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It would have been a wonderful wedding — had it not been mine.
The sun was shining. Relatives were speaking to one another. The bridegroom showed up. At the altar waiting for me was a man I met in high school, who had served in Korea following World War II, and who looked great in a uniform. Ernest Borgnine looked great in a uniform!
Bill was a stranger. I had only known him for seven years. People had longer conversations with waiters over the "specials."
What could my parents be thinking of with all that drivel about "You're not getting any younger?" We had no car, no place to live,, no furniture, and no sterling silver pattern. I wondered if you were legally married if you didn't have a sterling silver pattern. Bill didn't even have a job. He had a year left of college. No doubt about it. My parents were making a big mistake!
Nothing was working out right. As a child I had always fantasized about having a wedding that was above our means. And here I was in an oversized bridal gown that I bought on sale, a cousin snapping our wedding album pictures with a box camera, and my mom smelling like the baked ham she cooked all morning to transport to the wedding reception.
And what was going to happen to my dreams? I had big plans for me. On my graduation from college, I was going to New York to work for the New York Times as a foreign correspondent. If that fell through, I had a firm offer to write obituaries for the Dayton Herald in Ohio.
Now, here I was two weeks after my graduation, walking down the aisle of the Church of the Resurrection to say "Ido" without so much as a job description.
I met the gaze of my bridegroom, who was waiting for me at the altar, and poverty and unfulfilled dreams seemed unimportant. What was the matter with me? I loved the man. We were the perfect couple. We had everything in common. Well, the things that really mattered.
We both chewed only a half stick of gum and saved the other half. (How many people did that!) We both loved Robert Benchley's humor, hated communism, and what was the other thing? Oh yes, we both loathed going to the dentist. A lot of couples we knew started off their marriages with less.
As I knelt by his side, I observed through my veil that he had a smattering of white paint on his ear. The faint odor of turpentine hung over him. He painted houses in the summer for extra money. That would have to change. Surely, he could find something more dignified to do. Besides, I had no intention of hanging around someone with whom you're afraid to light a match.
The man definitely needed work. But I had years ahead to mold him into the husband he was capable of being. First, I made a mental note to let his hair grow out. God, I hated his burr. It made him look like a shag rug that had just been vacuumed.
And we'd have to do something about his eating habits. I came from a family that considered gravy a beverage. He ate vegetables, which I regarded as decorations for the mantel. Imagine spending the rest of your life with a man who had never had cold dumplings for breakfast!
His best man and poker-playing buddy, Ed Phillips, passed him the ring. I smiled as Bill slipped it on my finger. Ed and the entire group of merry little men were soon to be part of the past. No more single life — playing poker until all hours of the morning. From here on in, it would just be the two of us, watching sunsets and gazing into one another's eyes.
As our shoulders touched, I was challenged by the idea of setting up a schedule for him. All the years we had been dating, he had been late for everything. I was vowing to spend eternity with a man who had never heard the "Star-Spangled Banner" or seen a kickoff at a game...never watched a curtain go up or heard an overture. He looked so relaxed. He couldn't know that I would soon teach him the virtues of putting the cap on a ballpoint pen so that it wouldn't dry out and instruct him on how left-handed people are supposed to hang up the phone so they won't drive right-handed people crazy.
The priest was Polish and between his accent and the Latin of the Mass, I strained to interpret his words. Then loud and clear I heard him admonish, "You, Bill, are to be the head of the house and you, Erma, are to be the heart."
In his dreams. What did he think he was dealing with here...a child who chose a nickel over a dime because it was bigger? I had seen the "heart detail" and I didn't struggle through four years of conjugating verbs to get choked up over my husband's high bowling scores.
Maybe I could talk Bill into being the heart...or at least trade off once in a while.
"I now pronounce you man and wife."
With the possible exceptions of "We have lift-off" and "This country is at war," there are few phrases as sobering.
The reception was held in a social hall near the edge of town, usually reserved for VFW picnics. Folding chairs lined the wall, giving the hall the intimacy of a bus station. A long table covered with white paper was in the center of the room and held the cake and the mound of ham sandwiches.
A car pulled up to the entrance. A couple with six kids piled out. The man yelled to no one in particular, "Charlie's here! Where's..."