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Fifty And Still Holding !!

By LC Van Savage

August 2, 1959 – August 2, 2009. Blink. Gone. Fifty years. Too fast. But nice along the way, for sure. Mongo and I celebrated our 50th year of wedded bliss-ish on August 2nd and as all people say who’ve had the good fortune to have had a long and happy marriage, “wow, where did those years go?” But go they did, and we’re 71 now, both of us, and I’m still having a hard time figuring all this out. After all, we were both 21 year old newlyweds just a nanosecond ago. We met at 19.

The dust has settled and all the company has gone and it’s time now to reflect. We eloped, we two, ran off from my apartment in Greenwich Village in search of a Justice of the Peace in Pennsylvania before our wedding license ran out of time. Why did we elope? Simple. Mongo, according to my sectarian family, was not PLO. He sure wasn’t, thank the Force and hey dear old dead relatives, it’s been 50 years, it’s still going strong, and you’re not. So na na na na naaaaa na!

Anyway, back to our wedding plans. Did you ever see the Saturday Evening Post cover painting by Norman Rockwell of June 11, 1955? That was us—Mongo had no hat but it was just exactly how that whole scene looked the day we sneaked off to get our marriage license in Scranton PA in that old creaky mahogany office with that amused old man watching us fill out the forms.

Marriage License by Norman Rockwell

And so we ended up that second day of August 50 years ago at a Justice of the Peace’s office in Newtown PA after stopping at a gas station to ask the young men there if there was a JP nearby. Yes, they said and actually snickered and then laughed aloud and pointed at me still sitting in the car. I waved in return and laughed too. We drove to one Mr. Lawrence Milnor’s home who said after he carefully looked over the license, yeah, sure, he’d marry us. His wife came into the room, all smiles, agreeing to be our official witness. She asked us to wait a moment and went out to her rose garden, gathered a few blooms, wrapped them in tinfoil and voila! I had my bouquet and a more beautiful one had never before existed. (I still have it.) Mrs. Milnor, grinning lovingly, banged out a few strains of seriously off-key Lohengrin’s on her groaning, ancient organ in the corner of the room, and we, Mongo and I became one and have stayed thus for five decades. I remember glancing into a mirror to the left of the door just after Mr. M. had said The Words, and thought “I’m so happy. I look pretty!” I was and I did. Best wedding I ever went to!

So last month, Mongo and I planned a small party to celebrate our fiftieth. Family only, a couple of good friends. No speeches, toasts and especially no gifts. The gifts were to be the people we loved surrounding us, good food, lots of kids and lots of laughter. Not everyone obeyed my edict and gave us some wondrous gifts anyway. We found a beautifully wrapped pile of CDs of my most favorite music on our front porch, left there by a dear friend who could not make the party. A remarkable poem about Mongo and my years together, read aloud and framed. A huge plate, signed by everyone there, our “portraits” in the middle. A fabulous watercolor of my favorite beast of all beasts, the sea turtle. Lots of cards arrived at the house, even from friends to whom I’d never mentioned our 50th.

But best of all was the gift from my 71 year old husband. I’m still boggled by it. No, it was not a golden bauble commemorating the Great Day. It was far better. Last spring Mongo and I had made a trip to visit dear friends Dot and Norb in West Virginia to whom years back I’d given a few paintings I’d done, they’d liked and asked if they could have. One of them on their livingroom wall was a painting of Mongo’s and my elopement day back in 1959. The Oriental rug, fireplace, Mr. and Mrs. Milnor, the rose garden, his desk, the organ, the mirror next to the door---a tall and handsome Mongo leading me toward those two sweet people, my holding his hand, looking very thin (artistic license rules!!), very eager and slightly scared. I’d loved that painting but gave it away to those two dear friends because they’d been very good to us over the years. When Mongo and I drove away from that West Virginia visit last spring, I remember telling him, now that I’d seen it again, how much I’d regretted giving away that painting of the day of our elopement, but of course could and would not ask for its return.

But Mongo could, and unbeknownst to me, he did. Dot and Norb were coming to the 50th party and when they got here, they presented the painting to us. I was thrilled beyond belief. Stunned! There it was, the whole scene, painted probably not well but in the naïve/outsider/primitive way I paint and I loved it and loved having it back. It was only much later I discovered Mongo’s having called Norb and Dot and asking them for its return, and with love, they did just that. I’ll never forget unwrapping it when they got here and how I felt, how I kept babbling about wanting it back and not having the courage to ask for it, holding onto it and staring at it, not wanting to put it down. So now it’s ours once again and I’m most content. Is Mongo cool or what?

A happy time indeed that day of our party. I wore Mongo’s fraternity pin which sent him into absolute bellows of wild laughter (we got pinned in a fish hatchery in New Jersey) but no wedding rings. Both of us lost ours years ago, but we don’t need really them. We know we’re married.

So Happy Anniversary, dear Mongo. You stayed the course and I know it has not been easy to have been tied in Holy Elopement to a whackjob like me, but you did it and IOU! Payback? I’ll think of something, but nothing comes to mind. I could never begin to repay you. We both know we’ll never get another fifty together but I joyfully look forward to whatever’s left to us. It’s been a fabulous journey with all the very good stuff, the icing being our beloved three sons, our great daughters in law and of course our six glorious grandchildren. And, getting to spend the best years of our lives in Maine. It really just can’t get much better than this! I thank you and I love you. xoxoxoxo

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