Bonnie and Jason arrived first, so they got to choose where we went out to eat: Neely’s BBQ on Mount Moriah Road, conveniently just around the corner from our house. The anniversary couple–my parents, Tom and Nancy Hord–arrived next.
The get-together was a week after Mom and Dad’s December 21 anniversary. It was billed as a family Christmas. My siblings and I hatched the 40th anniversary dinner idea several months before but kept it under wraps.
Bonnie and John were in charge of the archival photos and OU paraphernalia, respectively. Bonnie works at the Texas State House of Representatives, where she has honed her skills at finding and editing Cool Old Photos and newspapers from Back In The Day. She found, among other things, a photo of the Big Boy restaurant where our parents dined on their first date. John, most recent in a long family line of University of Oklahoma alumni, made a trip to the Sooner Store for items that would evoke Mom and Dad’s days as college juniors, when they first met.
Mary penned the anniversary Mad Lib. It told the (adjective) story of how Mom and Dad met and their first date. Mary gave them the fill-in page only, blank but for the lines where they wrote the specified parts of speech. After that was complete, she handed them the story she’d created and they read it with the words they’d generated.
We used to do Mad Libs in the car on road trips or when together at holidays. As kids, we even acted out one that contained the line, “So did the doctor say it’s a boy or a sock? [gesturing with props]” We spit-took it forever after. Spit-took: verb, past tense?
Because everyone had converged at my house–from Christiansburg VA, Austin TX, State College PA, and Colorado Springs CO–I was in charge of dinner. Luckily we’d made the gelato in advance and the salad was easily hand-chopped and tossed by the LED glow of a headlamp. A transformer in our neighborhood had chosen Top Secret Anniversary Dinner afternoon to blow out.
Our friendly neighbors the Hendrixes had a gas stove and allowed me to make the soup and risotto in their kitchen. John and Sarah donned oven mitts and made several trips carrying food and cooking equipment through the wooden swing fence and our back door. Ivan ordered pizza for 10: four siblings plus spice and 2 grandkids. Mom and Dad stayed entertained, though I’m sure they knew something was up. Huh, it’s dark, I can’t see–are they feeding Camilla and Carson (age 3 and 2) chocolate before dinner? Oh, well!
When it was time I set my laptop on the buffet and queued up the playlist, hoping the battery would last for the whole set. I’d chosen some Mamas and the Papas tunes, Otis Redding’s Sittin’ by the Dock of the Bay, tracks from The Graduate, Lara’s Theme from Dr. Zhivago (the movie Mom and Dad saw on their first date), and a brassy rendition of Boomer Sooner. Then we lit the candles, seated the couple, and closed the dining room doors.