Thursday, August 06, 2009


John Hughes died today, and I have been married for 16 years.

This calls for a story. It's a long one.

In August 1989 I was a cranky 15-year-old riding in the backseat of a very large blue Dodge van all the way across the country, and then all the way north, almost as far as you can go, plugged into a Walkman all the while. Dragged away, crying, pouting, and finally sulking, away from my friends and the school choir and drama programs and the voice lessons I had planned, away from radio stations and concerts that were oh-so-important, away from the long-haired boy I was sure would eventually come around and fall in love with me. Goodbye to the top-floor bedroom where I watched golden leaves float in dense showers to the ground and listened to the summer rains of western Pennsylvania beating the roof of the screened porch, to the squirrels in the backyard, to the giant hemlock tree shading the front porch, to the everywhere-lush green of the east. No more taking the trolley downtown to hang out by the Three Rivers Fountain and go to Eide's for records. No more covert operations to the Galleria to spy on the gorgeous senior boy who worked in the shoe store (different from the long-haired boy; I still had a wide range of interests). No more basement sleepovers to escape the oppressive, wet heat in the upstairs part of the house.

Oh yes, I was a delightful teenager, and I didn't dwell at all on what I was losing.

We arrived in Fairbanks, a family of eight, bedraggled and tired after some 3000 miles on the road. We passed the marquis of what would become my high school, and I could not figure out what the heck a malamute was supposed to be. The graphical representation was not all that good, as I remember. (It's a sled dog. You really can't blame me for not knowing. None of the popular Disney dogsled movies had happened yet.) I noticed that the auditorium was called Hering, and the pool was called Hamme. Great, a whole school of salted, preserved meats.

Skipping forward several days, I started my sophomore year of high school. Thankfully, I had made friends at church and my dear, wonderful Kelly - the girl who could sing AND play basketball AND was destined for the student body presidency - was showing me around. Before too long I found a crowd where I was comfortable. I settled into Concert Choir and met the drama teacher.

Then Seminary started. What we did, although I'm sure it wasn't the most righteous or diligent thing to do, was to sit on the floor in the hallway of the stake center and wait for the last minute to pass before going into our classes. All the better to people-watch. And I liked what I saw. The boy who caught my eye had pegged pants, argyle socks, a denim jacket, Converse All-Stars, and suspenders hanging loose from his waist. No visible hair, and a bandanna tied tight around a perfectly round head. My first thought, of course, was that I had found a Mormon skinhead in Alaska. I knew we had to meet. I asked Kelly who he was.

"Oh, that's Glenn," she said. "He looks like a rebel, but he's really all into scriptures and stuff." Apparently he had been the champion in the Seminary scripture chase the previous spring. He was a senior. Oh, the appeal of a senior boy to a sophomore girl! And everybody, it seemed, knew him and loved him.

The deal was sealed. I was on the hunt. I also heard he had an out of state girlfriend, but this didn't worry me.

Within a couple of weeks I learned through covert means that he was up for Homecoming King at his high school. Certainly not my high school. The two are mortal enemies. Then I learned he had won. All the stoners and nerds and punks and losers banded together and voted a punk rock kid homecoming king. Do you see the John Hughes element yet?

Naturally, everyone I had befriended wanted to get to that homecoming dance and see the spectacle. Everyone wondered how the crown would fit on top of his hair. Oh yeah, his hair. About 8 inches tall spiky crazy hair, sometimes straight up in the air, sometimes arranged in the messy nest of Robert Smith, sometimes sprayed into a peacock-tail fan. This was no skinhead. That was also ok with me.

Students from my school were not allowed at dances at his school, and vice versa. There had been horrible fights. We heard there might be a guest list, but it didn't pan out. So there was one thing left to do.

I dressed in one of my mom's old formals from the 60s. It was bright, near-neon paisley flannel with a black velvet bodice and covered buttons down the front. I put on my red lipstick, which my mother hated and greeted with "Here come Ana's lips!" I got in my friend Chris's tiny car and we went over to the dance. A girl named Cat let us in the back door.

Glenn wore Royal Stewart tartan pants covered in multitudes of zippers, and a white t-shirt with the sleeves ripped off and something written on it in black marker, I can't remember what. I did what any postmodern girl would do, of course: marched right up to the punk rock homecoming king and said, "I saw you at Seminary."

He had seen me, too, and didn't seem unhappy to see me again. We slow-danced to a Pink Floyd song. Looking back, for many years I thought it was "Wish You Were Here," but now I think it may have been "Blue Skies." When it was time to go home, I left with my friends.

The following Monday I wrote my phone number in the margins of my Seminary manual in my red "LDS SCRIPTURE MARKING PENCIL" and ripped it out. I gave it to Glenn on the steps of the stake center as the sun was rising. He called me that night and told me the detailed history of Bauhaus, Love and Rockets, Tones on Tail, and Peter Murphy. I started sitting in his car before Seminary, listening to music, instead of in the hallway. We kissed for the first time about a month later under a streetlamp in the falling snow, the cloudy sky glowing pink, reflecting the lights of the town.

After a breakup, a mission, and a lot of letters and phone calls, we got married on August 6, 1993 in the Salt Lake Temple.

It's too bad John Hughes never made a movie of us; it would have rocked. But 16 years of marriage (adorned with 15 years of higher education between the two of us, and four beautiful children) trumps any show I've ever seen. Even Pretty in Pink.


Denise said...

I don't know, it's pretty darn hard to trump Pretty in Pink. But you just might have done it. Happy anniversary!

alyddall said...

Boy - I'll have to see if Marta or your mom could dig up any photos. I have a hard time seeing this past on the Glenn that I have met during the last two years.

Congrats to you both!

Valerie said...


Crysty said...

Really good post, Ana...and Happy Anniversary!

Christine said...

Anna! i linked to your blog through Annie E. I also get to keep up on how you and your family are doing, through Gladys and Susan... I remember when your family arrived in Fairbanks... good times in YW. Sixteen years... congratulations! Love Chris Higgins

annie said...

I love posts like this!! Especially when I know exactly where and WHO you are talking about!!