Twenty years ago today I married my husband, Todd Charles Johnson. What a wild ride we’ve been on ever since! Looking back at the beginning, I can’t help but laugh. So I thought I would write about our beginning and hopefully help you giggle, brightening your day.
So after the ceremony on the sweltering 90+ degree day where we invited all our guests to attend in casual attire for our formal church wedding, we headed across the street to the public park for our reception. Gorgeous flower gardens surrounded our sprawling white tent. We had set up lawn games like croquet, badminton, and volleyball. We had fruit pies instead of wedding cake. And for the kids, we contracted the local Good Humor man to drive his truck up, ringing the bell, to distribute prepaid ice cream novelties. Kids now grown still talk about that great idea! We remember the blue tongues and teeth!
Todd and I drove off in the late afternoon to spend our wedding night in a hotel next to O’Hare airport where we would depart the next day for our honeymoon in Banff, Canada. I should have known from the minute we set foot in the hotel lobby that our trip was going to be . . . umm . . . unusual.
We just happened to be staying in the very hotel where there was a national poodle convention going on. On our first trip up the elevator to our room, we found ourselves sharing the car with a couple and their two, very fluffy, perfectly groomed, standard poodles—the BIG kind—with matching pink bows topping their heads. I presume they were girl dogs. My husband looked at my very curly natural hair and I said, “Don’t you dare compare!” To this day, Todd still likes to remind me of our second date where we sat in a Chicago Starbucks and he commented that my hair is “VERY curly” and I wanted to crawl under the table and die. I hated my curly hair back then but had given up on trying to change it because I have the strongest-willed hair in the ENTIRE universe, I am quite sure.
So the beautiful white, well-behaved poodles accompanied us up to our wedding night floor where we said our goodbyes. But the WHOLE place was prancing with poodles! Everywhere we looked there was a poodle—tall and short—black and white and caramel colored—girls with bows. What is it about poodles that people like? And why, for heaven’s sake, do their owner’s trim them like evergreen hedges into all sorts of balls on their tails and legs? And is there a prize given for which poodle can have the highest hairdo? I was just slightly worried that someone might ask me if I, yes I, was trying to compete with the dogs. After all, my hair looks just like theirs, only not quite as properly groomed.
But back to our wedding night room. It was just lovely! The first thing I did, as I always do in hotels, is go over to the windows, pull the curtains open, and examine the view. I just LOVE rooms with a view! And THIS view was . . . well . . . unlike any view I’ve ever had before in a hotel room. Our window overlooked the heating and air conditioning units for the ENTIRE hotel! Inspiring! Breathtaking! I could see metal on concrete and nothing else. Well, at least we would be in a place with a view the next day! Just wait for THAT piece of the story coming up in a few paragraphs!
After feasting on pizza in bed ordered in from Domino’s . . . well . . . this part of the story is . . . umm . . . private.
Next morning, off we flew to the Canadian Rockies—land of aquamarine waters, glaciers, grizzlies, and many marmots. On our drive into the area, I did what every sign tells tourists NOT to do. There were cars parked beside the road, obviously looking at something wild. Oh my goodness! Our first bear sighting on our first day! Woohoo!
Yes, I DID get out of my car and I DID walk across the road to get a photo of that bear eating berries and NO I did NOT use a telephoto lens to get the close picture I brought home. And when a friend asked me later if I DID us a telephoto lens and I told him I DIDN’T, he informed me that the bear I thought was brown was not. He asked, “Do you see that hump on the bear’s shoulder?”
“Well, yes indeed, I do!” I responded.
“Do you know that was a GRIZZLY bear?” he asked, quite surprised by my stupidity.
“Why no, I thought it was a BROWN bear.”
I think he rolled his eyes. I was super excited that the bear I thought was BROWN was actually a GRIZZLY and I actually walked across the road BAREFOOT to get a great shot! I guess it was a good thing that the berries were plentiful that August or I might have won the Darwin award for that year (given to the most stupid person who died doing something so stupid that fortunately for humanity the gene pool was cleansed upon death).
Sigh! Our trip was off to a GREAT start! Next stop, Emerald Lake Lodge—a gorgeous resort on an emerald-colored lake, hence the name (duh!), nestled in a forest. Walking back to our cabin from the restaurant one night, we encountered a beast by the path. I was quite sure it was a wolverine and I’ve heard how vicious these creatures can be. Let’s just say we were close enough for me to see it’s LONG claws. So my dear new husband decides to look at it a little too long and up it went on its hind legs. I was terrified! I yelled at him—my husband that is—“Do NOT make direct eye contact! That thing is in attack mode!” My husband laughed. I got more agitated. “If that thing attacks us, what will we do?!” I’m sure he thought at that very moment, after the bear encounter, and now this, the wolverine and making eye contact and all, that he had married a loon.
Lake Louise was a treat. We didn’t stay at the place because . . . well . . . we’re not royalty and they charge a royal fee for a room with a real view. So we sort of mooched, pretending like we were guests, walking the grounds, taking photos, and having a meal on the veranda. And we hiked in the mountains surrounding yet ANOTHER aquamarine-colored glacial lake. This is where I fell in love with delphiniums and have had them in my perennial borders ever since.
Next came the experience of a life time. We hiked eight miles into the backcountry behind Lake Louise to a place called Skokie Lodge. A rustic log cabin with a few outer cabins, the place is remote. Supplies are flown in by helicopter or brought on horseback once weekly. Staff cook fantastic meals and guests all eat together. There’s no electricity and no running water. Outhouses, no showers, out in the middle of nowhere—sounds like a great place for a honeymoon, right? We thought so.
So on our hike in, I’m a bit nervous about those grizzly bears I had already photographed by the side of the road. With no car to run to, and no bear spray in hand, I was a bit on edge. And my dear new husband decided to mess with me by calling out, “HERE Yogi!” over and over. I was NOT amused. Every time he yelled, “HERE Yogi!” all I could think of was bears and I was trying NOT to think of bears. We didn’t see one that day but someone else who arrived at the lodge right before us did. They are OUT there! Somewhere!
Well, we were relieved to finally arrive at Skokie Lodge and looking forward to relaxing in the cabin we had reserved—the HONEYMOON cabin. Apparently, there was a mix up which was a major SCREW up, in my opinion. The honeymoon cabin was occupied by another honeymooning couple and we would not be staying in the honeymoon cabin after all. By the time we arrived there was only one room left and I could NOT believe our good fortune!
Every room had a rustic sign over the doorframe with a name, each one different. Guess what OUR room, our HONEYMOON room’s name was!
That’s right! DECEPTION was burned into wood and hung above our doorframe and I was not amused by what I considered to be a BAD omen. Really? You’ve GOT to be kidding me! We walk ALL this way to spend our honeymoon in a room called DECEPTION? OK, go with the flow, I told myself. Till we stepped over the threshold to our honeymoon room and found . . .
That’s right! TWIN BEDS for honeymooners!
And that’s not all! The lodge staff really went above and beyond, thinking of every little detail that might make our honeymoon memorable!
There was a hole in the wall of our room overlooking the staircase. YEP! That’s right! A HOLE IN THE WALL. A perfectly square hole in the wall where we could spy on every guest ascending and descending the stairs and every guest could peer right in on the honeymooners in the room named DECEPTION! With TWIN BEDS! Bliss this was NOT! My dear husband thought it was hilarious. I said he could laugh himself to sleep in his own twin bed under the hole in the wall overlooking the staircase.
Well, that only lasted a couple nights because the couple in the room over the KITCHEN where all the staff hung out was leaving and we would finally have a DOUBLE BED in a room with no hole in the wall. I don’t remember the name of the room but it should have been named SQUEAKY because I’ve never experienced a bed with such squeaky springs. And it was right over the KITCHEN where all the staff hung out and I was absolutely certain the staff had planned for us to be their entertainment for the week.
Oh Lord! Must you try me so?!
So onto the marmots we go!
Marmots, for those who don’t know, are sort of like ground hogs, sort of like beavers without the long flat tail. And they make this chirping noise when you get close that reverberates off the mountain sides. Todd and I enjoyed the marmots, the mountain climbing, the pristine lakes, the August wildflowers in full bloom, and the stunning quiet of wilderness. There’s something special about being so far away from civilization where no people are seen, no human invention is heard. It was my new husband and me, alone, in the wilderness.
Our honeymoon was wonderful, with all the glitches. Because sometimes the glitches in life are what give you the biggest laughs later on. And God knows how marriage long-lived needs humor!
We repeated our honeymoon for our ten year anniversary, complete with Skokie Lodge, less the stay in DECEPTION. That year, we had PRIVATE accommodations in our own adjacent cabin, still with no electricity, heat, or running water and still with a community outhouse. Bliss once again!
Now, ten years after our tenth, we’re heading north again, this time to ALASKA! What will this trip bring? What memory makers will we encounter? Can’t wait to discover it all, with my husband, still my best friend, the most amazing man I’ve ever known, who still really likes my REALLY curly hair.