A 45th anniversary only comes around once in a lifetime, so I’ll celebrate by sharing an unforgettable blessing we had on our honeymoon back in 1974.
Our wedding was July 27that Christ Episcopal Church in Douglas, Wyoming, the picturesque steepled white church on the corner of 4thand Center at the only stop light in town. I’m sure the bell was rung that steaming hot Saturday, as it was for every Sunday service. The bank thermometer across the street registered in the high 90’s — before air conditioning was common.
I had designed and made my long-sleeved, high-necked wedding gown (warm for sure) and Tom was miserably hot in his light-yellow tuxedo as we left the church for our reception upstairs at the Moose Lodge. Those were the days when receptions were simple. My beautiful cake on pillars with a bubbling fountain beneath was made by my boss and friend, George Smith, who owned the Home Bakery where I had worked. It was everything a bride could have wished for. Father Cowels and his wife Mirium had brought us a very special cake server from their trip to Massachusetts. The table cloth had been crocheted by Nana, and Mom, the granddaughter of a confectioner, had made yellow, baby blue, and white mints which were served with mixed nuts in pretty glass dishes. Lemonade was the drink of the day as good friends from Job’s Daughters manned the serving table.
Gifts were brought to the stage where we sat as a new couple together, surrounded by little nieces, nephews and cousins, who watched as we opened each gift right there. A picnic for out-of-town guests was held later in the side yard at our house. As Tom and I were saying our good-byes, Dad was sitting in the shade of the tall lilac hedge and pulled me on his lap. We both cried our farewell and Tom and I were off in his green Chevy truck for our honeymoon – only to discover before Glenrock that my Kodak Brownie camera had been forgotten. We turned around somewhere on that recently opened I25 highway and returned for the camera. Being so young then, we didn’t have a firm plan for life beyond our honeymoon. We only knew it was the Spokane World’s Fair, Expo ’74 or bust.
The Ramada Inn (now the defunct Parkway Plaza) was where we stayed a short first night in Casper before getting up early for our flight to adventure in Washington. We stopped at the downtown Safeway store for pastries, then to the airport to board a puddle-jumper flight that bounced around Montana a few times before our final destination. It was even hotter in Spokane!
Our kind taxi driver was a cheery older man. He greeted us with an introduction of his name, which unfortunately we’ve forgotten. Tom responded introducing himself and referring to me, said “this is my wife Cindy Siebken,” then quickly corrected my new day-old name. The three of us got a laugh out of that as I had not been called Cindy Bower before.
We all visited as the driver took us miles and miles to the furthest outskirts of town where we had been assigned to stay. With huge crowds from all over the world, an accommodation hotline had been created to make reservations. Visitors were pretty much assigned to whatever was available. As it turned out, the place was an apartment complex had been hastily thrown up. The buildings were roundish, several stories high with a circular inner courtyard on the first level, which created an echoing upward tunnel of noise from all the other inner rooms with open windows.
It was obvious that the taxi driver did not like this setup. He asked what we were paying and shook his head in disgust. Knowing this was our honeymoon, the gears in his head were going. He told us he would be picking us up the next morning and to have our things packed. He had another place in mind for us to stay. We didn’t know what to think of such firm instructions from a stranger, but something told us to trust him and we said ok.
Inside, we discovered that each room in what had been an apartment, became a quasi-hotel room where you could hear every word from those in surrounding rooms. Shrieks of glee from one wall informed us that those guests had a living room with a stellar view the city lights. We weren’t that lucky as our tiny room had an inner window above the ice machine in the courtyard a few stories below. Each person getting ice would crunch across noisy gravel to fill their bucket where the grinding blades kept moaning all night. The heavy hot air from 100 plus daytime temps had no movement through our open window. Amenities included a metal folding chair, a cheapy lamp, and a makeshift bathroom of plastic fixtures.
The next morning our taxi driver was waiting as promised. I’m sure we were a bit nervous about what was to come but he was excited! We arrived in the city center where we passed the World’s Fair Exposition grounds by a few blocks into a stately tall-tree neighborhood with wide streets and three-story Victorian homes. He pulled up in front of one of the lovely houses and welcomed us to our honeymoon hideaway. This gentleman took us inside, introducing us to a very nice Asian lady who seemed to know our plight. She led us up two flights of stairs to a private apartment on the attic floor of the house. This sweet space included a living room, dining room, kitchen, balcony, bedroom, and bathroom complete with a clawfoot tub. There were open windows everywhere letting a cross-breeze at least give some feeling of coolness. It was amazing! Wouldn’t you know it — all this for exactly the same price as the other place had been.
We told the lady that Tom’s brother was going to pick us up in a couple of days to visit his family in Coulee Dam, but we would be back for a few more nights. No problem at all, she assured. It was ours until we went home, and we didn’t have to pay for the nights we weren’t there. The kind man saw that we got our things settled and he and the lady pointed us to the nearby bus stop so we could begin our adventure at Expo ’74! We thanked him and off he drove.
Though we never saw that man again, his memory comes up at least once each year as we celebrate our anniversary. His kindness and generosity to make such wonderful arrangements for the happiness of a very young (just out of high school) newlywed couple he had only met hours before, have been appreciated more as time has gone on. In fact, one year the abrupt thought came to me that perhaps that lovely apartment was far more expensive than we paid, as it certainly should have been. Perhaps he had paid the difference from his own wallet.
What were the chances really, that a city overflowing with international tourists and taxis brought us exactly that driver? No accident, I’m sure. Just as a loving Heavenly Father was smiling down on those awkward beginnings, He still cares about us today, forty-five years later. We have daily proof of that.
This story brings to mind Mitch Albom’s book The Five People You Meet in Heaven. I have to say there are more than five people I hope to meet in heaven, but I’m going to particularly look up this kind gentleman and give him a great big thank-you hug! The unexpected favor he did for us was icing on the “wedding cake” of our amazing honeymoon at Expo ‘74! I also think that man’s decision to “pay it forward” left us a great example to do the same in our lives when we have daily opportunities to show kindness.
Matthew 25:40 And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.