Clue by clue the couple had been lovingly had

COFFEE WITH WARREN, with Warren Harbeck
Cochrane Eagle, June 29, 2005

It was mid afternoon last Saturday. Our one son and daughter-in-law were visiting from Toronto, and we were expecting our other son and his family from Calgary momentarily. The doorbell rang, but instead of the Calgary gang, it was a messenger with the following note:

"Warren and Mary Anna, you are our dear and wonderful friends. Do not worry that your son has not arrived." We'd be catching up with them later, it said; meanwhile we were to enjoy the fun-filled afternoon planned for us.

Then followed this instruction: "Go where there is coffee and tea as well as friends to see. . . Up in the loft, beneath a seat, look real hard for your next treat."

Where else could that be but Coffee Traders? After turning over a few chairs amidst bemused patrons, we found a second envelope, this time hinting at a popular gift shop.


Mary Anna reads clue outside MacKay's Ice Cream Shop. Photo by John Daly.


Warren & Mary Anna read clue by Chicken Lady statue. Photo by John Daly.


Warren & Mary Anna wear stage glasses at Java Jamboree. Photo by John Daly.


Cowboys Kate & Debbie outside Old & Crafty gift shop. Photo by Fr. Fred Monk.


Cowboys Kate & Debbie at Chicken Lady statue. Photo by Fr. Fred Monk.

Clearly, we were being sent on some mysterious scavenger hunt, made all the more mysterious by the presence of photographer John Daly at every turn – and, as it turned out later, by an inconspicuous Father Fred Monk and his camera.

Clue by clue, interspersed with romantic verse, we hurried over to Old & Crafty, then to MacKay's ice cream shop, and on to Just for You Flowers, where we received a beautiful bouquet and our sixth clue: "Lady Luck . . . is with a cluck. It's not polite to look under a skirt, but just this once we won't tell her husband Bert."

Across the street stood the bronze Legacy Statue of a pioneer woman feeding hens. And sure enough, under her skirt we found our seventh clue.

To Home Hardware and on to Michelle's Boutique, where we were given a bejeweled tea light, and lines by Louis Untermeyer: "Only of thee and me the night wind sings. . . ."

More romantic verse from Ellen next door, and then to "Superman's change room" – the phone booth outside the old Boothby library.

We sensed the hunt was nearing its end when at Bentleys Books came this clue: "You must be getting hungry and your feet a little sore. Down the sidewalk you must go in order to have a cup of Jo."

As we stepped up to the counter at Java Jamboree, dancing-eyed baristas handed us some brew and, pointing to a pair of full-bearded ranch hands in western hats, work clothes and dark glasses sitting at a table, said, "This is on them!"

We'd seen the two scruffy strangers around town earlier that afternoon, but hadn't paid much attention. Now, figuring they too must be part of this intriguing quest, we pulled up chairs, thanked them, and tried to make small talk. But to no avail – they stayed mum.

Mum, that is, until the taller of the two read to us – not in a husky male voice, but in a surprisingly recognizable female voice – "the world is full of beauty when the heart is full of love."

Then Kate Millar, a no-nonsense woman revered across Canada for bringing hope to many, removed her hat, let down her hair, and hugged us. Her partner-in-crime Debbie Vandelaar, the motion-picture makeup artist about whom I wrote back in March, did the same.

We'd been totally had by two of our dearest friends! They'd been conspiring for months to pull this off.

But the game wasn't over. A final clue directed us to an intimate dinner that evening with family and a few friends – "just to show you how much we all truly care."

There, following speeches by our sons, up-and-coming Cochrane vocalist Lisa Van Oyen concluded the day with her moving rendition of a song by Dan Fogelberg: "Longer than there've been fishes in the ocean . . . I've been in love with you."

The number 42, according to Douglas Adams' popular trilogy, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, is the less than satisfying answer to "the Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe and Everything."

In Mary Anna's and my case, that number is the far more satisfying answer to another question: "How long have you guys been married as of June 29?"

Happy 42nd anniversary, Mary Anna. And thank you, Debbie, Kate and the rest of you, for all your love in helping us celebrate this special occasion.

© 2005 Warren Harbeck

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