Remind me again how much I like winter in the south. At this point it is 20 with a wind chill of about 14. That’s Fahrenheit, not the Celsius stuff. The hose is frozen in the barn, which means that I have to fill buckets with water and trot them the entire length of the barn so that the horses will have water to drink. Warmed water. I have a tank heater in the trough that keeps the water at least liquid. I also have three inches of snow in the pasture and on the road, which will make driving to church problematic. It is Elvis Presley’s birthday and the anniversary of the battle of New Orleans. Elvis is older than I am, but it’s also my birthday.
In my family birthdays have always been celebrated either not at all, or with jokes. The best one I can remember from my youth was the time we presented my mother (who abominated birthdays) with an elaborate multi-layer cake with a gigantic icing cigar complete with icing smoke and embers. I don’t recall that she was thrilled.
Neither George nor I could ever remember for sure the date of our marriage. We were married by the mayor in a tiny little Mairie (town hall) in Olivet, France. They presented us with a bright red Livret de Famille slightly larger than a passport with pages for the births and deaths of twelve children. I explained to the mayor that I had intention of filling it up. It lives in our lock box. Each year in the fall I would make a trek down to the bank to check the date we should celebrate.
The mayor was a small, plump gentleman who was wearing with his tweed jacket the sash of the Legion D’Honeur. From his age I would assume he earned it during his boyhood in the Second World War. Lord knows what he did, but it must have been extraordinary. I knew a number of people who ran messages to and from the Maquis (the partisans) when they were barely out of nursery school. Their ages would not have protected them nor their families had they been captured.
The entire wedding thing was a chaotic disaster from start to finish. I wrecked my VW bug on the way to Orly airport to pick George up on the Monday before the wedding. Then we had to drive to Paris—putting a quart of oil in the bug every twenty miles or so—to get a single stamp on a single piece of paper. We had to enlist the services of the diplomatic group of the US army to intercede with the Mairie so that they would marry us without a six-week waiting period. We had the paper giving us that privilege, but the French bureaucracy decided to be as obstructive as possible.
There was not a wedding band in Orleans big enough to fit me. We found one in the PX at 5:00 pm on Friday evening.
And I got the flu. My recollection of the wedding is hazy. I had a hundred and three fever.
I gets worse. But more of that at another time. Incidentally, we were happy together for 47 years, so we did something right.