In October, 2008 I received an invitation to the re-dedication of the James A. Walsh Federal Courthouse in Tucson Arizona. This Courthouse had been named after my grandfather in 1985 and had recently undergone a renovation, more details about that elsewhere. When I saw this invitation I knew that this was just the right opportunity to introduce Lucia to my home and my family. I asked if she would join me on the trip and to my delight she accepted.
We left early and had to entrust getting the kids to school to Chris, to his credit he get everyone there on time. Our flight on US Airways left time, was smooth and arrived early. Much to my chagrin the rental car turned out to be a rental mini-van which really stuck in my craw as i had just finished telling Lucia's sister Silvia why i would not be caught dead driving a mini-van. I thought of asking for a change but the time it took would have made us late so I swallowed my foolish pride and drove on. We checked in at the Fiesta Conference Center and were delighted with our accommodations, then quickly headed out for Tucson.
The drive down was wonderful fun because I could play tour guide for Lucia and she was such a great audience, really appreciating the austere beauty of the desert I grew up in which so many people just do not understand.
We arrived in Tucson, found parking, passed through the Secret Service gauntlet (yes there really were Secret Service Agents protecting the attendees) and was surprised to find that the organizer had made a leap in creating Lucia's name tag for Mrs. Chuck Mattern (I swear I had nothing to do with that and have the email to prove that I registered to he as my fiance'), if the cat wasn't out of the bag before that it certainly was afterward. Lucia was able to meet Mom and Phil, Judy and Bill Bass, Mary, Bill and Kasey, Aunt George, Gaby and Jay, Adam, Alana and Rachael.
There was a musical prelude performed by members of the 36th Army Band out of Fort Huachuca. Speaking at the ceremony were:
The ceremony was very moving for me, while I knew and loved my grandfather while he was on earth with us, hearing him described by his friends and colleagues, particularly Dean Ares, was a refresher on what a wonderful person he was to the rest of the world. I also learned what an effort had been made by the Bankruptcy Court Judges and others to save the building, I had not known that the government had considered tearing it down.
After the ceremony we took a tour of the courthouse and were allowed to spend some time and take photos in the courtroom Grandpa had run for so many years. The GSA had some very good refreshments and there was a good deal of mingling, not the thing Grandpa would have gone for himself but definitely appropriate to the occasion.
Later in the evening many of us congregated at El Charo for a dinner hosted by Aunt George and Lucia had an opportunity to get to know the family better. The food and company were wonderful and time flew by much too fast. As things broke up we promised, as we always do to keep in touch more closely and while we do have lapses in touching base the wonder of our family is that we can always sit down after an absence of months or even years and say "Now let's see, you were saying that..." and just pick up from the last time.
Lucia and I had a queit ride back to Phoenix and rose early to head out to Globe to introduce her to Dad and Sharon. We stopped on the way for a light breakfast at Coffee Plantation in Tempe and then hit the road. I was in my element again telling the Legend of the Lost Dutchman's Mine as we drove throught the Superstition Mountains.
Well, my sweet wonderful Chuck and I went on our first trip together, and it was terrific. As all things good, it was way too short. We had a marvelous time and for me, quite an experience!
As anyone who knows me will tell you, I am neither shy nor prone to nervousness, but I have to admit that I was a little unsettled at the prospect of meeting Chuck’s entire family, MY new family, almost all at once and, especially, at such a solemn occasion as the re-dedication of the Courthouse in honor of Chuck’s grandfather, James A. Walsh.
Our flight out left promptly at 8 in the morning, which meant that we were up and about from 4:30 on. By the time we got to Phoenix I felt like it was time for a nap although, with a two time-zone difference, it was only mid-morning there. The flight was quite comfortable and even got to Phoenix 20 minutes ahead of schedule. We got to the airport and went to pick up our mid-size rental car and lo and behold, a Sienna mini-van! Funny thing is just the week before Chuck had been saying there would be no way he’d be caught dead driving a mini-van.... yeah, well, such is life, right? Too funny! I even had the pleasure of taking his picture driving the mini-van! (I did have to promise I wouldn’t post it online, though!!)
Anyway, off we went to get checked in to the Fiesta Resort. A very nice hotel near to the airport. We settled in and got dolled up and once more off we went, this time to Tucson. And what an incredible trip it was! I’d been to Arizona when I was 13 or 14, but never as a conscious adult. What a magnificent place the desert is! Why people imagine it is barren, I do not know. There is so much life there! Definitely reminds you of the power and creativeness of Almighty God. The rock formations, the cacti, the colors! And the weather in this part of the world at this time of the year? Truly delicious!
We got to Tucson pretty much on time and got to the James A. Walsh Courthouse right before the re-dedication ceremony started. We were greeted by Secret Service-looking guys (probably were!) and waved in to the check-in desk where they had our name tags. Mine said ‘Mrs. Chuck Mattern’!!! Kinda early for that, but it made my chest heave with pride, none the less.
The first familiar face we saw was Jay’s, Gabrielle (Gaby’s) husband, who said hello and welcomed us warmly. Then we went to the very front of the courtyard where the ceremony was to take place, where a place of honor was held for the family members of Judge Walsh. And what an honor it was! I was surrounded by Chuck’s family. There I met Chuck’s mom, Gerri and her wonderful partner Phil, Aunt George and her daughter, Cousin Gaby with her kids, Adam, Alana and Rachael. Then there were cousin Mary and cousin Bill. Bill’s daughter, Kasey, was also there, as were Gerri's cousin Judy and her husband, Bill.
The rededication ceremony included speeches from 10 prominent citizens of Arizona. Judges, congressmen, professors, mayors, all of which had wonderful things to say about Judge Walsh. I never met the man, but I wish I had. Chuck speaks of him often and has told me wonderful things about him, but to hear from his colleagues and those who admired him professionally, I know that he was honest, generous, kind and just, and held a tight reign within his courtroom where he exercised all the good things the law and justice have to offer. His family, our family, should be very proud.
After the ceremony was over we took a tour of the re-inaugurated courthouse, took pictures and headed for a delicious Mexican restaurant called El Charro Cafe, a place with quite a tradition of it's own. Aunt George insisted on inviting us all, overriding cousin Bill’s protests. During the wonderful meal I had a chance to talk with all of the people and get to know them a little better and let me tell you, a wonderful clan they are.
Once we’d said our good-byes, Chuck gave me a tour of Tucson and then we headed back to Phoenix.
Early in the morning we headed for Globe to meet Charlie and Sharon, Chuck’s dad and step-mom. The trip was incredible for me. Once more I was assaulted by the beauty of the desert and the grandeur of the mountains and cacti that populate this very beautiful part of the world. The weather was warm and breezy and the sky was blue and clear. A glorious day for sure. When we got to the Mattern residence we were greeted most warmly by Mom and Dad (I can call them that!) as well as by Pecan and Peanut, a pair of friendly dogs that sleep in bunk beds! I got to see pictures of Chuck as a boy and a young man, as well as of the other members of the family. I loved the time spent in such a warm and loving home.
After lively conversation and talking about each of our kids, Dad took my hands and asked if there were any good news we wanted to share with him. When we announced our upcoming wedding Dad got emotional, as did I. I was welcomed into the family and enveloped in love and prayers for our happiness. I am truly blessed!
We went to lunch at a local Italian restaurant where with the food and conversation were so good that time flew by and, before we knew it, it was time to go.
Once again into the Arizona desert for me to meet Rich and Donna, and for both Chuck and I to meet Colin, the baby! Oh, he is sooo beautiful. And such a good boy, too. Not a peep (except when they put him in his car seat, really doesn’t like that at all!). Donna and Rich gave us a tour of their beautiful house and then we went to dinner at a trendy Thai place close to Rich’s work. Again, good conversation made the clock tick just that much faster and soon Rich had to go to work. We did get to enjoy Donna and Colin’s company a little more, but soon we had to head off again to visit with Gerri and Phil.
Chuck once again served as a tour guide and took a little detour to show me his childhood school, Sahauro Elementary. Right in front is this great big cactus where we took pictures and took a minute to gaze at the beauty of the full moon above us. How I would have liked to see the little boy that Chuck was back then... but I guess God has given me that chance by permitting me to be part of his (our) children's lives as they grow up.
Phil and Gerri welcomed us into Phil’s beautiful home. Oh the house! The Native-American artifacts! The books! And Phil has the cutest dog in the world named Cagney, who became our instant friend. We had ice cream and visited for a while and then, once more, off to explore a little of the city. Chuck took me to Squaw Peak (where I refused to walk up the trail in the dark, arguing my fear of spiders, but really not wanting to show my wonderfully fit and athletic fiancé what a wimp he’s marrying!!)
And finally our last morning in Phoenix... incredible how time flies! We once again headed to Phil and Gerri’s for a delicious breakfast of fruit salad, quiche and home-made muffins. I had never felt so pampered! Too soon we said our good-byes and to the airport. My bag got the once-over because of some cough medicine I’d stored, but that was only a chance to make conversation with one of the locals. We bought the kids some souvenirs and made it to the plane with plenty of time. Unfortunately there were problems on one of the engines so we had to wait an hour until it was fixed.
As there are no coincidences in life, that additional hour on the plane afforded us time to get to know the young man sitting beside us. His name is also Chris, from the Bay Area and is all of 23. He confessed to having spent some time in juvenile detention for drug distribution and has decided to change his life. We exchanged e-mail addresses and talked about the power of the Lord in helping us turn our lives. I hope we keep in touch with Chris and are able, with God’s blessing, to help him heal the wounds his old life scarred him with.
Well, my only regret this trip was not having been able to meet Paul, Chuck’s brother, and his family, but I’m sure we’ll have plenty of opportunities in the future.
And so, the end of my first trip with the love of my life to his childhood home, Arizona, went all too quickly, but left wonderful memories and a feeling that I know Chuck a little better and that I am glad to belong and be a part of his extended family.