I had just been re-elected City Court Judge in 1989 and was looking for a way to unwind after a tough campaign. Originally I had planned on disappearing into the woods for a few days, but Mary had other plans and talked my high school principal into inviting me for a day hike somewhere in the wilderness of the eastern Adirondacks.
It had been getting chilly, so I wore an old pair of corduroy trousers, heavy enough to keep the legs warm. I hadn't counted on being caught in a driving rain miles from my car, like walking through a waterfall for twenty minutes. Fortunately I had a rain poncho. Unfortunately it didn't cover the corduroy which got increasingly heavy as I slogged along.
By the time I got back to my car, an hour and a half from home, I was shivering pretty good. I jacked up the heat in my Ford Tempo to full blast and dreamed of dry clothes and glowing radiators all the way home. I never warmed up.
The house was dark.
A note tacked to the back door said: "Boiler out. Meet us at Super 8 Motel."
But I had an evening wedding to perform first.
Fortunately the hot water heater still functioned in the icy house, and I took the longest, hottest shower of my life.
The wedding went off, I had dinner with the bride and groom and finally settled in at the Super 8 with six of us in a room designed for four. The two rollaways took care of whatever free floor space there might have been.
It had been a very long day.
* * *
The net morning I reached for the remote control. The Today Show came on.
I rubbed my eyes.
I couldn't believe what I was seeing.
There were hundreds of people dancing on the Berlin Wall.
* * *
Ten years later and we were hosting for a year a German exchange student who had been seven years old before he tasted freedom.
On the evening of the anniversary as we gathered at the dining room table for dinner, I opened a can of beer and poured a shot glass full and placed it before our guest (keeping the rest for myself, of course) and toasted the free people of a united Germany.
"Yes, I remember this night," he said. "I was only seven years old and my mother woke me up in the middle of the night. "Christian!' she said. 'Look at the television! Look! Your father is on television!
"'He's dancing on the Berlin Wall!'"