Nineteen

Nineteen years ago today was a chilly, overcast Sunday, the close of Thanksgiving weekend. Kate and I had a date at 2 in the afternoon at Turning Two, the preschool in the Berkeley Hills where she taught. She had gone ahead to meet some people up there; I was running a little behind, cooking a couple of Russian macaroni casseroles out of the Moosewood Cookbook. When I finally got there, about 15 minutes late, it was just starting to rain.

Who was there? My mom and dad, on their first visit to Berkeley since I moved out here from Chicago’s south suburbs in 1976. My son Eamon, who was six at the time. And a small group of friends. Trapper Byrne and Judy Wong, whom we knew from our days at The Daily Californian (they’re married now, live in Lafayette, and have two kids, Elizabeth and Keenan). Robin Woods and Jim Tronoff, also close friends from Daily Cal days (they’re married now, too; Robin got her Ph.D. in English literature from UC-Berkeley and is now a professor at Ripon College, in the same Wisconsin town where the Republican Party got its start in 1854). Our great friends Larry Hickey and Ursula Stehle, whom I’d met shortly after Eamon was born in 1979; they came down to Berkeley for the day with their two sons, Dylan and Dominic (Ursula was about halfway through her pregnancy with their daughter, Megan). Bill Joyce, a friend we met through Larry and Ursula, a teacher, lover of literature, and prankster of note. George Paolini and Jane Paulsen, comrades from the Alameda Times-Star (slogan: “25 cents — worth more”). Vicki Carlton, who started and ran Turning Two, and her husband Ross and her daughter Cedar. And finally, Bruce Hilton, a Methodist minister, copy editor, and tuba player. I think that’s everybody.

It was our wedding day, in a preschool classroom looking out into the mist and rain and dusk spreading across the town below us.

Kate and I said the vows we’d written with Bruce’s help, including a bit from Yeats’s “The Two Trees,” Bruce married us over no objections from the onlookers. Then we ate our potluck dinner, the kids played in the schoolroom, and Bill and Larry led us in a couple of songs, “The Gypsy Rover” and a version of The Clancy Brothers’ “Haul Away Joe” refashioned for the occasion. After dark, the party broke up, and a few of us went down to the Albatross, our semi-regular bar on San Pablo Avenue. Bob Johnson, one of the two Icelandic-American North Dakota brothers who owned the place, brought out complimentary bottles of Cook’s champagne (OK, “champagne”) when he heard what we had been up to. Later, we went home to the “little yellow apartment,” my tiny studio-like hovel on Addison Street.

Nineteen years. Not so long, really. We look different, but I think we’re still the same two people, still learning about each other and about how life and marriage work. I’d gladly go back and do all the years again; but I think I’m happiest to trace them back, remember them, and go ahead from where we are on this December 1.

Thanks, darling Kate.

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