Matrimonies, memories and celebrations

My son, Patrick, proposed to his girlfriend of three years, Brandi, on March 30, and of course she said yes. It was a shocking surprise to all involved because of his insistence that he would never marry again after the devastating end of his first marriage in 2011. But, Brandi made him happy and he realized that he would be foolish not to "put a ring on it."

Brandi is a very loveable, family oriented woman. During the phone call telling of their engagement, she asked me if I had anything from my wedding that she could use in their wedding. She explained how she planned to incorporate the lace from her mother's wedding dress into her dress. That got me to thinking. After my marriage, my mother had put my wedding dress in a box to save for me. Years later, I finally rescued it from family storage and combined it with my husband Gary's wedding attire (which was hanging in our closet, but no longer fit), along with the collection of 128 cards we'd received, and put it all in a box labeled "wedding memories," which was part of our "lock, stock, and barrel" during our last three moves.

More recently (2015), when my two sisters and I spent several days sorting Mom and Dad's belongings at the old home place in Glennallen, we came across a box of all the leftover paper supplies and decorations from our 1973 wedding. They never threw anything away, so it really wasn't too surprising.

Since all that stuff had been saved those many years, I decided I wasn't yet ready to throw it away. I brought the box home and put it on the top shelf in our shop, along with the other box labeled "wedding memories." With Brandi's question, I knew right where to look for any possible mementos to share with her.

In the meantime, Gary's and my 50th anniversary was rapidly approaching. My life was overwhelmingly busy dealing with medical and financial issues, but every once in a while I would let my thoughts wander to the momentous occasion coming up on May 26. In 2008, Gary and I attended a fabulous 50th anniversary party of long-time family friends in Anchorage. It was as big of deal as a wedding, with people attending from out-of-state, a catered buffet meal, slide show, etc. I'd also recently read in the Anchorage Daily News of a couple who had taken their whole extended family on a cruise to celebrate their 50th. Back in 1973, when Gary and I had stars in our eyes, we never gave a thought to a possible 50th anniversary, let alone how we might celebrate.

Now as the day approached, I realized I was not looking forward to it. I had put a lot of thought and effort into a little celebration for just the two of us last year (Gary's first year to reside in the Palmer Pioneers Home) and it kind of fizzled. I had no desire for a repeat of that, but yet also couldn't imagine having a bigger party, sharing our special occasion with a group of strangers at the Pioneers Home. It was easier just to ignore the topic.

However, while I was in Anchorage in early March for a doctor appointment, I went to look for a bed skirt at what I thought was Bed, Bath and Beyond off the Glenn Highway. I didn't know that a newer store, Party City, had taken its place. I was going to leave and continue with the next errand on my list, but decided to at least to check out the party merchandise. At the time, Patrick and Brandi were considering an Alaskan wedding, and it would be good to know what was available. When I came to the anniversary aisle, a package of gold and white 50th anniversary balloons caught my eye. I could picture them filled with helium next to a pretty cake. I looked at all the 50th anniversary merchandise, but it was the balloons that kept calling to me.

My sister in Glennallen had asked how I planned to celebrate our 50th, but also said that if I had a party, she couldn't attend because she'd be too busy trying to get her tourist-related job set up for the summer. A friend in Cooper Landing had said we absolutely needed to celebrate and she offered to order a cake for me. At some point, while standing there in the party store in the anniversary aisle, staring at that package of balloons for 10 minutes, I had a change of attitude. Perhaps I could be agreeable to having a party at the Pioneers Home. I already had all the paper plates and napkins I needed, leftover from our wedding.

When I paid for the package of balloons, the clerk said the helium was free with purchase. I replied that I didn't want them filled, because the event was over two months away. On the drive home, I wondered if the Pioneers Home had a helium machine, since they have at least one party a month, along with appropriate themed decorations.

The next day, even before I went to Gary's room, I popped into the activities director's office to ask if they owned a helium machine and tell her my ideas for a possible 50th anniversary party. No machine, but when we checked the calendar for the day of the week and learned it was Friday, we both got excited. Fridays from 1:30 to 2:30 p.m. are always ice cream socials. I could supply the cake to go along with the ice cream. After 15 minutes of discussion, a party plan seemed to fall into place. For the first time, I looked forward to our 50th anniversary celebration.

For the next couple of months, there were more phone conversations with Patrick and Brandi about the usual planning details involving anniversaries and weddings: Clothes, food, decorations and so forth. How unusual to be involved in planning both a 50th anniversary and a son's wedding at the same time.

The May 26 anniversary party went well. Many people (who were actually not strangers) both residents and staff came up to Gary and me to share a few words of congratulations and look at our wedding photo. The Palmer Carrs-Safeway baker did a wonderful job decorating the cake and it tasted delicious, too. Although unplanned, the Pioneers Home administrator, Joshua Shaver, a talented musician, played his guitar and sang love songs in our honor.

Then on June 25, Patrick and Brandi's Denver wedding went fantastically well, with some of their (over 200) friends commenting that it was the "wedding of the year." Patrick and Brandi sipped champagne from two small 50-year-old ceramic flower vases during the "toasting," but that is a story for another time. Still to come, I hope to attend my 50th high school reunion in Glennallen on July 29 and renew some long time friendships. What a summer of celebration.

Maraley McMichael is a lifelong Alaskan currently residing in Palmer. Email her at

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Maraley McMichael is a lifelong Alaskan now residing in Palmer.

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