July 10th is the anniversary of my mother’s birth but that’s not the only anniversary that day marks for me. In 1998 I married Clifford Miller, and yes I was sober. We had been “engaged” for years. He asked me to marry him the first time in April of ’95 and of course I said yes. I was crazy in love; or maybe just crazy. My mother never got to meet Cliff and so to honor her and because I was so deliriously happy, or just delirious (the jury is STILL out!) I married him the year the anniversary of her birth was on a Friday.
We went to Charlottesville and got married in the sheriff’s office, toured Monticello, and fell asleep early at the Holiday Inn where we had a room. We came home the next day (a Saturday, in case you weren’t following closely) where our sisters had organized a reception; and then did what we did best back in those days, we partied.
But this post isn’t about Cliff or even Mom. This post is about Andrew, my youngest child who turned 20 in May; the one that has been by my side more consistently than anyone else in my life. Because as I sit here thinking back on what this day, July 10th, has meant to me through my life I think of him.
Andrew was in kindergarten in 1997. His teacher was Phyllis Ritenour. Anyone who lives in Strasburg knows that Phyllis is married to Moe Ritenour, co -owner of Mowery Oil, here in town. We were at Mowery Oil one day, which also served as a convenience store back then. We were about to back out of our parking space when Moe walked out of the store and waved to me. “Who is that Mom” asked my eternally inquisitive 6 year old”. At that moment it occurred to me that Andrew had a sort of long distance relationship with this man so I said “That’s your teacher, Mrs. Ritenour’s, husband.”
“Oh” he said “what’s his name?” he asked.
“Mr. Ritenour” I said with confidence and a little pleased at my cleverness for figuring out the connection on the spot.
Then Andrew, buckled in the back seat, in his 6 year old school playground voice, tauntingly pointed at Mr. Ritenour through the back passenger window and laughed:
“He’s got a girrrls name!”
It actually took me a second to get the joke and then I smiled at his reflection in my rear view mirror.
“No, Andrew” I explained, turning around to face him. When a woman marries a man she usually takes his last name. “When I marry Cliff my name will become Miller, just like his” I went on.
He thought for a moment, and a look of irritation crossed his face. “When you marry Cliff” he said folding his arms violently against his chest”I’m gonna marry you back so your name will be Clements again!”
See, he used to love me; when he was 6.