Steve and I were married in 1991. We started married life with six children, six dogs, and a prayer, well actually, a lot of prayers. We really wanted to get married much soon than it happened but with barely a nickel to our name we couldn’t afford to rent a building, we didn’t belong to a church, and we really wanted more than just a quick, “She does, I do, Here’s the Ring, How Do you Do.” We told friends. After all the calamity, the hugs, the kisses, and the , “We’ve all been wondering when you were going to do it,”stuff was over, things started happening. Our then leader of the 4-H group our kids were in and her sister said they would make our cake, another friend volunteered supplies for decorations, others were pitching in right and left, but we still needed a place. Then it came to us, why not out in the barn where we train the dogs. We asked the trainers and they were delighted at the idea. Last but not least, we needed a minister and as luck would have it, Steve’s brother-in-law fit the bill. Steve and I quickly made invitations and got them in the mail.
The barn was cleaned from top to bottom. Janice, our dog trainer, even dusted the rafters and another friend leveled the dirt floor with his tractor. Steve built two lattice arbors for the ceremony. His dad carved a cross to hang in the one where we would say our vows.The feed store just down the road hauled in a huge load of hay bales for our guests to sit on. A fire was blazing in the huge old wood stove that resided in the barn. Decorations went up, and while that was going on we had a “Rehearsal Dinner.” Everyone brought food, we ate and decorated and then ran through the ceremony a couple of times. Music was organized, we danced, we played, we laughed, and everything was set. We were actually getting married.
Now this wasn’t one of those, “We fell in love a first sight” love affairs that one hears about. No, to the contrary. We had been friends for more than twenty some years. We lived in different towns and our families only saw each other now and then but the friendship held. Both of us had good lives, good families, good ‘SPOUSES.” Both of us saw the devil open the gates of hell and turn loose fire breathing dragons and demons beyond belief or imagination.
Devastation. Nothing else could describe it . Left, after twenty-two years, with three children at home ( our oldest was away at school on the other side of the state) , a mortgage, a non-working furnace, a pile of wood which I was physically unable to cut, and more, but I believe you have gotten the picture. Who did I have to turn to? My friends were his friends, they stayed away. No one even came from the church to see if the girls were okay. I was alone, until I finally told my parents.
At the same time, in another town, the same sort of scenario was happening to Steve. She was leaving, him and the kids, and there was nothing he could do about it. She had made up her mind and that was that. He’d been blindsided and broken all in one quick statement, her words echoing off the slamming door as she left him standing there, middle of the kitchen, in disbelief.
Some time passed for both of us. I had taken a sales clerk job at a local department store and was trying to figure out how to sell a broken house because, as it was put to me, “he wasn’t fixing anything and he wasn’t making any payments.” My dad helped where he could with some of the work. The girls and I spent our time in the living room with blankets over the door ways to keep the heat in from the fireplace which dad had cut some wood for.
Steve, born and raised in the same town I had lived all my life in, knew of my situation. It was now Christmas time. He had made a couple of trips with his children to visit his parents. His family and my family were both well known in our little town and we both had been the subject of numerous conversations as the “grapevine” would tell it. He stopped by on one trip to see how we were. He and I in unison, put on our happy faces and told each other lies about how well we were managing. We spoke awkwardly as our friendship had always been a family thing.
He hesitated as he left, saying, “Sandy, if you ever need anything, call me.”
Obviously, I must have needed something because, if you remember, before I started telling you about devils and demons, Steve and I were getting ready to be married. It hadn’t been an easy decision to come to. To get married, that is. After all, we were friends, best friends by that time and we had been friends for so long. We had, a while back, joined forces, me and my girls moving to his town, his home, as a move of convenience . My house had sold. I had nowhere to go. He needed help with the kids while he worked. So did I. I was able to transfer my job to a store located in Auburn. We set up work schedules so that I was home on his work days and he was home on mine. On our days off, we were each, respectively, responsible for the children, all of them. By this time my second oldest, who had moved away from me, lived with her father briefly, then ventured into a hair-raising lifestyle, out on her own, moving from friend to friend, and sometimes just living hand to mouth on the streets with like friends, had now come back to me needing a place to live, a home. As things turned out, she was pregnant. The father of the baby didn’t want her and her own dad said “no ” to her coming back there. We couldn’t do that. She had made some questionable decisions. She had lived a life that the thoughts of, put a deep, sad, fear in my heart. But she was back. She needed compassion, not judgement. She, and her soon to be born child, came there to live with us. Chrissie was born in November 1990. We were all thrilled. She brought so much joy to the house hold. Another Christmas was rolling around and the feeling engulfing all of us was like getting renewed hope, a new beginning. That was when Steve first asked me to marry him.
But as I was saying, before I filled you in with our history, there was a knawing question in both of our hearts that had to be brought up and would have to be answered. What if we get married and it doesn’t work? Would we each loose our very best friend in the whole world. We brought it up and then, let it go, each of us pondering the possibility in the back of our minds, and not having too much conversation for the next several days. We went about our daily activities, glancing at each other now and then, touching little, polite conversation, and each of us wondering what life without our best friend would be like.
It was a Tuesday, Steve was on the last day of his shift for the week at work. I had just gotten home from picking kids up from activities. He called.
“Hi, I miss you.” he said quietly.
“I miss you too.” I replied, as I wondered what was coming next.
“I’m off in a half hour. Can you get the kids fed early? I want to have a quiet dinner with you alone tonight, if that’s okay?”
“Yes, of course. Dinner is ready so I’ll just get them fed and on to homework and stuff right after. Are we eating here? There is plenty you know. I was planning on us all having dinner together.” I said, still wondering about his intentions.
“No. Tell Dani we are going out for a bit and ask her to watch the rest of the kids, okay?” he answered.
“Sure, I know she’ll be fine with it. I’ll see you soon. Are jeans and a t-shirt okay or do I need to clean up more than that?” I had no idea where we were going.
“Jeans are fine.” see you in a bit. “I love you.” and he hung up.
Before I could even reply, he hung up.
Steve came home, briefly cleaned up a bit and changed to an everyday shirt. We gave brief instructions to the kids and let them know we wouldn’t be gone long. We left, holding hands as we walked silently to the car. Once inside, with the car started, Steve said he thought we’d go into Enumclaw to the Chinese restaurant that we liked. I agreed, that would be nice. It was a twenty-minute drive, mostly in silence. We got there and I found that Steve had called ahead making reservations. We were seated, ordered a drink, and we both began to speak at once.
“I want to get married,” he said without hesitation.
“Me too. We won’t ruin anything. It is possible to love each other and be best friends. But there is one more problem.” I said.
“Problem? What other problem could there possibly be?” he questioned me with a look of surprise on his face.
“Well,” I hesitated, but then decided just to let it all out. “It’s not really a problem, just something we need to talk about. When we first started thinking of marriage, it was you , Andy and Becki, and me with Emmy and Dani.”
“So what’s the problem?” he looked ready to jump out of his skin.
“Chrissie! Not that SHE is a problem. It’s just now we have a baby in the house. I’m sure Dana won’t stay settled with us long. She’s just not ready to be responsible so I can see her leaving. She can’t move around freely and irresponsibly, with a baby in tow. That means, we would have Chrissie. We’d have a baby. And I just couldn’t, wouldn’t, send her away. I’d have to carry that responsibility. I love her and just am not going to let anything like that happen, you know, hand to mouth, on the street. I couldn’t take a chance of her being in harms way. If I had my way, Dana would stay too but I know, in my heart already, she’s on the verge of going. ” There, I had said it. When it happened, when Dana felt the need to go, and it would happen, I planned on taking on the responsibility of my grand child, after all, we were doing most of her care as it was already.
“So where’s the problem?” Steve asked.
“Well, you signed on in this deal with four kids. Kids that are half-grown. You didn’t have a baby in mind. A baby adds a whole lot to the picture.” I told him and then added, “What I’m saying is I really don’t expect you to follow through with this plan of marriage, now, with this change. It’s your chance to re-think this and really get a perspective on it. You can change your mind and I won’t blame you for anything. I love you. I don’t want to ruin that. As it is, we can still be friends, helping each other, but limit it to that.”
“Listen, I don’t care if there are ten kids involved, baby or no baby. Dana and Chrissie are part of our family. We do what we need to do to take care of family. I love you and I want to marry you.” he said without pause as he got up from his chair. He shifted and suddenly there he was on one knee, holding my hand, at the side of the table. “Sandy, I love you, I want to marry you. Will, you please say yes? he pleaded, sincerely, and the look in his eyes told me this was not a time to argue.
“Of course, I will, as long as you are sure.”
“I’m sure,” he replied as he got back up, and everyone around us clapped. “Hey, she said yes!” he said to the crowd. Imagine that!” and they all laughed. But, he didn’t finish there. “And all you folks here, I want you to witness this. Sandy, this is forever. No if’s ,and’s ,or but’s. Forever, do you agree?”
“Yes, of course!” I replied, laughing as I did, because everyone in the restaurant was in an uproar, laughing and pointing, as they witnessed Steve’s commitment to me and me to him.
So now you understand how we went from best friends to the point of marriage and though the decision seemed difficult at that time, I guess it really wasn’t. Now, backing up in my story. I had left off at, “we were actually getting married.” Yes, the next day after the rehearsal dinner party we would become man and wife and family.
That morning, Saturday March 23, 1991 everyone went in different directions to get done what each had to accomplish before noon rolled around. The wedding was set for one o’clock. The kids with friends all headed out early, early morn to place signs, like old Burma Shave signs, all along the highway leading those who didn’t know to our destination. They read something like:
Steve and Sandy
are getting married today
keep on going
you’re headed the right way.
three more miles,
you’re almost there
when you see the big dog
turn right, park, and walk to the barn
there we’ll watch them walk down the isle
arm in arm.
The signs came both ways, out of Auburn and out of Enumclaw, along the Auburn/Enumclaw Highway. (of course coming from Enumclaw the read, turn left.) and the kids planted them at the appropriate spots on the highway and decorated them all with balloons and ribbons.
Not only were our friends giving us this wonderful wedding, they made it a pot luck, so everyone was bringing food. Dani was in the Junior High School Choir and they had arranged to bring risers and the whole choir showed up to sing for us with Dani having a solo part in the song one of the songs. As the wedding began, our children went before us, walking to the song “The Rose”, by Conway Twitty.” They all parted at the first rows where our parents sat and gifted their grandmothers with a bouquet and hugs all around. After that, they returned to their place at the make shift alter ,turning to us as we started our journey together in life and love. The music started. We proceeded to the tune “Love Can Build a Bridge” by the Judds. By the time we got to the children and our minister, Walter, the entire congregation was in tears, even Walter, who said at that time, “I’ve performed a lot of weddings and I’ve seen many tears of happiness, including my own, flow at these weddings. But…this is the first time, I’ve cried, and witnessed the whole congregation in tears before there was even one word spoken. I believe folks, this is truly a match made in heaven. We shall begin this ceremony with a prayer.”
Well, there was just no topping that. Our ceremony was perfect. We included our children, who, by the way, all said family vows together. We had included our parents, who I think maybe still had a few doubts when the day started but those doubts were now probably put to rest. Our friends and families were all present and involved. It just doesn’t get any better than that, except, of course, when we turned back to the crowd and started our “Recessional” to the tune of ” Two of a Kind Workin’ on a Full House, by Garth Brooks.” We danced our way back down the isle way with kids, family and friends following. Everyone was in stitches as they kicked up their heels to the tune. The rest of the day was just as perfect, lots of food, dancing, talking, toasts, and hugging. As we cut the cake and toasted each other everyone cheered.
While all this was going on inside the barn, the kids were having quite a time outside. They decorated our big ole Black and Red Ford F 250 long bed truck with enough balloons and streamers to do a cruise ship and filled the inside of the truck with the same. When it was time for us to depart it took at least fifteen minutes to get enough of the balloons and other decorations out of the cab to even get in. What a delight it was for the kids to take part in all of this.
Finally, at day’s end, we hopped in the truck, waved with tears still flowing and headed down the highway. We lead a procession all the way back to Auburn before they started departing to their own destinations.
It is now coming up on March 23, 2016. That means twenty-five years. Twenty five years of ups and downs, joys and hardships, times of plenty and times of none. Yet, through it all, we have survived. We have thrived. We have grown. We’ve learned what kind of people we really are and what is most important to us and who. As in the beginning, friendship is and always will be our number one most important need, followed with love, family, friends, a sense of humor, humility, truth and togetherness. With these things on your side and in your heart, you can’t lose.
In celebration of this milestone, our Children are giving us a twenty-five year wedding anniversary party. We’ve been told we can input if we wish, but…they are doing it. They are making the decisions. They are in control. All we need to do is sit back , ride the wave and enjoy. I do know, the colors are, Red and Black and the theme is Flannel and Lace. That, sounds just like us.
Sandra Lea Rogers
January 12, 2016
Twenty five years and still going strong.
Now that we’ve made it this far, watch for our 50th. That should be quite a love story. Steve will be 95 and I will be 93. So make a toast to friendship for us folks, as we continue this one, as long as God will allow.