• James E Aarons DVM

Winter Wedding: Fear of Failure, Chapter 34

Mary and I Wed

Early in the spring of 1986 Mary came to me and told me it was time; we either became married, or we needed to split up. I was a bit surprised because we had only been dating just over a year. I felt, probably like many other men, a year is not a lot of time to entertain the thought of marriage. However, the deal was on the table. I needed to weigh my options, but the choice was not hard. I was living with an attractive and accomplished woman who held a strong sense of family, just as I did. Mary’s house and grounds offered my creativity an open palette.

Finally, the most important piece of knowledge pushing me to the proposal; Mary exhibited a mature, settled outlook. I was tired of going fishing and getting bit by the fish. Although to be fair, I am a clumsy and ill-equipped fisherman, I admit it. Nonetheless, I felt there were no surprises with Mary. And she carried little emotional baggage, I reasoned. She had no previous entangling relationships, and more importantly, she had no children from prior marriages. I never felt her expectations would leave her expecting me to be someone I wasn’t, that both she and I were up to the task of creating a future life together.

Deciding to stay, I knew I needed a marriage proposal. And I very much disliked the idea of an engagement ring. Whenever I saw a woman announce her engagement to the world, I couldn’t focus on the excitement garnered by the bride-to-be sharing her dreams of future happiness, feeling the type and quality of the ring were the real reasons for the proposal excitement. Now I realize how cynical an outlook that is, but that's what I felt about that stuff then. Probably this was a result of the embarrassment I garnered when I married Mel because it was so garishly ostentatious.

It was as if the excitement of the ring was the guarantor of the couple’s future happiness. I needed another idea. Luckily for me, Mary was open to a gift other than a ring. We shopped around and picked out an attractive piece of jewelry we both liked.

By summer I saved enough to purchase the gift. Mary was in Los Angeles to help promote the tourist industry of San Luis Obispo at a tourist convention in the LA Civic Center. Explaining I was flying down to check out some veterinary equipment; I asked her to have dinner with me. She agreed, and I arranged for an outdoor dinner on Olvera Street, the oldest part of Los Angeles. I suppose I had gotten the idea from Sunset Magazine.

I flew to LA International Saturday afternoon and took a taxi to Olvera Street. I was pleased; the place exuded the perfect nostalgic ambiance. Colorful piñatas, taco stands, and Mexican shops and restaurants stood on either side of the brick walkways. I saw Mary; we met to have dinner outside.

At the end of dinner, reaching behind me I fished out a large jewelry container opened it.

"Will you marry me?" I asked her, displaying a beautiful pearl necklace.

"Yes." Mary agreed to marry me.

We settled on January 16 of the next year, 1987 to become married. She wanted the wedding to be in Steamboat Springs. So, four months after visiting Steamboat in the fall for the Embryo Transfer course, we flew back. We were getting married Friday but went up four days early so I could return to Fort Collins for continuing education. The 48th Annual Conference of the Colorado Veterinary Medical Association was to be held Monday through Thursday, and I wanted to attend some lectures.

Because it was winter, we were able to book a direct ski flight from San Luis Obispo into the mountains bypassing Denver, landing in Hayden, small airport a few miles from Steamboat. Although the terminal was small, the tarmac was lengthened to handle those medium-size jets just for the type of ski flight we booked. The airport, called Yampa Valley Airport was a driving distance of only 25 miles west of Steamboat.

The flight was one of the most luxurious I have ever taken. There were only eight or ten passengers. And the fuselage wasn't laid out in the usual three or four seats abreast, row after row, here they offered large first class style chairs in pairs on each side of the jet, and large tables were comfortably accessible in front of the seats.

On the tables, the flight attendants gave everyone a pair of sunglasses, a tube of lip balm, and an open bottle of wine with wine glasses. It was a direct flight, and one of my most memorable.

The morning after we arrived I again borrowed Ed's car to drive to Fort Collins, attending lectures on abdominal surgery in small animals, endocrinopathies in small animals, and feline infectious diseases. And I attended classes on reptilian and avian medicine because I just started working at our local zoo.

I drove back to Steamboat through the cold, clear darkness Wednesday night when the conference was over, looking forward to the festivities.

The next day I went skiing with Joe and Rick, the penis portions of the Leaner, Lunker, and Betsy show. Rick was a photographer who learned to ski backward so he could take pictures of people on the hill. And when he posted the pictures of the same individuals when they were getting off the hill, they could see themselves and buy trophy pictures for their friends.

Skiing the Rocky Mountains around Steamboat was unlike any other skiing I’ve done. Martha and I spent a week in Utah at Park City, and I had spent many veterinary school days skiing the Sierras at Heavenly Valley and Kirkwood, but the mountains of Steamboat dwarfed any other mountain I skied on. At the top of the lift, the Yampa valley floor and hillsides stretched into the horizon, covered white from snow and green from the conifers, the fall colors long ago buried underneath a thick blanket of white. The mountains scraped the sky, and the runs ran for miles. My legs ached from overuse, unused to descending such long runs. I found I needed to stop often until that burning in my leg muscles subsided.

We three boys returned to the hill the next day. The wedding was to be at 7:00 pm, so I had time to put in another full day on the slopes. We finished about 4:00 and made it back to the house at 5:00. The wedding was in two hours. The tabletop was filling up with the usual wedding accouterments: plates, flatware, and glasses, appetizer plates were laid out, and the cake was on the kitchen counter top. Mary was in a slip fussing with her hair, so I went over to her telling her I was hungry.

“Is there anything I can eat?” I asked. Mary stopped working her hair. She looked right at me. Her mouth opened a little, she turned her head to Joe and asked him if he would take me out for a while. He did. We went out for beer and hamburgers.

Things were even busier in the house when I got back. People were arriving. I slipped into the bedroom to change into my suit. I looked in the mirror to adjust my tie.

Ohh… boy. My face was bright red from skiing the last two days.

“Oh well. I imagine such faces show up a lot around Steamboat in the winter,” I was thinking to myself. Mary wanted to know if I needed a piece of paper from which to recite my vows. I told her no, I would just memorize the lines. I went over to a quiet corner of the room and sat at a desk. Mary had written the vows on a piece of white cardboard that came with her pantyhose. I found some pieces of paper and proceeded to memorize the lines by writing them out. After some time I was ready to recite four lines of vows. I crumbled my practice papers and tossed them in the trashcan, folded the cardboard and put it in my back pocket. Finishing my homework, I was ready.

When the justice arrived everyone shuffled into place, and Mary came out of the hallway. Ohh… She was beautiful, wearing a multilayer lacy white dress, and a large white flower in her curled hair. Joe and Rick were best man and bridesmaid. I don’t remember which was the bridesmaid. The four of us gathered in a tight line in front of the fireplace looking at the Justice of the Peace. Our group of friends filled the rest of the room.

We exchanged vows. I think Mary went first. When it was my turn, I looked up at the Justice, scanned the room filled with people, and promptly forgot my four lines. I was quiet for a second. Letting out a soft moan I reached into my back pocket and pulled out the vows written on the pantyhose cardboard.

I JIM, TAKE YOU MARY TO BE MY WEDDED WIFE.

I PROMISE TO BE TRUE TO YOU ALWAYS, IN SICKNESS OR IN HEALTH, IN POVERTY OR WEALTH, IN MY THOUGHTS AND MY WORDS.

I WILL BE YOUR LOVER AND YOUR BEST FRIEND, FOR YOU ARE MY FAVORITE.

I LOVE YOU.”

We exchanged wedding rings. Clapping and partying began. Towards the end of the evening, Mary wanted to relax by going out on the town. Mary and I, Joe and Rick, and a handful of others went out in the sub-zero weather to continue celebrating. I remember sitting in the tavern next to the red brick wall. The wall was cold. Outside it was 40 degrees below zero. The extreme coldness felt as if it were pressing against the wall, and was doing its best to penetrate the building. And the coldness seemed to be winning. The tavern heater was having a hard time keeping the cold at bay. Luckily for us, we had dressed appropriately, and we comfortably (?) made our way around Steamboat Springs that evening of January 16, 1987.

Last Chapter: Olvera Street Proposal Next Chapter: Local Wedding




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