We went out on the Mississippi River on the Celebration Belle Riverboat tonight, with old friends (and my husband’s classmates) Bob and Judy DeJonghe and Bob and Marvis Hafner.

I had not been out on one of these riverboat dinner cruises for at least  25 years. The last time we went out and floated up and down the river we took my parents; my father has been dead since 1985. I remembered it as being boring when we went with my parents, because we had some questionable weather and couldn’t go outside.

When organizer Robert DeJonghe asked if we were interested in going, I thought it was just because of the dinner (and the view, of course), which was said to be good (something like $106 a couple—although I could be wrong).

It is true that it is my birthday on 7/23 and that date is  also Bob and Judy’s wedding anniversary back in 1966, but I didn’t realize that Bob DeJonghe had ordered a cake and was plotting a celebration of our mutual upcoming events. As for the third couple, Bob Hafner just had surgery (laparoscopic) to remove a growth from his kidney and is going to have back surgery on August 3rd. Hopefully that will put him back on the links with his two high school buddies, my husband Craig and the organizer, Bob DeJonghe.

We took off from the River Drive pier at 6 p.m., as Bob DeJonghe had picked up our tickets earlier.

I spent a day or so wondering what to wear. Remembering the bad weather that I encountered with my parents decades ago and the fact that the A/C inside can get cool, I settled on a new outfit from the Four Seasons that had a matching light blue sweater. The store, my favorite, had sent me a coupon for my 7/23 birthday to purchase one item at half price, and, when I drove over to select it, learned that they were having a truly great sale of summer items. Since we spend the winter in Texas, summer weight is year-round weight. When I learned that if you bought 2 items that had been marked down twice, you got an additional 40% off the sale saved me $182.33 on my final bill. I’m all set for celebrating this weekend in Chicago with the family gathering from Texas,  hitting a Cubs game, a play at the Goodman Theater, and the Signature Room atop the Hancock Building. Can’t wait!

There was an entire bus full of revelers (an African American group) who had driven all the way from Oak Park, Illinois outside Chicago. I had shots in my knee at the arthritis joint pain clinic in Oak Park on September 21, 2022. I can personally attest that it is a LONG way to come for this riverboat dinner cruise.

The church group was spectacularly threaded out. While I was in my new finery,  it is definitely casual when compared to the finery that the Oak Brook group had broken out for the occasion. One rather tall gentleman (looked like Nat King Cole), attired all in white, was dancing by himself and was quite striking. (I am now reconsidering my choice of outfits for the birthday dinner on July 22nd in Chicago. Ahem.).

A discussion broke out concerning “our song.” Judy said that “A Summer Place” was their song. I managed to tear a piece of paper off an envelope, write a phonetic pronunciation of “DeYoung”, and give the D.J. a request that he play the song and announce the 57th wedding anniversary of our host couple, Bob and Judy DeJonghe. I have always remembered their anniversary, because it occurred on my birthday, although I did not know Bob and Judy at the time. (My spouse was in the wedding party, as was the other male member of this unholy trio, Bob Hafner).

We spent a fair amount of time on the exterior of the boat, with the sun setting. When we journeyed up the Mississippi River and cruised beneath the new I-74 bridge, it looked like our smoke stack might not make it. We saw the ruin of the old bridge, some parts of which are still standing after the recent implosion of the old bridge.

When the disc jockey announced the 50th anniversary celebration of a member of the church group from Oak Brook, everyone clapped. But 57 got a bigger round of applause (as it should). Wonder of wonders—he had “A Summer Place” and played it as the host couple danced. It was great, although my quick grab of my cell phone (pictures here) could have been better. The crowd applauded and I remember thinking that 57 years is quite an achievement. (We will have to go 2 more years to hit that mark!)

Still, it was a lovely idea to have this “celebration’ and I’d like to thank Bob (DeJonghe) for his efforts in thinking this up and getting all of us, including the just-out-of-the-hospital Bob Hafner, onboard.

We all hobbled around (Hafner discovered the elevator, which was great) a bit, since we all have our health issues.

The only bad part of the night was learning that an old teaching buddy of mine has shuffled off this mortal coil. We were Co-chairmen of the Silvis Education Association during the struggle for recognition of the SEA (which was successful and still endures) and taught together at Silvis Junior High for years. (RIP, Steve).

I smiled as I looked at Bob and Judy climbing ALL of the stairs to board the ship. They scrambled up the side of the ship like small mice.

I was a short hitter in that department, having blown my knee out on September 15, 2022 after 7 months of adjuvant (post cancer surgery) therapy.  I think we all did extremely well in making it up to the top deck more than once. It was a lovely summer evening, with good weather, good food, and good friends. A good time was had by all.

HAPPY ANNIVERSARY, Bob and Judy! And Thanks for a great idea!