By Ryn Gargulinski: QCS
When Tucumcari Middle School eighth-grader Cece Garcia went to the Odeon Theater she got more than a bag of buttered popcorn.
She found a husband.
She cannot recall what movie was playing that day some 30 years ago, but she remembers she sat in the balcony, started talking to the projectionist and ended up dating him for nearly six years.
They got married on Valentine’s Day in 1981 and James and Cece Rivera are renewing their vows on Saturday at St. Anne’s Catholic Church, the site of their wedding.
Cece Rivera said they could not find the original priest, but the ceremony will be officiated by a good family friend.
A reception at 4 p.m. and a dance at 7 p.m. are scheduled at the Elk’s Club following the ceremony.
Their vows will be the same; after all, they’ve worked so far for 25 years.
And they expect the same number of people who originally showed for their Tucumcari shindig — if not more.
“We never went anywhere for our honeymoon,” Cece Rivera said. “Actually, we had company that night.” She said two relatives needed a place to crash.
Family members are already asking around for places to stay for the anniversary party.
“Our family is growing,” said the mother of two and grandmother of one.
She and her husband agree they would not have it any other way.
In fact, when she first met the projectionist, all other boyfriends went, say, off the screen.
And Cece’s and James’ was not the only 1970s middle-school romance that blossomed into marriage.
“Three other couples started dating when we did,” Cece Rivera said. “One couple divorced about five years ago but the other is still together. They live in Wyoming. We still keep in touch.”
When asked what the secret is to a long-lasting union, Cece Rivera laughed.
“This friend of mine asked me that earlier,” she said. “I would say we give each other plenty of space — that’s a major one.”
Sure, she’s still invited to go golfing with her beau, but she’d prefer to hit the lake or the pool. If she’s on the course, she’d rather be walking around or driving the cart than putting the ball.
Her husband also said she’s always welcome to come hunting, where they leave at the crack of dawn. “But she’d rather stay in bed where it’s warm,” he laughed.
The great outdoors is one of their common interests, James Rivera said, as is sports and the importance of family and its values.
“We raised our kids fishing and hunting,” he said, “and to show respect.”
Evidently, just like their mother.
“Cece has love and respect for everybody,” James Rivera said, while his wife said his thoughtfulness constantly comes through, like when their two sons, James Jr. and Christopher, were born.
“He was right there the whole time,” Cece Rivera said. “I was nervous and scared and grouchy and everything else,” she laughed, adding James propped her up.
She said they always manage to prop each other up — or know when to get out of each other’s way.
“We don’t really spoil each other,” she said, “but we know when to do special things for each other. After every meal, he kisses me and says ‘Thank you.’ And we know when the other one’s in a bad mood; we know to leave each other alone.”
James Rivera said giving each other space is definitely one of the keys to their successful union and he added another.
“From the start we fought for what we believed in — each other,” he said.
He said / she said
He said she is: understanding, loving/respectful, family-oriented
She said she is: friendly, trustworthy, a hard worker
She said he is: hard working, lovable, honest
He said he is: hard working, reliable, full of common sense