I am writing this note at 5:20 PM on Monday afternoon. That normally would not be worth remarking except that I remember exactly where I was and what I was doing at this very moment 31 years ago today. August 22, 1974 was a Thursday. It happened also to be my wedding day. My family had flown from Alabama to Phoenix, Arizona to take part in the happy celebration. Since we were having a Thursday wedding, that meant the ceremony would not start until 7 PM. Side note: Why did we have a Thursday wedding? In the 26 years I've been a pastor, I have never officiated at a Thursday wedding. I'm not sure of the answer, but Marlene says it was because I started my first year at Dallas Seminary the following Tuesday, and we wanted an extra day for leisurely travel.

Having an evening wedding means you've got an entire day to kill. Back then we followed the tradition (now mostly forgotten) that the bride and groom should not see each other on their wedding day. The only contact we had before the ceremony was a brief phone call. To pass the time at the motel, I organized a double-elimination shuffleboard tournament featuring the four Pritchard boys, our father, and Uncle Russ who (along with his wife Ruby) had come from their home in Oxford, Mississippi for the wedding. We played all afternoon, and through some stroke of fortune, I managed to win all my games. So did Uncle Russ. We started the championship match around 5:15 PM. And we never finished it because about twenty minutes later dad came out and said, "Son, you'd better get ready. The wedding starts at 7 PM." I remember being frustrated that we couldn't finish the game and declare a winner.

So I hopped in the shower, put on my tux, and hurried over to the church. I remember very little about that evening except that while we (my father was my best man) were standing in the anteroom waiting for the ceremony to begin, my father and the minister discussed real estate in Phoenix as if they had known each other for years. That seemed disconcerting to me because I was frankly nervous about everything. But looking back, I think my dad knew that, and instead of trying to comfort me, he chatted with the minister and that somehow helped pass the last few crucial minutes. The other thing I remember is that the minister stood behind a pulpit during the ceremony, the only time I've seen that happen. We started at 7 PM and we were walking out by 7:15 PM. My brothers said I let out a triumphant shout but I definitely don't remember that.

This morning Marlene and I had to run an errand together. On our way, she squeezed my hand and said, "Happy Anniversary." Seeing her smile still does something to me on the inside. Turns out I was a winner 31 years ago and I'm still a winner today.

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