Tomorrow is Veterans Day. Larry took the photo of the flag back in 1999. People are always surprised when they ask for a favorite holiday and I answer with Veterans Day. But this is mine, and for more than one reason. The obvious: I'm a vet. It's such an honor to stand with pride when presented with an opportunity to do so, in any group of vets. It's moving, to salute the flag as a civilian, hand over heart, instantly recalling the thrill of being able to salute it as a soldier. I remember, when I was in the Women's Army Corps and later the US Army, each evening at dusk when the flag was struck and the bugler played To The Color. Everyone on base was expected to stop what they were doing and honor the flag. Career soldiers would scoot inside where they could continue whatever they were doing uninterrupted. But for me, saluting the flag was a privilege and I would walk a little slower to my car, just to participate. When someone says, "Were you in the military?" I stand a little taller when I say yes. It's a point of pride. I'll never get used to the current thank you for your service response, because I reserve that for the people who have been at war. My own service, although at the end of the Viet Nam era, was all stateside. But like all of us, I went where I was told to go, where I was needed.
But there's more. For me, Veterans Day marks an anniversary. Once upon a time, one November day in 1987, my sweetheart stood in a jewelry store, having a diamond mounted into an engagement ring. I waited out in the mall, smoking what would be my last cigarette of my pack-and-a-half a day habit. I would have to trade the habit for the ring. This man I loved had to fight for his oxygen. If I wanted to be a part of his life, I couldn't very well make that fight harder. So I was out in the mall thinking, "Wait. Don't propose yet. Just one more." But I stubbed it out and walked away. And Larry came out of the jewelry store and said, "Let's go." He'd been rehearsing exactly what he wanted to say. All I had to rehearse was, "Yes." We headed over to the Sea Grille, a special restaurant where Larry had out of the blue, and quite publicly, kissed me for the first time, scaring the living daylights out of me and changing my life forever. He thought that would be the right place to propose. But when we got there, he was clearly uncomfortable. And boy, so was I. He was about to order drinks and I was about to attempt a cocktail without a cigarette. Hmmm. You could say I was distracted. And Larry was squirming in his seat. I thought it a bit odd that he'd be so nervous when the outcome was a given, but it turns out, he'd had a change of heart. Not about me. Not about getting married. About the venue. "This is all wrong," he said, and escorted me out.
We went back to the house. He put on Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon, and proceeded with the most long-winded convoluted proposal, evidently winging it, stumbling for the next sentence until with a sigh of relief he asked, "Will you marry me?" When I said yes, he kissed me, of course... but he had timed it for the bells at the beginning of the Time soundtrack. For the three decades that followed, he kissed me every time that song began. We raised four children who knew that when Time started to play, they needed to get out of the way because no matter where we were in the house, we would find each other for that kiss. Damn. No crying. No tears! I like these lashes. Whew. Ok.
Well maybe just one tear, for the time I forgot to take the Dark Side of the Moon CD out of the player when Larry was out of town, and had the player set to 'random'. When Time started, the kids all froze. I didn't know what to do. And then Gary, who was four, came running up to me and said, "I'll kiss you, Mommy. I love you." I said, "I love you, too, sweetheart," and he said, "I love you three."
Ok. Misty. No tears. I got this.
Larry kissed me at the Sea Grille August 14, 1987. He proposed to me on Veteran's Day, 1987. We were married August 14, 1988. Dates are important to us. Dates matter. But they aren't sacred. We moved holidays around to suit us, or family obligations. We celebrated in silly ways. Larry took me to Burger King for my birthday and wedding anniversary. He bought me things for Christmas if I asked for them. (Once, I told him that the most romantic thing I'd ever seen was when Rigo filled Audrey's Christmas stocking and included emery boards. It was just so thoughtful. And every single Christmas after that, there were emery boards in my stocking.) I got roses on my anniversary, one red rose for every year marriage, and one white rose for the kiss. But he reserved all his energy and creativity and grand gestures for November 11th. Veteran's Day. He would laugh and say it was because it was the day I quit smoking. But I knew. I knew how proud he was to be married to a vet. And I knew he was marking the day he proposed. And he'd put on Pink Floyd. And Time would play. And he'd kiss me, and I'd hear bells.
I'm going to ruin these stinking eyelashes at this rate. Well. Who needs eyelashes when you've had Larry Wright for thirty years? I win.
See ya later.