My parents were a mismatch if there ever was one.
She was five feet two.
He was six feet five.
She was from the country.
He was from the city.
She was a gifted musician.
He played football... and basketball… and baseball.
She was a stiff backed Congregationalist.
He was a toe tapping tent meeter.
How they managed to make such a perfect team is one of life’s little mysteries.
The Duchess grew up in a Walton’s Mountain existence where everyone knew his neighbor and shopping was done by walking to the little country store. It was on one such trip to the store that she first encountered my father.
Lying between her home and the country store was a little brown church which had been abandoned for years and recently reopened by one of those fiery evangelists from out of state.
And he had a son.
Because he hadn’t grown up and gone to school there, the son was pretty much a country curiosity. The Duchess knew nothing about him other than what she could glean by propping on her mother’s wringer washing machine and peering through field glasses as he tossed a football with her neighbor on Sunday afternoons.
Not that she was interested or anything…
So as she approached the church that Saturday afternoon, she easily recognized the familiar figure painting a sign on the front lawn.
Obviously, he noticed the figure approaching him as well, and as he was painting, he began to whistle. It wasn’t a wolf whistle or cat call or anything like that. He was merely whistling a tune.
It was The Dance of the Cuckoo, better known as the theme for Laurel and Hardy.
Harmless enough, perhaps, but while he appeared to be engrossed in his painting project, his tune seemed mysteriously whistled in time to her walking.
So she walked faster.
And he whistled faster.
The faster she walked, the faster he whistled.
Apparently, the preacher’s kid was what the Duchess calls, "fresh".
She was so horrified by the time she reached the store that she phoned home for rescue by automobile.
Now, the rest of the story has a truthiness that depends on the narrator. They both agree that it took place about a week later and at his church. According to the Duchess, she was reluctantly dragged to an event by an insistent friend who never did know how to take “no” for an answer.
Dad used phrases like chased me down in the vestibule of my father’s church.
Somewhere in the middle lies the truth that they officially met on the steps of the church, and that second meeting was more to her liking. The attraction must have been observable because his mother invited her to a birthday party she was throwing him the next week.
And the rest, as they say, is history.
The courtship was a whirlwind, and within the year he pulled his car to a stop under a covered bridge on the way to a formal dance (which I like to call a Ball) and popped the question.
On June 8th of the next year, they were married. The Duchess wore a beautiful white cupcake dress and a crown of pearls that set the bridal standard for me for the rest of my life. Prince charming towered over her in a dinner jacket.
They were blessed enough to celebrate that day together for the next 43 years.
When Dad passed away, my sisters and I tried a variety of ways to make her anniversary day a special one, but after a while, she told us that it was OK to stop trying. Her anniversary was like Valentine’s Day, she said. It’s a day that can’t be fixed and didn’t need to be shared with daughters, no matter how well intentioned they might be.
Whether or not he’s here in the flesh, the day still belongs to The Duchess and her Prince Charming.
But I don’t think they would mind if on this anniversary day, I shared their story with you.