It was cold when the alarm so rudely shattered my deep sleep; it was early enough to be totally dark outside. Of course it was, it was late December in Montana; it was still dark when folks left for work! Joyce and I had talked long into the night, getting caught up and letting her share any last minute marriage tips she might have to pass along to me. After all, Joyce and Rey had been married for three and a half months already, she must know something else I needed to know, right? It had been so good to see her again.
Not long after pushing away from the breakfast table, I made my first mistake of the day. I was so dragging; I needed a bit of pep to get me going. Final exams had finished a couple of weeks earlier; I must still have some of those over-the-counter pep pills around somewhere. I took the usual “all-nighter” dose and was off and running for the rest of the day. Goodness, but there are a lot of last minute details on one’s wedding day!
Finally, all was ready and the bride in the special room getting every single fold of that lovely white gown placed just right. Next, the veil was secured to the newly-coiffed head of hair. “Photographer’s here!” sent us all moving to the front of the sanctuary for the before-the-ceremony posed photos. I never saw just whose head had poked into the dressing room with the announcement because I was whisked out and down the aisle in that empty sanctuary with all haste.
Curt was not there. My two sisters, best friend from high school and best friend from university were dressed in color-coordinated formal dresses, standing with me for the photos. Curt, his brother and, probably, some members from his rock band had already had their groom, best man and groomsmen photos done. They weren’t anywhere around. Probably there were photos with parents, too, I don’t really recall. Pretty much any photos that could be taken without the bride and groom seeing each other were taken ahead of the actual ceremony to save time later.
My dear auntie met me as I was walking back down the aisle to get a touch-up on my make-up before the organist began playing and guests filed in. “I’ve got just what you need.” Her whispers weren’t heard by anyone else.
“What do I need? I think I’m ready; did I forget something?” I quickly ran through the mental list I thought had all been checked off.
“You’re a nervous wreck. You need to have something to help you calm down.” Hmm? Well, I was feeling pretty nervous but I didn’t think it was more than the usual a bride would feel forty-five minutes before the ceremony began.
”I think I‘m okay, really. I don’t need anything.” I didn’t want to tell her I had already taken an OTC pep pill and it might have contributed to my nervousness a little. I had forgotten that this sometimes happened when I took them to stay awake during finals week studying. It would wear off.
Unfortunately, my auntie was not going to take no for an answer; she was convinced I would enjoy the ceremony more if I were more relaxed. That was when I made my second mistake of the day; I took her Valium. It would be a little while before I saw what happens when two opposing medications are fighting for the same body.
I was so happy; things were progressing well and everything was beautiful. Dad’s arm trembled a little as he walked me down the aisle to the traditional musical strains. Suddenly my gaze glimpsed the back of the US Navy uniform seated near the aisle. He turned as I approached and our eyes locked. What a surprise! There sat my younger sister’s former boyfriend, a kid I really liked. What fun that he had come! The ceremony was going like clockwork and all was well in my formally-attired little world.
Now, it was time for the most solemn part of the ceremony. Curt and I had toyed with the idea of writing our own vows but decided that the traditional ones said it all. Instead, we just memorized them. We didn’t want to repeat them, phrase by phrase, after the pastor; we wanted them to be spoken, smoothly and confidently. Both of us had done fine in rehearsal the evening before. But, the evening before I hadn’t taken anything to pep me up or calm me down.
“Go ahead, Sojourner,” the pastor whispered as the entire congregation waited, eyes trained on me. “This is the place where you recite your vows.” Curt squeezed my hands, looking into my eyes and praying his bride’s memory would spit them out soon.
“I know.” I choked out my barely audible words. “I can’t…”
“I, Sojourner take thee, Curt,” whispered the pastor into my ear. So gently I felt his breath as I heard his prompting. Curt squeezed harder and his eyebrows began to arch, questioning.
“It’s not that I forgot it; I know what I’m supposed to say. I just can’t get the words out.” My whisper was a bit louder than I would have liked, my tears now flowing. Sadly, those near the front who heard my tears and explanation, quickly jumped to the erroneous conclusion that I didn’t really want to marry Curt. I heard one such remark and I just wanted to turn and shout, ”It’s the medication; it’s not that I don’t want to marry him. Of course, I want to marry him!” Instead, I just hung my head and sobbed.
“Sojourner, just repeat the lines after me. It’ll be okay.” Curt looked into my eyes with such compassion, I hoped he wouldn’t start crying, too. How embarrassing for the groom, in front of everyone.
Well, at last, it was over and Curt and I were making our way back down the aisle, hand-in-hand. Once we crossed the threshold into the foyer, I turned to look at Curt. He bent down to kiss me. “So, you still love me, then. Even if I so totally embarrassed us both in there?” He nodded, tenderly smiling.
Leaving the reception took longer than we had expected due to the fact that Curt’s brother had used black shoe polish to write “Just Married” on the back of his white car. The icy sub-zero cold air had frozen the large letters into the finish. If he left them in place overnight, the damage would be permanent. His best man (and former lead guitar) helped him scrub and most of the color was removed but so was the shiny finish of that area of the car. Finally, it was time for us to change into our formal traveling clothes. Now, I have to wonder just who thought up these traditions? Nevertheless, it was a “given” back then so I left the church in a lovely olive green skirted suit with a matching floral blouse and olive-green high heels. Curt wore slacks and a new sports jacket with a necktie. At least, he could still wear his wing-tip dress shoes.
Three hours later, we arrived at the reserved motel room and enjoyed getting to know each other, intimately, for the very first time. I know that many kids today have had a lot of practice with one another before this official wedding night; and, well, things went pretty much as one might expect with zero experience, but we had a terrific time, nevertheless. The freshness of this part in our relationship was a wonderful start to this new chapter in our lives.
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