Longest day becomes shortest night

by Bob Huber

There was a crucial moment preceding my half-century matrimonial partnership that made my future wife Marilyn shout, “You WHAT?”

Her scary attitude resulted from something I mumbled in her ear about eloping and getting married.

We were students at the time at the University of Colorado, a campus full of world class scholars, wealthy football players and GI veterans living lavishly in Army surplus Quonset huts. But let me back up a little.

Marilyn and I met one April evening when her sorority stole my fraternity’s mascot, a stuffed walrus. Members from both organizations tore themselves away from their studies and attended an impromptu barbecue and beer bust on the snowy slope of a nearby mountain.

I should note here that I never saw that stuffed walrus again. I haven’t been overly fond of barbeque since.

But I was new to the college experience having just stepped into civilian clothes after three fun-filled years aboard a Coast Guard cruise ship in the North Atlantic. Still, I remembered what pretty girls looked like. In fact, I was on the prowl for one of my own.

So when I saw Marilyn daintily gnawing on a chunk of walrus — uh, barbeque — I shouted, “Huzzah!” because I knew I’d struck the mother lode. I cleverly spilled some beer on her foot and introduced myself.

But she said, “I’m already taken,” and she thrust a tiny diamond ring in my face and wiped off her shoe. “But I’ll take your coat. It’s cold up here.”

So I gave her my coat, because I was thunderstruck, or flimflammed, or whatever it is that occurs when you see someone across a crowded room and you hear the refrain from “Some enchanted evening,” with a French accent.

She was honey blonde, blue-eyed, tall and willowy, and she ate her barbeque with refinement, dribbling only one tiny droplet of sauce down her chin.

I shivered with delight and anticipation — remember, I no longer had a coat — and that’s when I asked her to wipe her chin and marry me.

“I thought I told you,” she said, cocking her head. “I’m engaged.”

I glanced around. “Is your fiancée here? We can duke it out right now. I’ll even hold back my famous right cross and compromise — he can be my best man.”

“He’s in Albuquerque.”

“You mean he left you here in the Colorado mountains unattended?” I cried. “Where’s your duenna? Doesn’t he realize evil guys with snarling thoughts abound in these parts and would latch onto Grandma Moses if she’d shed her canvas?”

“His home is in Albuquerque,” she said. “He’s a Baptist preacher.”

It was as though she had said, “Well, my broker is Merrill-Lynch, and they say…” The entire barbeque assemblage skidded to a halt — a frozen moment in time. I heard someone whisper, “Did she say PREACHER?”
My memory of our courtship gets a little hazy from that point on, and for good reason. I had to shovel snow for extra money so I could live on cottage cheese three meals a day and justify “Dates with Marilyn” in my $100 a month GI Bill budget.

But I’ll never forget Marilyn sending that tiny diamond ring back to her preacher, because she innocently insured it for $10,000, and it was delivered in an armored car during a church board meeting. Talk about your bridge burning.

So one evening I told her, “Let’s elope.”

“Are you proposing?”

“I’ve been proposing every night for the past two months,” I said. “I’m serious.”

She shook her head. “If I wanted serious, I’d marry a Baptist preacher.”

“That’s why we should elope,” I said. “See how frivolous I can get?”

“Well, I do love you when you’re playful,” she said, “but we can’t get married until June 21, and we have to honeymoon in Juneau, Alaska.”

So we eloped and married on June 21, even though I failed to comprehend the deep-rooted tradition handed down mother-to-daughter through centuries of evil plotting. It just didn’t sink in that June 21 was the summer solstice — the longest day of the year.

Conversely, the night of June 21 was the SHORTEST NIGHT, especially in Juneau, Alaska.

Bob Huber is a retired journalist living in Portales. He can be contacted at 356-3674.