Monday, June 25, 2007

And now, complete with yodelers...

June 25, 1972, Brunswick Naval Air Station Chapel

(Note: This is a rather long post, and yet, I left out a lot. Perhaps someday Onkel Hankie Pants will blog his version.)

35 years ago today, Onkel Hankie Pants and I stood before a Navy chaplain, made promises, and prayed. Our vows were adapted from the old Book of Common Prayer with the addition of words from an even older version as used by Lord Peter Wimsey and Harriet Vane. We have kept the promises, to the best of our ability, and our prayers -- especially the one about "the gift and heritage of children" -- have been answered. Here is the story of how it came to be.

In March of 1972, I completed the Russian interpreter course at Defense Language Institute-W est Coastas the only female in the class. Most of my Army enlisted classmates were headed for further training as members of the Army Security Agency. What to do with me? Well, in the Army, if in doubt, OJT -- so I was sent across the Bay to Fort Ord for On-the-Job Training as a clerk-typist. Now by coincidence, the lieutenant doing the assigning was a graduate of Beantown Jesuit College. He looked at my personnel file and said, "Oh! You went to A Host at Last University! I've got just the place for you -- Awards and Decorations. There's an English major from The Harvard of the Midwest* there -- you'll really like him."
* There may be many schools which claim the title, but I refer to the one which shares a town with Big Norske Choirs College.

So I began work in Awards and Decorations, where we used IBM Selectrics with a lovely typeface to compose and produce the citations that soldiers receive along with a medal when they have done something special. Onkel Hankie Pants (for it was indeed he) and I hit it off immediately, but soon after my arrival he left for a three-week leave back to Minnesota. Not long after his return, I finally received orders to use my Russian interpreting skills in Berlin, Germany. Energized by the prospect of my imminent departure, OHP first invited me and a friend from the WAC barracks to a party at his off-campus apartment (a one-bedroom which he shared with two co-workers). Someone brought a guitar and wholesome fun was had by all.

The very next day, OHP and our supervisor hatched a plan that he and I, the supervisor, her two junior-high-age kids, and the afore-mentioned guitarist would go out to dinner in Carmel and attend a production of Once upon a Mattress at a local college. I put on a new dress and high heels, and we set off in Onkel Hankie Pants' orange Austin America. Now, at The Harvard of the Midwest, OHP had directed and acted in this very same play! So, of course, he spent the entire play whispering in my ear about what he had done differently....Nevertheless, by the end of the evening I think we were falling in love.

We began to spend nearly every possible waking hour together (he had a part-time job at the Post Library and occasional Guard Duty at the Ammo Dump) and each moment was all the sweeter because of the impending separation. We began to talk about marriage at some unspecified future time, but nothing had been decided when, around mid-June, he put me on a plane for Oregon, where I would visit some old friends before heading to Maine and then Berlin.

The flight was a Pacific Southwest Airlines wine-tasting flight, so I arrived at The CPA's house in Eugene in a bit of a state. I won't say I was a weepy drunk, but I had had a little more than I normally do. The CPA was then married to Laughing Boy, who had been a year ahead of us at Tiger High (the first of the three high schools I attended). Like many people in Richest County, Nutmeg State, Laughing Boy had an Eastern European surname; unlike many such, his was easy to spell, pronounce, and remember. So OHP was able to track me down. Early the next day, there was a phone call for me, and "yes I said yes I will Yes." But the wedding date was not set -- we thought perhaps in the fall, when I could get leave again.

So, after fun in Eugene, The CPA, Laughing Boy and I headed for Portland, to visit The Boss and her then-spouse, Bridge Fiend. I shocked and dismayed The Boss by showing up with 5 lbs. of bridal magazines. I had shared The Boss's phone number with Onkel Hankie Pants, and soon this phone call came:
OHP: "I think we should get married right away, before you go to Berlin. I have enough leave time to come to Maine."
AK: "Well, sure, OK, that sounds like a great idea, even though people will think we Have To Get Married."
OHP: "But we do! You're going to Germany! How do I know you won't get over there and fall for one of those darn yodelers?"

A month after our first date, we found ourselves, with our parents and our sisters, The Traveller and The Medic, in the Brunswick Naval Air Station Catholic chapel (it's smaller than the Protestant one), saying our vows in front of the Navy chaplain. The Traveller played Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring on the little organ. My sister and my new father-in-law "stood up with us" as we say here. We had a lovely, simple family reception (with cucumber sandwiches!) at my eldest aunt's farm, and my paternal great-aunt lent us a cabin at the shore for our honeymoon. All too soon, Onkel Hankie Pants had to return to "Fort Orc" and I had to fly to Berlin. The many letters we exchanged during the following year probably are what saved us from the proverbial fate.


elinor said...

Nicly done, although I personnally like this tale told orally. Somehow, the places seem to really come alive that way.

Did you notice the link below the proverbial fate qoute? This is from the speech I did for Shakespeare this spring. Coincidentally, I drew on the stories of your hasty courtship to understand and feed Kate's angst!

Songbird said...

I am touched by all of this, particularly the reference to Miss Harriet Vane and Lord Peter Wimsey.

Son Shine In said...

Now you've got me thinking that I should have gone with a flashier tie for my somewhat-less-hasty marriage.

Also, a little watch chain would have been a good idea.

Oh well, no use worrying about that now.