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Segovia, Spain – the view from our window
El Alcazar – our first castle tour!!
Nice, France
The Trevi Fountain in Rome
Boat Tour of Lake Geneva, surprisingly included with our Eurail Pass. I like that we are holding hands. Note the ashtray on the table for indoor smoking! We did not partake.
Greg’s favorite trees in Wurzberg, Germany

Greg and I were married thirty years ago today. A long time, all things considered. We had a little celebration at our new favorite British Pub yesterday, high on deliciousness and low on fanfare, before watching a Pink Floyd movie nearly as old as we are. It was a grand day of relaxation. As the two previous days were spent spreading twenty yards of bark mulch around the front and back gardens, it was a welcome respite. The top photo is a glorious first glimpse. All the work rendered us both bone tired and me rather sleepless, too. I kept thinking about how far we have come.

The London Transport photos were the first “in-person” day of our honeymoon, after flying through Newark and overnight across the Atlantic, arriving bright and early in London. It also lets you know how short I am in comparison to Greg, as the photo booth stool was not adjustable.

The serviceberry is surrounded by a whole host of volunteers: goldenrod, penstemon, and evening primrose. Strong plants, like our mostly good habits, flourish when given proper attention.

Gardening is so much like the cultivation of a marriage. The lilac is probably as old as our house, and while it was quite large from all those years in the ground, not all of it was healthy. When we cut out the unruly bits and dead wood, it flourished. We’ve done this so many times in our relationship, with people and habits, and never been the worse for it.

On our trip, we were careful not to have too much. Everything we owned was on our bodies and backs, a repetition of the essentials. Any object that failed to meet the criteria was left behind. The same is true with our garden. We started with such a wide variety of plants! As the years pass, the number dwindles, as weather and animals (wild and domesticated canine) show us which are hale and hearty and worthy of replanting.

I was well into saving for a trip to Europe when I met Greg. After I was certain I liked him, I shared my plans and asked if he wanted to join me. He said, YES! For a time, we thought we might get married there, but in those days before the interwebs, it presented a logistical nightmare, so we made it our honeymoon.

We decided to travel for two months and saved for the nearly two years of our long distance engagement, while still in college (such young things), totaling $3000 dollars between the two of us. It was ALL in traveler’s checks that we kept secured, along with our passports, in pouches that hung around Greg’s neck and my waist. I cannot imagine such thrift nor travel without a credit card now. How we, and the times, have changed.

Then, as now, we still like to try new things, even if we decide they aren’t worth the bother. Topless bathing is one such example. How tan I was from all the walking though!

Thankfully, Greg and I learned early on, specifically when we were in Nice (France!), the value of rest. We had been go-going, walking much of every day and taking overnight trains to save on time, when it hit us. We were becoming crabby and 100% to each other.

So, in this place of great beauty and sunshine, we stayed for ten glorious days, lolling at the beach, reading and swimming, and sleeping in, too. Near the end of our stint, we even moved from a one-star hotel ($20 a night!) to basically an apartment, with a kitchenette, for $10 more a night. We could have cold and hot food and eat it at an actual table. The luxury!

I believe the greatest luxury of these past thirty years is the result of our dedication to each other. We are always striving to be and do better, in the garden, around the house, in how we treat each other. We are keen at observing the weeds and promptly taking care of them. We are better at loving, at giving each other space, at knowing when we are wrong and apologizing. We continue to blossom, and it feels like being the luckiest couple in the world.

Thirteen year-old Colleen. It is 1984. My hair is feathered. I’m wearing pink eye shadow and nail polish, while our cute kitten, Mitzi, uses me as her personal jungle gym.

In My Room, junior year. Sorry, Beach Boys. How about those bangs? I was a major consumer of Suave hairspray and all things James Dean. Please note the cool hi-fi, secondhand and bought with my own money. I could crank it, peeps.

Mid-way through senior year, I ditched the bangs, a la Belinda Carlisle. It was a major compliment when I first met my friend Barry (are you there?), and he told me I looked like her. I love that these are still my signature colors. Tried and true.

And now, for the real reason we are here. Sometimes, even an enjoyable task, like reminiscing about favorite songs from your formative years, can feel incredibly daunting. Where to begin? What do I include? What don’t I include? It is so big and so important. Seriously. Music, and particularly from this era, has been such a part of my identity. I took my first steps toward adulthood with these notes in my ears, often with friends, but mostly on my own, in the solace of my bedroom, and later, the sacred space of my 1981 Toyota Celica, the very first place I could be truly alone. Nothing here belongs to another, in that joining the crowd to “fit in” fashion. Each was chosen intentionally, specifically, for my own joy or sorrow, singing at top of voice, often while dancing.

With a handful of exceptions, I owned, mostly on tape, each of these bits of wonder, alphabetized (of course!) in my bedroom, and later, rotating a dozen or so in a nifty zippered case behind the passenger seat of my car. What great companions they were!

I thought about breaking this up into several parts, but decided against it, in that teenager popping cassette after cassette into the player on some warm day, with nothing better to do. I hope you enjoy…

Journey – Faithfully. For Mike. I have never forgotten.

Van Halen – Jump

The Church – No Explanation

The Damned – Alone Again Or

Motley Crue – Shout at the Devil I knew ALL the words. Yes, ma’am.

Killing Joke – Love like Blood

The Stone Roses – I Wanna Be Adored

The Smiths – How Soon is Now?

New Order – Thieves Like Us

Bronski Beat – Smalltown Boy

Madonna – Borderline

Whitney Houston – The Greatest Love of All Oh, Whitney! Voice of an angel. This is my absolute favorite song of hers. Get this playing, and you’ll see me bawl like a wee babe, I gua-ran-tee it.

Janet Jackson – When I Think of You

Billy Idol – Eyes Without a Face

Billy Squier – In the Dark

The Cult – She Sells Sanctuary

Talk Talk – It’s My Life

Depeche Mode – Just Can’t Get Enough

Bauhaus – Bela Lugosi is Dead

INXS – Don’t Change

The Cure – Close to Me

Echo and the Bunnymen – Lips Like Sugar

Beastie Boys – Hold it Now, Hit It

The Sugarcubes – Birthday

Psychic TV – Wicked

Psychedelic Furs – The Ghost in You

The Clash – The Magnificent Seven

Elvis Costello – Pump it Up

Simple Minds – Sanctify Yourself

The The – This is the Day

Eric B. and Rakim – I Ain’t No Joke

Peter Gabriel – San Jacinto, the very best version from Peter Gabriel Plays Live, with, quite possibly the most fabulous make-up on an album cover, ever. Stunning. When Greg and I started dating, and I found this album among his collection, I took it as a sign from on high. We like the same music!!

Violent Femmes – Blister in the Sun

Frankie Goes to Hollywood – Two Tribes

U2 – Bad

Big Audio Dynamite – Rush

Pet Shop Boys – Love Comes Quickly

Information Society – What’s on Your Mind

‘Til Tuesday – Voices Carry

Public Image Limited – Rise

LL Cool J – I’m Bad

Stevie Nicks & Tom Petty – Stop Dragging My Heart Around

Nine inch Nails – Down in It

Steve Winwood – While You See a Chance

The English Beat – Save it for Later

Public Enemy – Don’t Believe the Hype

Talking Heads – Girlfriend is Better

Robert Plant – In the Mood This was the first album I bought with my own money. Thirteen years old, I walked the twenty minutes from my house to Sweet’s Records and Tapes at 80th & Wadsworth and proudly put my cash on the counter. It was a stellar moment of independence and freedom.

General Public – Tenderness

The GoGo’s – Head Over Heels

Too Short – Life Is… Thank you, Bub.

After the Fire – Der Komissar

Golden Earring – Twilight Zone

The Kinks – Come Dancing

Prince – Baby, I’m a Star. Dance, dance, dance…

Genesis – Abacab

Big Country – In a Big Country

New Edition – Cool it Now Ronny, Bobby, Ricky, and Mike…

Modern English – I Melt With You

Loverboy – Turn Me Loose My concert going ways started with Loverboy. Thanks to my Uncle Chris for taking me to Big Mac all those years ago!

Eurythmics – Love is a Stranger

Eddie Murphy – Party All the Time. Uh-huh, you got that right.

Robert Palmer – You are in My System

Soul II Soul – Jazzie’s Groove

Kate Bush – Reaching Out

The Pretenders – Middle of the Road

Brian Patrick Hagman. I knew Brian in junior high, only vaguely, boyfriend of a friend, giant smiled and preppy, winner of the science fair. Fast forward two years, Junior English, and he’s lanky and much more handsome, the best hair at school, seated next to me. No longer preppy, sporting shirts emblazoned with my own recent obsession: SKULLS. I am instantly smitten, duh, duh, duh. Though he has zero romantic interest in me, we are fast friends in all other arenas.

On our first outing, he picks me up in his coolest of cool cars, a red convertible VW Bug. We sail down I-70, hair whipping, a cacophony of tunes and voices shouting over the din. Destination: Mushroom Tables, me a lone female among a sea of skaters, the magic and splendor, joy and ease. There will be more of this and other hangouts, caffeinated evenings, diners and dives, Paris on the Platte, too.

Brian will form a band – Wretched Refuse – named after the Emma Lazarus poem, cementing both his daring and intelligence. He was ALWAYS the smartest person in the room. I’ll attend shows, mostly in shady warehouses downtown: deafening, rowdy, moments straight from fil-ums, and stand in awe of his wit and charisma.

Always open to novel experiences, I organize an evening at a theater above Paris, Sam Shepard’s Seduced. If you’ve seen it, you likely know where I am heading. Imagine being seventeen, sitting next to a boy you fancy, while simultaneously trying to pretend this creepy, long nailed, Kleenex flinging weirdo isn’t simulating masturbation right before your eyes. I don’t think the pair of us ever worked so hard NOT to look at each other.

In that youthful time of firsts, my season with Brian was a source of many: first ride in a convertible, first cigarette (oof!), first and last porno play, first (only?) friend to show up wearing the same shirt without prior planning, first friend to get a tattoo (and later name his second band after it), and first friend with whom I will play pool and stay out until dawn, in one extraordinary two-fer.

That halcyon night into morning, testament to Brian’s story telling prowess, had him conjuring us, as we all wore Army inspired garments, as veterans of Vietnam, our detailed fictional history brilliantly woven from the ether. After a smashing defeat at the pool hall, with me at the wheel, Joy Division on the speakers, we zoomed the back way to Boulder and across the diagonal, to Longmont, nearly Ft. Collins. The laughter and stories, going, going, of our dreams, of landscapes, of Rudy (Ru-dayyy) the Zippo lighter, a gift from Mike Lombardi, also present, though no longer, lost more than a decade ago.

Life separated us, for painful and practical reasons, and this conjuring of memory, a joyful opening of a precious time capsule, the result of me wondering if he breathes still. My kindly friend who never belittled nor diminished me, who smiled, who filled rooms with thunderous laughter, both his own and in response to him. How I loved him. How I loved who we were together.

Greetings from Pella, Iowa, town of all things windmills, tasty pastry, deluxe sausage (think Slim Jim, only AMAZING), and window manufacturing. How I loved the old buildings and their charming fronts. My cute, best-ever travel companions, Greg and Juniper! She donned an insect repellent bandanna for much of our trip, as the Mid-West bug situation is next level. I still have remains from quarter inch welts (mosquito?), which I used to think only existed in the world of movies. How disappointing to be so very wrong, dear peeps.

I failed to fill the big shoes but still had quite a lot of fun!

Pella has the cutest downtown, chock full of Dutch inspired architecture spanning the ages. The rightmost building in the above photo, holding the Jaarsma Bakery, was one of our prime destinations. In addition to baked goods, they sell all manner of fun Dutch goods: candies, shoes of wood and ceramic, ornaments galore. I was a stellar customer, buying many gifts in addition to Dutch Letters, a crazy good apple pastry, and a couple varieties of cookie. Ulrich Meat market was our first and best source of the beef meat sticks, partaking in a bacon jalapeno and smoked gouda. So good!

My friend Bob recommended super cute Dutch Fix, and it did not disappoint! Frisian Fries (like poutine, but with a spiced gravy), and a Gouda Burger. And fear not, the two of us shared them. It was vacation, and we ate A LOT, but those huge portions would have been madness!

Pella’s Klokkenspel rings out with figurines a couple of times a day. Cute, but not half as exciting as it sounds.

And now, the sweet town square of Oskaloosa, just a bit down the road from Pella.

Oskaloosa is in Mahaska County, and this statue depicts the Iowan Chief for whom the county was named.

Oskaloosa City Hall

Oskaloosa Public Library

Inside the Smokey Row Coffee House. They’ve converted an old department store, filled with every manner of sign found in the town, including this dazzler of a movie marquee. I highly recommend both the coffee and the sweet service. I chatted up a kindly woman from St. Louis, attending William Penn college on a volleyball scholarship. How intimate and inviting the world becomes in situations like these.

Quaker Friends Meeting House

Amos Briggs & Edith McCracken Briggs

And now the reason for our visit to this tiny town. My Great-Great Grandparents Amos and Edith lived here! They were successful farmers and Quakers and most definitely attended the Meeting House above, along with my Great Grandpa and his siblings, John and Clara. Grandpa Amos died in Oskaloosa in 1911, and despite a valiant effort to visit his grave, I never could find it. Sad face. Grandma Edith lived in Colorado after his death and was the only grandmother my Grandma Frances ever knew.

Baby Howard

My Great Grandfather William Howard Briggs was born March 3, 1894. Adults called him Howard (when angry, he was “How-errrd!!” to Grandma Tillie), but always Grandpa Briggs to me. All the buildings I chose to photograph, save the fabulous Eagle in front of the Fire Station, existed during his time in Oskaloosa. My heart swelled at the thought of him wandering as I did, most especially at the library.

Grandpa Briggs enlisted in the military on June 5, 1917 at Laramie, Wyoming during World War I.

He met my Grandma Tillie at a dance in Greeley, Colorado after the war. They were married on June 23, 1919. This photo was taken three years later, in November. Wasn’t he dapper?

This is the younger version of how I remember him, holding court in his chair, cigar or paper back (Louis L’Amour) in hand, often a mischievous grin on his lips. Perhaps because I was such a vocal and independent child, Grandma Tillie was never terribly nice to me. Her favorite, forever and always, in obvious and small ways, was my cousin Brad. Grandpa Briggs clearly recognized this. While I have no recollection of a single word uttered between us (his voice an unknowable mystery), I remember him with great fondness, his huge hand enveloping mine, walking with me to the Western Motor Lodge, and letting me choose penny candy. His was the first death (March 9, 1980) affecting my own person, experienced as a sincere loss, when I was nearly nine years old. What magic to connect with his youth as he did with mine.

Hi All –

Over at Fox’s Lane, she posted about where she was twenty-one years ago and asked readers the same. I loved the idea, and here we are.

At that time, Greg and I had been married for eight years, living in Portland (Oregon) for three in our cute cottage on Southeast 56th Avenue. After buying our house in the summer of 1998, the furnace died. It was a $4000 hit, and as we put every bit of savings into buying the house, we were still struggling to pay for it and a new water heater. I remember wondering when we’d be able to be more whimsical with our spending, when we wouldn’t have to scrimp to take a vacation or update something in the house. My fingers were perpetually crossed that nothing else would break and die.

But we had a house, and we did the small but big impact projects like painting and painting some more. Each room was a different color, which had been my dream. Sage green, pale yellow, soothing grey, a lavender guest room! We bought second hand furniture and inexpensive art to fill every space with interest and variety, to feel like ours. And it really did. I gardened and coaxed our weed-filled back yard into an oasis, learning so very much and loving the process.

Greg, as he did before and has since, worked as a software engineer. His job was in Wilsonville, a twenty-minute commute on a good day. On a bad one, when a bridge was up (Hello, Willamette River), it might take an hour and a half. Bye-bye hot dinner or any plan for week night movie rentals (walking to Hollywood Video!!). The worst bit, since it was pre-cell phone days (They were expensive, so we were very late adopters), I never knew if he was okay. I dreamt aloud about him working from home, how amazing that would be, and he was rather blunt in his assessment that it would never happen. How glad I am that he was wrong about that, now on year eight of 100% at home labor.

I worked for the City of Portland, at the Bureau of Housing and Community Development, nearly, if not the lowest person on the totem pole. I had kindly co-workers, and the pay was decent, but I had my Master’s in Education, earned before we left Colorado, and was eager to put it to use. Unlike now, it was not the time for new teachers. Jobs were very, very scarce (unless a body had experience coaching sports), and every time I was hired, it was only to fill a temporary gap. I got additional education, so I could teach English or French or both, and that made my prospects only moderately better. I would not get steady teaching work for another five years. Then it was as an adjunct at Clark College, making waaaay less than I did when I taught for a single year of high school (going between two schools – gap filler!).

We were young and happy and adventurous, growing as a couple, learning how to be better to ourselves and each other. We walked and biked and drove all over the city and really fell in love with Oregon and Washington. The cats were healthy and playful and young (Hello in heaven, you two!). We thought we’d found our forever home on that sweet corner of Portland, never imagining we’d leave in thirteen years.

But we did, and here we are two houses later. In the next twenty-one years, we will move to Taos or some other quiet town with good medical care and an organic grocery, live in our likely final dream home (gotta stay open), be surrounded by another xeriscaped oasis, enjoy a little veggie patch, maybe have another dog, a smaller pick up without breaking my back size, and continue to love each other, in bigger and better ways.

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