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Wedding bell blues? Possibly, but frayed knot

Column by Jim Bishop

“How the time flies,

When I’m near you …”

– Jerry Wallace ( 1958 )

Time munches on … and sure gives you a lot to chew on.

That reality smacked up against my head again the other week as my good wife and I greeted another milepost on the superhighway of life.

On July 22, Anna commiserated, er, celebrated another birthday (won’t say which one, but for the next nine months she’ll be a year older than me). That same day marked another wedding anniversary, our (gulp), 41st. That’s what sorta hit us where we live.

I took the day off work – only the third day spent that way this summer – and while I’m glad I did, in retrospect, I think I tried too hard to make things slow down, because we’re realizing anew how fast the sand is slipping through the hourglass.

We went out for a leisurely breakfast at a favorite local restaurant. The fare was fine, but Anna told me later that I make better coffee at home, a mixture of Maxwell House and Starbucks medium house blend.

We reminisced about our wedding, an unpretentious affair held on a sweltering summer evening at Frazer Mennonite Church along Rt. 30 west of Paoli. It was an ideal geographic setting half way between Anna’s home community and mine. She has relatives at this congregation and had assisted with summer Bible school there for several years growing up.

The ceremony was quite traditional; we wish we’d have tried to be more creative without pulling stunts that may have proved troubling to extended family. But, after all, it was a different era, especially in the Mennonite Church. The officiating minister, rest his soul, was largely concerned that “Sister Anna” would wear the “traditional” (prayer) covering. She compromised with a simple pillbox veil.

It’s funny what stands out for me from that occasion – not so much what was said but rather the unexpected, the quirky incidents, the mood of the occasion:

– The sweltering un-airconditioned sanctuary with the minister sweating more profusely than me (I never expected to be so nervous);

– My college roommate Ralph King not showing up when it was time for him to start the pre-recorded music I’d put together (he was held up in traffic coming back from the Pocono Mountains);

– The cassette recorder one of my uncles was using going off in one of the pews (sounded like The Chipmunks on hallucinogens) just as the processional music ended;

– As the reception wound down, finding a wad of chewing gum in the bottom of the punch bowl (so that’s what happened to it!);

– Having my Uncle George Bishop, quite adept with a 16mm and a still camera, serve as wedding photographer, hiring a professional out of the question. We had just finished college with diplomas in one hand and considerable loans that needed to be repaid in the other.

– Looking at our simple photo album again and being struck by how young everyone looked. My parents, I realize now, were in their 40s; Anna’s not much older when we tied the marital knot. Anna and I were 22 and 21, respectively, and thought we had the world like a tiger by the tail. Problem is, a tiger is wont to protest any restrictions to its being, and respond accordingly, which it did as we adjusted to our connubial relationship.

– People tiring of waiting for us to leave the church, as we suddenly realized we were about the last ones remaining in the fellowship room. We were seeing extended family and friends that we hadn’t seem in ages and knew that we wouldn’t see again for a long time, given that we were headed for Elkhart, Ind., where we’d lined up our first “real” jobs after college graduation;

– From the lost and found department: our attendants’ inability to locate my ’56 VW Beatle for an interior/exterior decoration treatment (I’d hidden it in the back low of a car dealership down Rt. 30);

– Cruising down the Pennsylvania Turnpike toward the Willow Grove exit, where we’d spend our first night together at the Fiesta Motor Inn (the place has long since been torn down and replaced with a Hampton Inn); the Blaupunkt radio tuned to radio 99, Philadelphia with Jim Morrison and the Doors imploring, “C’mon baby, light my fire . . .” the number one song in the country that week. And, did she ever – then and now.

– Eating our first breakfast as newlyweds the next morning at a Howard Johnson’s (also long gone) across Rt. 611 from the Fiesta. For reasons unknown, I remember I had scrambled eggs (and thoughts).

We spent several celestial days at Smitty’s cabin at Ortley Beach, Seaside Heights, N.J., the same place the Bishop family spent many happy, glorious vacations over the years. The owner, for whom my dad did excavating work, let us use it for $50.

Anna didn’t tell me during our honeymoon, as celestial as it was, that she was nursing a toothache the whole time. As we motored out the turnpike to what would be our first domestic setting in a tiny Elkhart apartment, the VW engine gasped for breath, our rate of speed slowly decelerated and we coasted into town on wings of prayer. I was faced with a $400 engine repair our first week of married life – no money, no credit. Welcome to the real world.

That was some 41 years ago – this is now. How did we arrive at this place so quickly?

We keep asking how we can slow the pace, extend our waking hours and savor each precious day and make them count for eternity.

Someone said it astutely – time flies like an arrow, but fruit flies like a banana – and it’s slip-slidin’ away.

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