hush hush -
Much of what I was up to in the last week of October was top secret. Viv and I were putting together materials for her parents' 50th wedding anniversary, and most of it was supposed to be a surprise.
My part in the clandestine efforts was to print photographs of their wedding from negatives which had only recently been found and from which prints had never been made. I made around thirty 8x10's of the best shots for a large album to present to her folks and then put together five smaller albums of 5x7's for their kids.
Viv was a whirlwind. She arranged for a flag to be flown over the U.S. Capitol in honor of the anniversary, securing a certificate stating just that, as well as the flag itself. She wrote letters to dozens of her parents' friends asking for remembrances (which were ultimately put into another album), and wrote thank you notes to all the respondents.
Viv worked so hard, in fact, that fatigue got the best of her and she ended up sending empty envelopes to a few of the old friends who then phoned her parents asking "Hey, what's with the empty envelope from your daughter?" Lots of fancy dancing, sleight of hand, and outright prolonged lying in the name of damage control followed.
She also wrote to her four siblings asking them each for ten words or phrases which best describe the qualities and virtues their parents had imparted. She then took these fifty words and phrases and embroidered each one onto its own silk maple leaf, adding tiny glass beads as dewdrops, and then sewed the fifty leaves onto a table runner.
It was an enormous undertaking, becoming a huge part of daily life around here, and I worked under a gag order regarding what I could write about in this journal, but hey, that's the price of being a successful sneak. There were several instances where I wanted to post a photo I'd just printed and riff on what it depicted. Old photos have a way of being evocative, but I was loyal to the code of secrecy.
We knew going in that the ultimate presentation would be a three-Kleenex-box affair. Viv's parents are good folks. I don't think you can find any Americans who exemplify traditional Midwestern Boy Scout Living any better than they do, and while not immune to the tendencies incumbent in UltraMegaRepublicans, they overcome this affliction with sincerity and big hearts, so honoring them is no chore. Besides, their 50th wedding anniversary was no time for politics. It was an opportunity to give tribute to a long-lasting marriage, a chance for their children, some of whom have married and raised kids themselves, to recognize and share just how challenging, courageous, and uplifting such an endeavor can be.
And only once did I hear Rush Limbaugh. On Thursday morning Viv's dad came downstairs, turned on the radio in the kitchen, sat at the table and nodded off to Rush's dulcet tones. Excellence In Broadcasting is a lullaby to him. Kinda sweet.
As you can imagine, the items we put together for the anniversary were treasures we guarded vigilantly, no tossing them into checked baggage, no sir. We hand-carried these puppies, swaddling them in bubble wrap. The Cloth of Sacred Leaves was tucked into its own shiny silver bubble-coated Mylar envelope, safe as the Shroud of Turin. We could've driven through plutonium with this thing.
We landed in Denver, hit the restrooms, claimed our baggage, rented our car, and headed out to the shuttle that takes you on the 3000 mile trip to the rental car lot. Denver International Airport is vast. Like Greenland, only browner.
As we dragged our luggage cart out to the fourth curb in front of the terminal to wait for the Hertz bus, Viv did a quick inventory of our cargo.
Suddenly all the blood drained from her face.
"Omigod omigod omigod omigod omigod omigod!!! Where's the silver envelope?"
It was gone.
"Ohmigod! I left it in the restroom at the gate!" she said, horrified. "Omigod omigod omigod omigod..."
I lugged our cart back into the terminal and stayed with Amy as Viv submerged into the bowels of the B concourse, taking the escalator to the train to more escalators and then back to the restroom.
Amy and I sat calmly at street level, listening to the echoing audio loop -- "Please do not leave items unattended. For security reasons, they are subject to confiscation and may be destroyed." You can get good visuals off this if you have an imagination.
She had worked so hard putting it together. I knew her heart would break if it was gone forever.
Well, somebody was nice that day and turned it in to the lost & found. Viv tells the story well, now that it's funny to her (she even includes impersonations of the cleaning lady who spoke no English except "gone... home..." while flapping her arms, and the clerk who couldn't fathom how a person could lose a giant radar-reflective envelope), and it makes the item just that much more precious now that there's this tale of terror to go along with it.
Late one afternoon, Viv, Amy, and I drove by Viv's Old High School, Home of the Fighting Whatevers. It could've been a scene out of the 50's, same stuff goin' on: kids loitering in the parking lot, groups of boys being drawn as if by supermagnets to groups of girls, the football team practicing out on the field in the crisp autumn air.
Viv mentioned that somewhere in the school was a plaque with her name on it. You don't tell your husband and daughter something like that without them getting out of the car and barging in to have a gander at the thing now, do ya?
In 1972, Viv was the first recipient of the Somebody P. Somebody Memorial Award for Outstanding Theater Student, and there, in a glass case outside the theater, was the trophy. Apparently she was quite the actress in high school, garnering kudos in comedies, musicals, and dramas alike. Legend has it that her Helen Keller made Patty Duke look like a piker. Had I gone to that school I'm sure I wouldn't have gotten anywhere near the girl since she was also one of the cheerleaders, drove a hot little red MG convertible, and had boyfriends drooling all over the place.
Yeesh. Note to self: Shave today.
At one point Viv snuck into the theater and caught the latest batch of drama kids slacking around on the stage, just as they have slacked for generations. 1972 seems like a long time ago, but I think I know one girl for whom it was just yesterday.
"She's The One" -- World Party -- MUSIC FROM THE MOTION PICTURE LOST & FOUND
"A good memory constitutes about seventy percent of what commonly passes for genius."
- Hesketh Pearson