Since 1983, Mason and I have faced a monumental decision every June --how will we celebrate our anniversary in a memorable way?
We've already attended a lecture on Hitler, soaked up Shakespeare in Stratford, Ontario, and ridden the rails to New Orleans to cruise the mighty Mississippi on the American Queen.
Since we've miraculously made it to No. 38 this year (plus five years of dating), we chose a "Nostalgia Tour." That meant driving three-plus hours to western Kentucky where this lengthy romance began.
Let me set the stage.
We'd each just arrived in Owensboro to start our journalism and broadcasting careers.
I'm freshly graduated from UK and anxious to impress my WVJS/Cable TV News Director. Mason had just completed his Master's degree at Columbia, Miss., and was hired at the Messenger-Inquirer.
Our paths didn't cross right away because this was one of the worst winters in Kentucky.
It snowed. Snowed. Snowed.
On top of the ice. Ice. Ice.
Shoveling out of our parking lots to get to work was exhausting. We had no energy left to slip and slide somewhere to socialize.
I first noticed Mason at the few press conferences that weren't cancelled because of the weather. He always came prepared with relevant questions. This was long before Google, Wikipedia and other online services that quickly provide background material on any subject.
I, on the other hand, barely had five minutes between getting an assignment and actually interviewing some newsworthy person passing through town. Panicked, I'd wrack my brain for any tidbit remotely related to their job.
Mason initially came off as an annoying know-it-all.
I instantly disliked him.
Still, I was thankful that his specific questions generated quality sound bites for me. Guiltily, I'd ask a few follow-ups myself so it didn't feel like cheating.
Like complicated relationships in rom-coms, I eventually came to respect and admire Mason's reporting skills. And fell in love with his feature writing.
Following the spring thaw, we spent hours talking at a party, where I realized he was naturally brilliant, and funny. Soon we were playing tennis before work. Or attending the symphony, where I inadvertently applauded in-between a movement. Mason reached over and held my hand.
It was either a touching gesture, or so I didn't embarrass him further.
Also, one night he labored over stuffing some teeny, tiny mushrooms to impress me.
During our Nostalgia Tour we drove around Owensboro, marveling and lamenting over how it has changed for the better and worse. We missed the Executive Inn where we watched, Sammy Davis Jr., perform, and Mason interviewed Tennessee Ernie Ford.
We occasionally treated ourselves at this luxury hotel, indulging in the food, services and Olympic- sized indoor pool.
On this trip, we walked along the river with old friends, gawking at how once-sketchy Smothers Park is now a delightful family attraction with an exceptional kids' playground, numerous fountains, a band-shell and string of glider swings, all located where you can enjoy gazing at the colors changing on the bridge to Indiana.
Other pluses: the library tripled in size. There's a lovely Botanical Garden with vibrantly-colored daylilies blooming, hiking trails galore and streets so flat it's a joy to ride a bike there.
Another crucial stop was Central City, Mason's hometown. It's near "Paradise," the town displaced by the Peabody strip mine in Muhlenberg County that John Prine sang about.
Mason's cousin, Amy, gave us a driving tour of what's new, like Lu-Ray Park with its awesome amphitheater where Prine performed in 2019, a year before he died.
Although it was closed, we stopped by the Everly Brothers Museum. Muhlenberg County claims them as native sons since their parents were from Brownie. Central City even sponsors a music festival in their honor over Labor Day.
We drove by the big yellow house on Broad Street where Mason grew up. And where we were married, in the parlor, with just family invited.
Friends joined us later for a cruise on the Executive Queen.
The house itself is special.
Mason's mom campaigned successfully to get it on the National Register of Historic Places in 1990.
It was a model home built in 1899 and showcased at the 1904 St. Louis World's Fair. Robert Thomas, who became a U.S. Congressman, bought it, moved it, and lived there until 1917.
Another fun fact.
It might be haunted.
The current resident has posted pictures on Facebook, swearing that cabinet doors mysteriously open, and rocking chairs rock on their own.
This doesn't surprise Mason. He has his own ghost story.
He recalls being home after his mother passed away, and waking up to her calling him downstairs for breakfast.
We didn't invite ourselves in. But we were happy to see the house is well cared for.
So ends our Nostalgia Tour, 2021.
It was certainly memorable. And will be hard to top next year.