The Story of Us at 40

We married on Saturday, July 19, 1980, in Charlotte, NC. It was 96 burning degrees hot, unavoidably sunny and as humid as a wet, sticky ocean breeze, without the breeze. It was reported to be the hottest day of that summer. We knew July for what it could be; viciously hot, humid if not stormy afternoons. Still, we searched out July 19th because it was the one Saturday in 1980 that fell on the 19th of the month. Starting with Mom and Dad, all of the Rileys had married on the 19th. We saw no reason, other than it could be hot, to break that chain.

My folks hosted the Rehearsal Dinner at the Ramada Inn on Friday night. Toasts upon glass clinking toasts rang out. Stories told. Laughter to be had. Even a ceremonial tossing of groom into pool. All in all, a great time with family and friends who came in from Durham and other points beyond to Charlotte.

The wedding took place at 4 p.m. at Providence United Methodist Church. Julie made her walk on the arm of her brother, Johnny, to Bach’s Organ Fugue in G Minor. Dr. Bob Osborn, who I’ve known since high school, officiated. The Reception was held at the Quail Hollow Estates Club House. It was a lot of fun but the AC in the clubhouse couldn’t fight back the heat and everyone in the photos from there have a lasting sheen from sweat.

Following that, Julie and I hosted a party at our home. It was one of those ideas that sounded great with so many folks coming from out of town…until we were at the Radisson Hotel in uptown Charlotte following the reception, too tired to eat the steak dinner and just wanting to crash. Then we wondered, how did we think this was a good idea. We sucked it up, regathered ourselves and headed home. When we arrived at our house, the party was totally in full tilt, and we forgot that we were tired and had the time of our lives. Julie sang in perfect harmony to Springsteen’s “Born to Run” using a candle for her mic.

The next morning, we shook off our hangovers with breakfast in our hotel room, then dropped by the house expecting to find a mess. John and Heidi Waller and their baby Luke had spent the night there. They were already on the road but they left a sweet note and the house totally clean.

We drove to Palmetto Dunes Condos at Hilton Head in a station wagon borrowed from Julie’s place of work for the air conditioner. A very wise move. Then, we drove to Charleston, SC for three nights at the Battery and Carriage House. It was the time of our lives and the beginning of so much more.

Some memories from those who remember:

Page, my baby brother – “I have the image of your wedding matchbook ingrained in my memory. I have forgotten a lot of things but I just always remember that white matchbook inscribed with ‘Julie and Steve Riley, July 19, 1980’. Funny what and how you remember things.

Sylvia, our first sister-in-law – On our nuptials – As the toasts started rolling at our rehearsal dinner, a glass rang from a what felt like the back of the room. We saw Sylvia rise up to clang, ready herself and proclaim, ‘I’d like to make a toast!’ No sooner had she claimed the moment, she quickly dropped out of sight. There was some commotion. Then some shy laughter as Lin waved that she was okay, just a little overcome. She sent us her memory of the moment.

“I did sink to my knees in awe of the love between you two. I distinctly remember my glass following me down. I send you and Julie a much belated and largely accomplished “LONG LIFE and HAPPINESS!”  With my love. Sylvia PS, If you have great butter it is best enjoyed on cold toast.

From Lin, my older brother, and Sylvia’s husband – “How could it be that many years ago? And who would have ever thought we would  be where we are today.  Some bumps in the road but still between the ditches!! As we stumble/trip along our life’s roads we can be thankful for the wonderful, sometimes crazy circumstances that bring us to our mates.  Damn Steve, you are one lucky guy!!  And Julie is one lucky girl!! Happy 40th Anniversary and wishes for many more.  Love you both.”

From Susie Mitchell, Julie’s baby sister “It was the hottest day of the year, DAMN hot. Momma Rudy was furious that the caterers didn’t let anyone in the building until she got there. You know after [post wedding party] pictures, travel out there etc. Julie also chose a high neck, long sleeved dress on this, the hottest day of the year. There is a photo of Julie and me getting ready to go down the aisle- she looks terrified. I have an identical photo! [from her wedding day]

We took you to the hotel downtown in a 1980 Cutlass Supreme, navy blue with a landau top. This after partying all night. 

Below is the card that I wrote for Julie on our 35th wedding anniversary. The passing of five years have not changed the feeling and the intent. With a few edits changing out the years, I’ll let this speak for how I feel about a the Story of Us at 40.

Dearest Julie,

Yes, we’re celebrating 40 years, 

Together as a whole, 

But it’s all of the small bits and pieces

Of time separated,

That make the 40 so special,

So truly wonderful.

From the total chance 

Of moving in next door,

To our individual attraction to Selwyn Village,

To me liking you,

You liking Kritty Krat,

To both of us liking Long John Baldry,

Then, finally, you liking me.

That liking turned to love,

So quickly that it was truly meant to be.

I pulled you into the wonder of my life,

Sharing with you the beauty of my mountains, 

The isolated strength of Ocracoke,

How to tame a van with three speeds in the column,

And a quarter turn play in the steering wheel,

Into a drive down the highway in a study in estimated direction.

And you bit into it with a lust for the moments each of these afforded.

You absorbed me into your world, 

A little slower, 

Not being the effusive fountain of yourself that I can be.

You revealed your inner self like you cook,

Mise en place, Simmering and slow, 

Delicate. Measured. Masterpiece.

We fell so deeply in love,

That we shall gladly never ever recover.

From that first kiss,

To whenever we share our last, 

We began that journey that has taken us from then to now. 

That brought with it Clark and Blair.

The joy of these two,

Pays tribute to our parents, our ancestry and our own personal hopes and dreams together. 

The fact that they both look back on their childhood with such happiness,

Such fond memories, such love of traditions, and appreciation for how they were raised,

Testifies that we did more right than wrong, 

And that paying attention to our love,

Was the best gift that we could give them.

And we gave them our all,

So that they would grow up and move out,

Confident that they could build a life of their own.

No one knows for sure,

That their vows will outlast their lives. 

After 43 years of love, 40 years of marriage,

I’m looking forward to ours going down in history as,

Ever lasting.

Thank your for taking the time to read my post. It is a true joy to share The Story of Us with you. Being human is a wonder and a true gift. Sharing that together answers the question of “why?” so often felt in the living of this life.

5 thoughts on “The Story of Us at 40

  1. Congratulations, Jules & Stevie! Donis and I remember fondly celebrating a few anniversaries with you. We hope to help you celebrate many more. We love You Guys!!!

    1. Thanks for reading and posting a comment.
      Boy, did we co-celebrate! The birth of children. Anniversaries. Birthdays. Graduations. Fridays. Saturdays. And now, our children’s weddings. What a gift our friendship has been to our lives.

  2. A beautiful story thanks for sharing it sure sounds like you had one hell of a time congratulations on 40 years and many more to come. Keep enjoying your time together peace love and happiness

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