A week ago today, my wife, Becky, and I hit the road early to make the 41-minute, 28-mile journey to York County, South Carolina. Our destination was the historic York County Circuit Courthouse, the place where we were married by a justice of the peace 38 years ago.
Most of our friends know the story of how we met at a Father’s Day picnic, dated for several weeks, and then married after knowing each other for just six weeks and two days. We had made the same trip to York one other time; I believe it was when we celebrated our 30th anniversary. But on that occasion, it was at least a three-hour drive from our home in Hendersonville, North Carolina, and we had stayed overnight at a motel. On neither occasion, however, did we ever dream that 38 years after making that initial trip, we would end up living less than an hour away from the place that changed our lives forever.
When we pulled up to the edifice, the streets were virtually barren of automobiles, and the parking lot was blocked off with cones, owing to an ongoing construction project. We pulled our car to a stop a hundred feet or so down the block and got out. The heat was stifling, much like it had been almost 40 years ago when we came there to be married. Believe it or not, my stomach was doing the same kind of flip flopping it had done way back then. I could almost feel those nervous jitters I had experienced at the time we eloped. The enormity of what we had done, the risk we had taken, and the sense of the unknown was as palpable as the 85 percent humidity of the air.
Becky and I held hands and walked the half block to the courthouse steps. “Let’s take a picture of the courthouse by itself,” I suggested. And we did. There was no one around to take our photo, so we climbed up several steps, turned our backs to the building, pulled out our cell phones, and—you guessed it— took “selfies.” Imagine that. Two septuagenarians taking selfies on the steps of the courthouse. We laughed aloud like little children.
“Well, what do you want to do now?” I asked.
“I don’t know,” Becky said. “I’d love a hot dog”
There was a little lunch place across the street, but when we got closer to it, we realized it was closed. Then I had a brainstorm. “How about a milkshake?” I asked. Becky’s smile gave me the only answer I could have expected.
I’d like to say that we drove around town and found a 1950s ice cream parlor, where we sat at the soda fountain and sipped strawberry and vanilla concoctions served to us by a white-hatted teenage soda jerk. But we didn’t. We ended up at a local Wendy’s, where we slurped down chocolate Frosties, while sitting in our car and looking on Google Maps for a park where we could finish our drinks. We found one, but when we got there, it was only a couple of benches nestled on a grassy area the size of a postage stamp. We decided to head for home instead.
Driving back, we reflected upon all the changes that have occurred in our lives since that memorable day so very long ago: children, grandchildren, jobs, houses, friends. A lot of water has flowed under bridges and over dams, and many memories have been made, remembered, and forgotten. But one thing remains crystal clear: If we had it to do all over again . . . we would . . . and in a heartbeat! No amount of time can ever diminish the certainty of that moment.
Thank you, York, South Carolina, for making all the difference in two happy people’s lives.