances, came back to her roots to live with Grandma Arnold and to be among the other Zs. That neighborhood on Indiana Street was also the home of many other Lithuanian families.
I always took that as a good sign.
Mr. Z. was popular at The Oasis, the family tavern where he had established himself at the end of the bar. This was a prestigious location.
All went well until he bought drinks to celebrate his 21st birthday two or three years later. Grandma Sharkin was outraged that he had been an underage drinker. Probably pulled it off because of his deep voice. She laid down a threat.
Now comes the ‘60s. Mr. Z. went off to wed two other ladies and spent his Army time in Alaska.
I went off to Madison, Wis., to finish my degree and fell in love. But it was with the Badger football team. I then went on to Chicago for another degree and to Champaign-Urbana for the final degree. That seemed to indicate that Mr. Z and I had gone in opposite directions with not much in common.
At some point I moved back to St. Charles (parents, illness) and lived in an apartment over the tavern, now located back on Indiana Street. One day there was a knock at the door and there stood Mr. Z. inviting me to dinner.
We had a friendly relationship and made a lot of new friends in different places. Then came the night at The Checkmate. Several after-dinner cocktails later, we decided, or at least I decided and he thought he might go along, that we should formalize our relationship.
It was decided to elope to Madison. We took along Carl and Sharon Bergquist. We had called ahead for a marriage license and the county clerk said the office would be closed, but he would tape it to his office door. So we began that day, Veterans Day as it turned out, stopping by to get the license and then arriving in time for our appointment at the Methodist Student Center.
The pastor apparently was new at taking relationships to the marriage point. He turned to me and said, “Phillip, will you take thee Joan … .” We went along with him and, as it turns out, it’s legal. He offered to let us park the car in the chapel parking lot, as he discovered we were headed to the football stadium.
So, there we were at Camp Randall Stadium, just minutes after the wedding to be entertained by our 80,000 guests at what we now call our reception. Carl and Sharon had arranged for an announcement to be made, but it’s unlikely the crowd cared since the game was getting exciting. In the end, the game with Michigan State ended in a tie, which seemed like a good omen. Putting on top of that that it was Armistice Day, we felt like we were off to a good start.
In future years we would celebrate with a free dinner at the American Legion, and I would tease Phillip for being such a big spender. Finally, Phillip, if you were looking for the UPS driver to bring your present, forget it. This is your present.
Joan Arteberry is a longtime resident of St. Charles. Write to her at email@example.com.