Three Golden Anniversaries

Iris and Mel Underwood, January 24, 1970

Last December, my husband and I booked the April tour titled Country Roads of Scotland to celebrate our 50th Wedding Anniversary, January 24, 1970.
I know what you’re thinking.  Who in their right mind would plan and host a January wedding in Michigan?
Two young people in love during the Vietnam War.
While a snowstorm buried Mel’s 1966 Mustang in my church’s parking lot, we exchanged vows before the stained glass window where Jesus prays in the Garden of Gethsemane.
Three daughters and several moves later in 1976, Mel and I met David and Marianne in the church where we worshiped twenty years.
Our first visit to the their home, David set up their family movies. Marianne laughed as she watched herself open one bridal shower gift after another.
“Real exciting, isn’t it?” she joked.
“The wedding made up for it. We tied the knot January 24, 1970 in a snow blizzard!” David said.
Continuous hardships of rearing children turned our feet upon demanding paths. We lost touch with Dave and Marianne after our firstborn’s death in 1996. We left our church in search of healing and a new congregation.
Long last, our season of solitude and prayer for a place to worship concluded almost two years ago within a sanctuary in Romeo.
January 19, the Sunday service before our Golden Anniversary, my husband stood in answer to the pastor’s request for praises. To my surprise, Mel said, “I’d like to thank God for five decades of wedded bliss to my lovely wife on January 24, 1970.”
Mel and Iris, Carol and Bob, January 26, 2020

After the service, many congratulations followed with the last unfolding something like this from Bob.
“Congratulations! Mel, you said January 24, 1970?”
“Well, that’s very interesting because Carol and I have never met a couple who share our wedding date. “
“There aren’t many of us crazy people around, Bob.”
“I didn’t speak up because I’m waiting until next Sunday.”
“Where were you married?” I asked.
“Centerville, Ohio,” Carol replied, “where I’m from. I met Bob on a blind date December 5,1968.”
“A fraternity brother from GMI fixed us up,” Bob said.
“Where did you spend your honeymoon?” I asked.
“Caberfae,” Carol answered.
“To ski?”
Carol nodded.
“I can’t believe this! That’s where we went on our honeymoon!” 
In the spirit of hilarious discovery, Carol disclosed Bob left her at the top of the highest hill to fend for herself. She wiped out on the slope.
“A Ski Patrol came to my rescue and assisted me downhill.”
“That’s exactly what Mel did to me!” I said.
 “Well, the hill didn’t seem that high until we got up there,” Bob defended.
Today, the following Sunday, with the flair of a bard, Bob related his thanks for fifty years of wedded bliss. Then confessed he abandoned his bride at hilltop for the thrill of racing downhill.
Dear Reader, we celebrate the endurance of young love. We’ve lived to tell our stories of January 24, 1970—crazy couples blessed with golden anniversaries.
Would love to see David and Marianne again.

Here and Now

Gingerbread Pear Loaf ready for the oven
It’s a typical Sunday afternoon in early January 2020. Four large, perfectly ripe pears lounge in a bowl on our kitchen counter. I’ve observed their incubation for three days, waiting for this succulent moment.
We never know if the green fruit we carry home from the grocer will perform this miracle, or end up mealy chicken scraps. I celebrate their flavor when pears turn yellow and juicy.
I choose one pear, termed “unit” within the produce market. But that’s rather impersonal, for each pear offers delicious weight, 24% of our daily fiber requirement, nutritionists say.
Growing our teensy orchard, I know somewhat the toil and timing crucial to produce healthy and gorgeous food. I’m aware this hefty specimen I hold is not organic because my husband purchased them for their size.
Whether grown naturally or fertilized commercially, I can’t let these four beautiful pears go to waste. After all, they’re most likely survivors shipped from some huge operation 2,000 miles from our door.
How to consume all this fiber in two days, enjoy this summer goodness in January, fruit out of season here and now?
 I rinse and slice the fruit through the middle, find barely a seed to propagate this dense, luscious variety. The texture is perfect for the Gingerbread Pear Loaf I’ve been hankering to bake the past two winters.
While I eat the slippery pear, I review the featured recipe on the cover of the Holiday issue of Bake from Scratch 2016. In good time, I’m out the door for the grocery store, not my typical Sunday activity.
But the recipe includes 5 (12-ounce) bottles of ginger beer, an ingredient as rare in my house as four ripe pears, now three that must be peeled then poached in ginger beer for 12 hours.
As I search the aisles, the image of that sliced Gingerbread Pear Loaf will not let me go. There’s the ginger beer on a top shelf, $7 for four bottles. No way. I read the ingredients and decide to make it.

Baked Gingerbread Pear Cake (photo courtesy of Diana Dinvero)

While the ginger beer simmers on the stove, I gather the loaf pan and dry ingredients around my yellow Kitchen Aid mixer, a Christmas gift from my daughters about sixteen years ago. They’d love this Gingerbread Pear Loaf with a dollop of whipping cream.
The pears poach in the fridge overnight. After breakfast Monday morning, I drain the fruit, mix the batter and pour it into the pan—with great care place the gingered pears on top.
Sun touches the fruit in translucent approval before I slide the pan into the oven. I watch the cake raise, not as high as on the cover of the magazine due to my oversized fruit.
Once the loaf cools, I turn the pan on its side and the cake breaks in half. A pear falls out.
I carry my repaired Gingerbread Pear Loaf to Monday night writing group of twenty years. We celebrate another New Year.
As the pears, we’re together, here and now.

A testament of Father Gabriel Richard

The Lappin Street entrance to my elementary school in Detroit
Summer 1956, Dad drove us by a tall, brick smokestack rising above a large, two-story building in Detroit.
“There’s Gabriel Richard, girls, your new school,” Mom said to my sisters and me.
Six years old, I feared smokestacks, a word fallen from whispers with concentration camp. We didn’t have big schools and smokestacks in Kentucky.
We’d just moved to Joann Street south of Seven Mile Road, between Hoover and Schoenherr Roads. It took some thinking to remember, spell, and speak Schoenherr. We had one road in Peter Creek, and that’s what we called it.
Dad barbered on the corner of Seven Mile and Joann Street, which brought me great comfort. Through his shop’s big window, Dad watched my sisters and me walk to school on the straight and flat sidewalk. Then he watched us walk back.
Although I didn’t know who Gabriel Richard was, I liked the name. But I couldn’t understand why Richard was pronounced with “sh” instead of “ch” like the boy’s name.
                  By the time I completed the first half of third grade within Gabriel Richard’s long, bright halls, I’d learned my multiplication tables and how to write, spell, and read.
I loved books.
                  The summer I was nine, Mom and Dad packed up our rented Joann house to settle our own new home on Wagner Street in Warren.
The name Gabriel Richard lay buried under decades of seasons until several years ago when a friend spoke of Father Gabriel Richard’s history.
“The priest helped found the University of Michigan in newborn Detroit,” she said.
“Yes, Father Gabriel Richard lived his short life as a pioneer priest establishing schools wherever his feet landed.”
Soon after, as the Holy Spirit answers the hidden desires of a seeker’s heart, during a tour of St. Anne’s Catholic Church in Detroit, the docent led my group to Father Gabriel Richard’s marble tomb encased in glass.
There, in a chapel dedicated to the French priest who escaped France’s Revolution and helped build one of St. Anne’s eight churches, I saw what contains the remains of a man who sacrificed his life to care for those dying of cholera.
 I’ve since driven by Gabriel Richard, guarded by a chain link fence. The building now functions as Detroit Adult Education East.
At the Lappin Street entrance, above the priest’s name carved in stone, engraved eagles on the right and left spread their wings with eyes upon one another.

Embedded in the brick walls on both sides of slender windows, circular mosaics depict a woman draped in robes with an open book on her lap. She writes with a quill.
I fear this beautiful house of knowledge designed by George D. Mason will fall in ruin. Many of his Detroit creations no longer stand.
Dear Reader, at last I called the Principal of Detroit Adult Education East and requested a visit.
“I’ll be happy to give you a tour,” he said.
Meanwhile, I wait to walk the place where my affection for the written word firmly rooted.
A testament to the legacy of Father Gabriel Richard.

The Language of Precious Things

Native American Bent Tree north of Leonard and Gerst Road, northeast side of Polly Ann Trail
I tie my hiking boots at 3:15 p.m. New Year’s Day. I’ve anticipated this moment with each email I’ve typed and item checked off my Action Log. At last, I open the door and escape insufferable technology terminology and surmounting roadblocks within the book publishing industry.
                  This modern age tolerates nothing slower than the speed of light, nothing older than tomorrow’s invention.
Meanwhile, my husband waits in his car, an auspicious siesta. After fifty years of marriage, such simple things grow into a wife’s lifestyle.
I unwind as Mel drives us three miles north into Leonard. I’ve seen the streets of this sleepy little town peopled in July, celebrating their trademark Strawberry Festival; and Halloween’s Trick-or-Treaters, a scary and hilarious parade since Big Foot and his wife set up housekeeping amongst them.
Mel parks in the Polly Ann Trail lot. He prefers the path leading northeast beyond Gerst Road and my beloved Native American Bent Tree to a newly installed bridge.
But he surprises me. “Let’s walk into the sun.”
“Good idea.” I lift my face to the bright, blue sky and breathe the cold, clean air.
All is well.
Snow and ice crunch under our boots. Huge footprints on my side point east. Must be Kyle’s, the neighborhood’s Big Foot. The gentlest man I know.
We’ve never passed Kyle and Charlotte on the trail. They work fulltime with travel from and to this hamlet.
My mind wanders into similar hypothetical territory when walking on a wooded track kept in excellent condition by Polly Ann Trail Manager, Linda Moran.
This glorious freedom to let our mind loose is free. Well, we pay a minimal cost to Addison Township’s general fund determined by the number of our population.
Even so, it’s worth the fee to refresh the imagination and exercise the body within the shelter of trees, wildflowers, and ponds of Spring Peepers. Depending on the season.
I recall a splendid spring day last year. We parked our car and turned east. As we approached Leonard’s Old Mill, shrills of laughter descended from Leonard Elementary School set up on a hill out of view. The closer we walked toward the playground, the louder the cries of laughter.
“It must be recess,” I said and slowed my steps.
Recess. A wonderful word. Thing. Although I could not see the playground, I heard and felt the children’s joy at chase and play.
Now we end our walk west on a winter afternoon, the barren trees on the Polly Ann Trail awash with sunset. The golden thoroughfare of Rochester Road leads us home.
Dear Reader, as the 33rd Chapter of Deuteronomy declares, “Blessed be God for the precious things of heaven, for the dew and for the deep that coucheth beneath, and for all the precious fruits brought forth by the sun and for the precious things put forth by the moon, and for the precious things of the lasting hills.
And for the chief things of the ancient mountains.”
Nature is slow and old. She speaks my language.