Thursday, October 24, 2013

April Violets and October Anniversaries

Today my parents celebrate their forty-third wedding anniversary.  In 1966, one of the young men my dad was serving with in Vietnam mentioned in a letter to his kid sister back home that one of his Air Force buddies could use some extra mail.  My fourteen-year-old mom dutifully put pen to paper for her big brother, my dad soon wrote back, and four years of Air Mail later, it was their matchmaker, Dad's friend and Mom's brother, who served as Best Man at their October 24th wedding.  "Some of my best work," my uncle brags of their union.  In four more years, my parents would name their first child after dear Uncle Dan.  As I like to point out to my mom, who is still upset that they don't have better pictures from their wedding day, her marriage turned out even if her photographs didn't.  
 
Before the autumn wedding and baby Daniel, though, there were those four years of letters, care packages, and rare visits home on-leave.  "I would complete soak all my stationery and envelopes in Yardley's April Violets," Mom always mentions when she talks about their correspondence.  She wrote my dad a letter a day.  Dad, for his part, sent letter, pictures, and love poems--"And your dad was really a poet," Mom always adds at this point in her reminiscences.  I come by my love of letter-writing naturally, I can't help but think, just as so many of "[their] songs" from the mid-late 1960s--"Crimson and Clover," "I Heard It Through the Grapevine," and "My Girl," to name just a few--had become my own favorites by the time I was eleven.  My parents finally saw each other in-person for the first time during one of my dad's visits home.  High school student Mom anxiously waited at her parents' window in New York while my dad made the drive up from Pennsylvania.  "When I saw him coming down the sidewalk in his dress uniform. . . !"  Mom still gushes at the memory, blushingly trailing off each time she shares it.  "And I'm telling you, Vally," she always goes on, "I knew right away that he was a keeper:  My brother Eric was just a baby then and was playing with his toy cars, and your dad got right down on the floor beside him and started racing the cars around with him."  (How a man treats the very young and very old tells you all you need to know about a man's character, my mother advised me ages ago.) 
Perfumed mail, The Big Chill soundtrack of their pen pal days, and matchbox car races can make it all seem much more lighthearted than it was, of course.  "Come home safe" is written in Mom's teenage penmanship across the backs of so many of her old photos to Dad.  The scene in Forrest Gump that shows a safely-home-from-Vietnam Forrest reunited with his beloved Jenny is the one that always gets my parents, and being in the room with them while they watch uniform-clad Forrest and long-haired Jenny embrace after his years in the service almost feels like too personal a Mom and Dad Moment to intrude upon.  Their own love story didn't have to turn out this well, and we all know it.  Dad doesn't decorate family members' graves on Memorial Day without remembering the classmate with whom he enlisted and without whom he made it home.  

Tonight my parents will exchange cards and maybe catch dinner and a movie, while two of their grandchildren daydream about next week's Halloween costumes and another grandchild waits a few more weeks to be born.  The letters that started it all, still tucked into their red and blue-bordered Air Mail envelopes, have been carefully packed away since 1970 in my parents' bedroom closet, faintly flower-scented testaments to the wonder of true love. 

10 comments:

Nellie said...

What a beautiful post, Val! Happy anniversary to your parents! We were also married in 1969 and celebrated our 44th in August!

Tracy said...

What a lovely post Val. Those letters would be such a treasure. I wish your parents a happy anniversary and many more to come.
Tracy

La Table De Nana said...

Sniff sniff:)

How sweet!

Great looking parents Val..

They are married 4 yrs more than we are.
Time flies.

She's so pretty..I find you have so much of her!
Soaking the paper:) ♥Yardley no less♥

Lisa said...

Those early pictures of her remind me of you, Val. Happy Anniversary to them; what a nice story. A great match!

NanaDiana said...

Val- Your Mom is just a beautiful woman. As pretty now as she was when she was young. Your Dad is handsome, too!!!! Wonderful post- xo Diana

Marie said...

What a beautiful post Val! What a beautiful love story. Happy Anniversary to your parents! What they have is very rare these days! xxoo

Liz said...

Beautiful post!!

Val said...

Thank you all. ♥

asmplelife said...

Your mom is so beautiful! Great post, Val. So much love. Lucky girl.

Val said...

She really is, and I really am, Cheryl, yes. Thank you. ♥