A serial memoir by Jean Fogelberg

The Luckiest Girl in the World

Saturday, April 6, 2002

We slept fitfully and woke in the morning like two vampires, cursing the blades of sun trying to cut their way through the wood blinds. On any other day, Dan would have burrowed beneath his pillow and gone back to sleep, but now he put his arm around my belly and pulled me to him from across the big brass bed. We snuggled together like double quotation marks, waiting for a sentence. 

    “Did you sleep?” I asked. “Yeah, off and on,” he murmured into my hair. We laid there for a few minutes, reluctant to peel away the warm comforter.

    “We have to get up,“ he said. I groaned, “Are we sure we want to do this?” 

    He rolled away from me and sat on the edge of the bed. “I’m up!” he said, rising to his feet and putting his robe on.   

    A few hours later, we were on the road to Santa Fe. 


    We checked in at the Inn of the Anasazi, then made some phone calls to touch base with parents and friends. A few of our guests lived in Santa Fe, but the rest were coming all the way from California, Colorado, Illinois, Texas, and Maine. My parents were living in Arkansas at the time, and Dan had arranged to have them picked up from the Albuquerque airport by limousine.

    The last time they’d been in a limo was in 1983, when they were getting ready to move to Santa Fe from our family home in Lompoc, California. My father had quit his stressful aerospace job, two years before retirement, to go in to camera repair full time. He saw an ad for a camera repair shop in Santa Fe that was looking for a partner, so he and Mom went, saw, liked, and sold their house. I organized an elaborate surprise going-away party for them with their closest friends, at the Santa Maria Inn, where I was performing. Limousines were a big extravagance then, but I had one pick them up and drive them the 40 minutes to the Inn. Dad was so touched by the party, he composed his one, and only, poem while he and Mom drove from California to New Mexico. Then he typed it and sent it to me.


    The camera repair shop flourished, and when his partner decided to retire, Dad bought him out. Everyone loved Gene Mayer, who often gave artists and photographers their repaired cameras back before they could afford to pay him. Running the shop himself, with two other repairmen, Dad was self-employed for the first time in his life, and he loved it. Mom immersed herself in the art scene, teaching classes and selling her work at the Art Association’s outdoor shows on weekends. 

    In the meantime, I got married and quit music to run our limousine service in Santa Ynez, California. I started painting, and my work was in a few galleries, when I went with my friend Evelyn to visit my parents in Santa Fe. I fell so deeply in love with the city I couldn’t get back on the plane. Every fiber of my being said, “Stay.” I got a job in a gallery and, six tumultuous years later, accepted a gig performing at a little Italian cafe on Burro Alley, just as Dan’s marriage was falling apart. 

    Life is a quilt, and every scrap of fabric a story; every strand of thread a decision; every stitch a moment of joy or pain. If my father hadn’t made the difficult decision to leave his stressful job for work that made him happy, the quilt of my own life would look very different.


    After lunch, Dan and I met the other key players at the auditorium for the wedding rehearsal. The ceremony was going to be fairly simple, but timing would be important so we wanted to practice. Elliott Delman, Dan’s friend from his college days at the University of Illinois, would start playing “Danny Boy” on his classical guitar, and Dan and his mother would walk down the aisle. 

    Then, my father and I would take our turn down the aisle to Elliott’s rendition of Rod McKuen’s “Jean.” Our minister, Irene, would recite the vows we’d chosen. When she said, “You may now kiss the bride,” Dan's ski buddy, Todd Pasquin, would hit PLAY on the CD player that was plugged into the house system, and “All You Need Is Love” by the Beatles would burst forth, at which point our girlfriends would throw rose petals from handmade paper bags, as we made our way back up the aisle together. 

    That was it. The sound system would continue to play Dan’s compilation CD while everyone drank champagne in the lobby, and we remained in the auditorium for  photos. After walking through it a couple of times we felt confident all would go smoothly the following day, so we returned to our hotels to rest before the rehearsal dinner.

    At six o’clock, we met everyone at Julian’s, our favorite Italian restaurant. It was on Shelby Street, a short walk from the La Fonda, and the Inn at Loretto, where most of our out-of-town guests were staying. We had planned it so that, once at their hotel, our guests were never more than a five-minute stroll from any of our wedding venues. 

    Most of the work was behind us, as well as the inevitable last-minute changes, dramas and stress. We were so happy to be with friends we hadn’t seen in years, at our favorite restaurant, in our favorite city. The story of our Amalfi engagement was told many times that night.

    Later, we watched the evening news from the bed in our hotel room, and I finished hemming the chiffon wrap. The top local story was the drought New Mexico had been experiencing for the last year, with no end in sight. Indeed, it would last for five more years, until August of 2007, and be one of the longest droughts in New Mexico’s history.


    I woke in the four-poster bed to the sound of rain. For a while I just lay there, listening. I love rain. I’ve always loved rain. Under any other circumstances, I would have rejoiced for the lakes and reservoirs; the plants and animals; the parched desert and piñon trees. Instead, I was thinking about my hair. Straight and fine, it refused to hold a curl, but frizzed at the mere mention of humidity.

    Dan stirred and stretched, and I stated the obvious: “It’s raining.” He pulled his arms back under the down comforter and listened. After a moment he said, “The Irish consider rain on your wedding day to be good luck.” 


    The wedding was scheduled for five o’clock. We had lunch and then walked to the auditorium to meet the florist. After waiting in vain for half an hour, we called and were told that the flowers were going to be late. There’s a little stretch of time here where things are hazy. 

    My next memory is of being back at the hotel. Dan showered, dressed, kissed me, and headed to the auditorium in his tuxedo. My friend Evelyn arrived to help me in any way she could. I was a bundle of nerves. We had a shot of tequila, just like the old days at the Solvang pub where we met, when I was performing and she was a single mom working nights as a cocktail waitress. The mezcal did nothing for my nerves; I didn’t even feel it.

    Evelyn drove me to the museum, and I had my purse and chiffon shawl in my lap when we pulled up to the curb. Someone with an umbrella came down the front steps and opened the car door for me. They held out their hand, which I took. As I stepped out of the car, clutching the purse in my other hand, the shawl fell into the gutter, running with rain and desert dust. I snatched the fabric up quickly, trying to hold my dress above the sidewalk, but it was too late - the shawl was wet.


    In the lobby, Dad and my friend Rebecca held either end of the long length of chiffon and waved it up and down to dry. Because it was peach-colored, and not white, the water stains didn’t show when dry. Dad looked handsome in his first, and last, tuxedo. Dan had rented it for him in Santa Fe after getting Dad’s measurements over the phone.

    The flowers had arrived and many hands chipped in, placing, hanging, moving, and lighting candles. The men looked handsome and the ladies beautiful, in their suits and long dresses. Todd and Elliott were both very nervous; they probably had nightmares all week, in which they missed their cues and then realized they were naked.

    Once the room was ready, our guests made their way into the auditorium while we continued to pose for pre-wedding photos in the museum lobby.


    I hadn’t even thought about brushing my hair or checking my make-up, I was just taking my cues and hitting my marks. Finally, someone came and told us that everyone was seated and the minister was ready. It was time. 

    Dan and his mother, Margaret, went through the big oak doors and Elliott began to play “Danny Boy” as  they walked down the aisle.


    My father stood, listening for the opening strains of “Jean.” It seemed to be taking a long time, but actually, Elliott had started the intro twice: we just hadn’t heard it, probably because we were still posing for photos. I opened the door to peek in and heard Elliott playing, and off we went.

    Because Dan and I had stuck with our intimate, fifty-guest limit, the first two-thirds of the pews were empty and undecorated. They stretched out ahead of Dad and me for a mile, it seemed. Everyone rose as we started down the aisle. I was so nervous at that point, I would have sprinted to the altar if my unflappable father hadn’t held me to the rehearsed speed.


     When we reached the front six pews, the bouquets hanging from them were beautiful, but made it awkward to get down the aisle, arm in arm, without knocking any down. We hadn’t accounted for that during the rehearsal. It didn’t matter. Dad beamed with pride, as he had when we danced the father/daughter dance after I won the Lompoc Flower Festival beauty pageant, almost thirty years earlier. Seeing Dan waiting at the altar, and all of our friends standing and looking at me, I was too out of my body to appreciate that this was the moment that had inspired the wedding from the beginning: my father walking me down the aisle. I wish I could go back and relive the day from that moment onward. I would breathe, slow down, and treasure every second with the two men I loved most in the world.
    Dad shook Dan’s hand and sat down in a front pew with my mother. The vows that had looked so brief on paper seemed much longer now. We struggled a bit getting the ring over my knuckle, and when we finally prevailed, we laughed and then kissed, out of habit, not thinking about its inappropriate place within the ceremony. Everyone laughed at the sweet gaffe.


    We got through the “I do’s” and when Irene told Dan he could kiss the bride, he enveloped me in a big kiss. Todd pressed PLAY on the CD player, but there was a lag. Into the silence my father told Dan, “Atta boy,” and everyone laughed. Then the horns trumpeted the intro to “All You Need is Love,” as if we’d planned the whole thing that way, and the rose petals flew. We looked at each other, joyful and amazed, and kissed again. Happy tears sprang into my eyes, and I would dab at them all night long.


    While the photos were being taken, a post-wedding party was in full swing in the lobby. As different guests were needed, someone had to wade in and shout “All family members!” or “All girlfriends! Please come in for photos!”


Front: Lynn Dangel Costello, Suzy Drell / Middle: Penny Plumb, Evelyn Roberts, Rebecca Carrier, Royann D'Amore, Lisa Pasquin, Karla Kuban, Suzie Fernandez, Wendelin Van Draanen / Back: Shereen Noon.

    When all the wedding photos were taken, everyone began making their way to the reception. Street lamps lit the paths under the trees, and well-lit store windows illuminated the wet sidewalks and streets surrounding the plaza. As our guests stepped out of the auditorium doors, they opened their umbrellas. Anyone who saw Dan perform at Red Rocks Amphitheater will tell you, it rained on the opening act, then cleared up just before Dan walked out on stage. His luck held. The rain stopped just before we stepped outside, and Scott had us pose there at the top of the stairs, sans umbrellas. 


    The gentlemen lent their arms, holding purses and pew bouquets, and steadying ladies in heels as we held our long dresses up off the wet pavement. We talked and laughed, breathing in the freshly washed desert air as we crossed the plaza to the La Fonda Hotel. Most of us got inside before the rain started again.

    The tables were beautifully decorated with peach and white bouquets and the long buffet had something for everyone, regardless of dietary restrictions. Our favorite local guitarist, Ruben Romero, was playing with his trio. 
    Then, we saw the cake. 


    Sitting alone on a round table, it looked stranded on the white tablecloth. It was just as beautiful as it had looked in the cake maker’s photo album, but much smaller than we’d expected. We had ordered a cake to serve fifty to sixty people, and never thought to ask the cake maker how tall that would be, in inches. After looking at each other in shock, we started riffing off the “Stonehenge scene” from the film, This is Spinal Tap: “The cake is in danger of being crushed by a dwarf!” and, “Ian, I was given this napkin! Look, it say’s eighteen inches!” It would become one of our treasured moments of the day. Of course, the beautiful cake ended up being plenty big enough to feed all of our guests.


    New friends mingled with old friends, going back as far as Dan’s grade school bands. Dan’s old pal, David Backstrom, who had to leave “The Clan” when his family moved, was there, as was Jon Asher of “The Coachmen.” My high school friends, Royann and Wendelin, were there, as was Patricia, who had seated Dan as close to me as possible at Cafe Romana.
    Just before we cut the cake, Dan made a speech to our gathered guests. He joked about how his mother had discouraged him from doing a bit of stand up at the wedding, at which point she applauded and everyone laughed. Then he spoke from his heart, thanking our friends for coming such a long way, “in the current conditions of the world, to be with us.” He talked about how awesome it was to see the people we loved the most in the world, all together in one place. He said, this would never happen again, probably, in our lives. Oh geez, I could feel the tears coming again.
    As Dan began to talk about why we had chosen the auditorium for our wedding, I wiped my eyes with my fingers and looked around for a cloth of some kind. Other than the tablecloth, there was nothing. When he explained that we’d gone there on our first date, I interjected “Official first date,” and lifted the edge of the table cloth to dry my face, which got a laugh. As he talked about the John Williams concert, Royann handed me a cloth napkin and, after drying my face, I did a big fake nose blow and everyone laughed. My friend Shereen could be heard to say, “There’s Jean. There she is.” Dan smiled and rolled his eyes, knowing he’d been upstaged, and finished his story with, “And we’ve been together ever since.” Then Dan told a story about our Scots/Irish heritage and got a big laugh, so he got his standup bit in, after all. Finally, we cut the cake. 
    When it came time for the bouquet toss, photographer Scott had me stand with my back to the six single girls. He counted it down for the photos and, as instructed, I faked the first toss. On the second count, I tossed the bouquet high over my head and all six mini-bouquets scattered, mid-air, to the surprise and delight of all. 
    We had requested no gifts, and everyone adhered to that. Artist and Ocean Conservationist Wyland drew a dolphin on one of the peach napkins with a black sharpie, and filmmakers Shereen Noon and Aaron Star videotaped the wedding and reception, which turned out to be the best gift anyone could have given us. 


Elliott Delman, making one of his hilarious toasts.

Shereen Noon's hand, Me, Dan, Jon Asher, David Backstrom, Elliott, Suzy Drell, Lisa Pasquin, Todd Pasquin, Janet Asher, Evelyn Roberts.

The following morning we flew out of Albuquerque for a much-needed week of R&R at the Four Season’s Punta Mita Hotel, an hour north of Puerto Vallarta. The restaurant had a posted dress code, so we got all gussied up and went down to eat. Almost everyone was wearing shorts and tee shirts, and we were disappointed to see how casual our culture had become. We wore sweats and overalls every day at the ranch; we liked dressing up when we went out someplace nice. So, we continued to honor the dress code, and the staff seemed to appreciate our efforts.
    Dan wanted to drive down to Puerto Vallarta to search for the huarache sandals that he liked to wear, so we rented a car at the concierge desk. We were used to driving Dan’s Toyota 4Runner and the ranch Jeep, so the brand-new Mercedes sedan they gave us seemed like a fun treat. We were told how to use the key fob to lock the car and open the trunk, and off we went. Right away we found a good parking spot on the busy main street. 
    When we got back to the car with our shopping bags, we managed to set off the alarm, which the concierge had neglected to tell us about. Nothing we did would make it stop. We were horribly embarrassed and getting angry glares from shop owners. I’d seen a payphone down the street, and ran to call the hotel, while a cast of locals and tourists took turns fiddling with the fob and peering under the dash, trying to help Dan silence the damn thing. The solution turned out to be simple, but obscure: the key fob had to be held up to the sensor plate under the dash. The silence was glorious and everyone exclaimed in relief, shaking their heads at the newfangled alarm system.
    For the rest of our stay at the Punta Mita, we read and dozed under umbrellas on the beach, then ate chips and freshly-made guacamole at lunch. We sampled tequilas from the fifty bottles at the Tequila Bar, cooled off in our own mini-infinity pool, and did what honeymooners do. Once a day, Dan swam in the sea (by himself, because the water was too cold for other mortals.) 


    When we stepped off the plane in Albuquerque, we were rested and relaxed. Dan had a deep, dark tan and I was already peeling. That night we stayed at the Inn of the Anasazi, and the following morning we had breakfast at the hotel restaurant (Huevos Rancheros for Dan, Blue Corn Pancakes for me.) We went to the kitchen shop in the DeVargas mall, then did some grocery shopping. Before starting the drive back to the ranch, we stopped for gas and Dan got out to fill the tank.
    It was a sunny day, and as I sat in the warm car I looked down at my beautiful rings, sparkling in the sunlight. I flashed back to a California day in September of 1969, when I was thirteen, and excited about starting high school. I had saved up my babysitting money to buy a pair of shoes at Woolworth’s. They were chocolate-brown, patent leather Baby Dolls with a skinny strap and thick, curved Granny Heels. As I sat in the car waiting for Mom, I stared at the shiny new shoes, nestled in crisp white tissue paper in the box on my lap, and couldn’t imagine being happier. I knew I was the luckiest girl in the world.

    Dan got back in the car and we merged on to US-84 West, toward Colorado. The memory of the brown shoes carried me past other moments in my life, happy and sad. My recollections merged with the New Mexico landscape, creating a double exposure in my mind; a stereoscope blending past and present. Breaking from my daydreams, I looked at Dan, who was lost in his own thoughts; most likely having to do with the upcoming Summer Tour.

    We’d come a long way in six years. I recalled the day he turned the truck radio down and asked if I was mad at him, simply because I’d been quiet for a spell. Those days were gone, as were the misconstrued comments and sudden, inexplicable breakups, fueled by hurts from the past. We’d entered a new era; our happiness and mistakes would be of our own making from now on.

    “Green chili in Española?” I asked.

    “You read my mind,” he said.

    “I love you, Dan,” I said, suddenly overwhelmed with emotion.

   He burst out laughing. “Interesting segue,” he said. After a few beats, he added, “I love you too, Jeanie,” and took my hand.


    In Española we pulled into the Stop & Eat Drive-In and got out of the car. At the order window, we bought lunch and asked for two extra containers of green chili to go, then we stood in the shade to wait for them to call our number. Dan put his arms around me and kissed me gently. “You a funny cat,” he said, smiling into my eyes. I couldn't imagine being happier, and I knew I truly was the luckiest girl in the world.


Posted November 28th. 2020 Copyright ©Jean Fogelberg 2020