Sunday, August 28, 2011

Ice-cold Watermelon and a 45th Wedding Anniversary

      The wedding day 45 years ago: Dad holding Michael, Mom, Alan, Jeanne, an uncle and aunt. At right, Andrea, Shanan, Michael (nephew)

       Ice-cold watermelon hydrates both soul and body.
       I learned that at the age of 11, when I made my first trip across Idaho.
       Although I’ve lived in Western Idaho for 35 years, I was born and raised on a dry farm not far from the Wyoming border. Though my parents sold the land when I was eight, we kept the house and lived there during the summers.
       Dad went into business spraying beetle-infested evergreens in Targhee National Forest. My brothers and their friends made good summer money at this messy job—also known as “bugging.”
       In the summer of 1966, my sister, Jeanne, who was attending the University of Idaho on a 4-H scholarship, brought her boyfriend home to work for Dad. Alan was a handsome pre-law student at the U. of I. who was determined to win her hand and her family’s respect. My 13-year-old brother, Rex, and I put him to the test with our teasing and spying, but he stood firm, and an August wedding date was set.
       Hats off to our Mama. Once the stress of the wedding and reception in Eastern Idaho were over, she coordinated the washing, ironing and packing of five dresses, two suits, 14 shoes, 14 socks / nylons, 7 sets of underwear and nightwear and “good casual clothes,” as well as packing a lunch, so we could attend the open house in Boise.
       Our parents gave Jeanne a beautiful cedar chest, filled with her trousseau – quilts, pillowslips, dishtowels, and so on. Mom wanted this chest to be on display at the open house, so Dad and Rex loaded it in the back of our green 1956 Studebaker station wagon.
       Riding in the front were Dad, Mama with Shanan, age two, on her lap, and Brenda, who, at 16, was six feet tall and needed leg space. Rex, Andrea, 7, and I squeezed in around the cedar chest like cordwood. It was somewhat uncomfortable, but I was anesthetized with a good book – and we were all excited to go to Boise, Idaho’s capital city!
       Only sections of the I-84 freeway were completed, so our ride took about eight hours. Our “air conditioning”—open windows—dried the girls’ hair, rolled in plastic curlers.
       Mama worried about the impression we’d make on Jeanne’s in-laws. Alan’s father was a prominent Boise attorney, and his mother was a cultured lady who presided over a lovely home.
       Mama reminded us many times, “You’ll have to remember your manners at their home, and for heaven’s sake, don’t touch anything! With good reason, she feared a culture clash of cataclysmic proportions when the Eastern Idaho “bugging crew” met Western Idaho society.
       After checking in to the Rob Roy Motel, we dressed and found our way to Alan’s home, where his family put us at ease.
       Dad, Mom and Brenda, the maid of honor, were in the receiving line. Dad may have been uncomfortable shaking hands with so many strangers, but he didn’t show it. His friendliness created a reservoir of calm that steadied him and Mama, and soon Boise society was treated to her radiant smile.
       Rex and I were to watch the “little girls.” We didn’t break anything, though we ate too many refreshments and provoked considerable excitement in their shrill Pomeranian puppy.
       The next day, they graciously invited us to breakfast. Alan’s dad showed us his kiln and pottery shed, and then it was time to shed tears of sorrow over leaving our sweet sister, and tears of joy over leaving the cedar chest!
       Before leaving Boise, we visited the State Capitol, which impressed us down to our toenails.
       It’s 90.57 miles from Boise to Bliss, but on an August day, it feels like 1,000. This was desert, which we’d never experienced. At Mountain Home we guzzled canvas-flavored water from the radiator bag, but it didn’t ease our parched throats and weary souls.
       Just as the heat was becoming unbearable, we stopped at a roadside stand in Bliss that sold ice-cold Hermiston watermelon. Juice dribbled down our chins as we spit seeds and ate and ate. THAT was Bliss!
       Post script: Alan and Jeanne successfully combined two Idaho cultures into a wonderful family—raised in Utah!