My mom and I wore cowboy boots and held hands whilst we walked down the makeshift wedding aisle. Friends and family stood next to tan metal folding chairs and the August sun shone so bright that lots of guests wore sunglasses. Most invitees wore shorts, and besides our ushers, who wore matching cowboy duds, a few folks wore Wranglers and western shirts.
Her dress was rose pink. Or mauve. No, no, we called it “dusty rose.” And a few days prior I’d made all the matching boutonnières and corsages from dried flowers, bits of rope, and large stick pins. Earlier that morning, the king and queen and all their horsemen set-up and covered long rented tables with plastic tablecloths, miniature straw bales, and white bandanas; then they tied dusty rose raffia ribbons to aisle edge chairs. A few deer ate at the straw bales on either side of the archway, lake waves lolled onto the sandy shore. Later, some folks even arrived by boat. At least they scared the deer away when they waded to shore.
“Beyond Hope” was the name of the resort and of course we have a photograph of us standing beneath the large wooden sign. Basically in north Idaho lingo, “resort” means a bar, a grassy yard, a rough wooden deck, and a campground nestled among some trees — right next to the lake. Now that I think about it, there must have been some outhouses scattered throughout the woods because I don’t remember anyone squatting in the nearby brush. And ya know, I would have remembered something like that on my wedding day.
My man and I grew up in the next town over, we met in the high school hallway, and we even worked together one summer at the residence of a wealthy couple. I labored inside with the misses, ironing underwear, vacuuming invisible lint, and changing bed sheets every single day whilst my guy worked outside with the mister, mowing lawns, chopping trees, and doing other sweaty manly things. Needless to say, that was the summer I took my ironing skills to levels previously unknown to womankind. Following those tedious four-hour work mornings, my man and I sometimes went to town and jumped in the lake before we parted for our next jobs, I at the fifties fountain restaurant and him mowing more lawns. That summer, when all of our hard work was done, the wealthy couple treated us, our moms, and our siblings to a nighttime cruise on their restored tugboat. Soon thereafter we left for college so my sister and his brother got our jobs.
Back to my wedding, I didn’t wear a veil, but I made sure to wipe the purple jelly donut goop off my lips and chin before the shindig started. I’m an insulin-dependent diabetic (don’t ya know?) and my blood sugar levels took a swan dive before the nuptials so I had myself a little snack. I tucked a beach towel in at my neck, sat on a couch, hiked my dress up to my knees, bent over a coffee table, and ate two jelly donuts. I’m daring like that. So much so that I even let my sister and my two friends take a curling iron to the brown mop that peaked out from beneath my cowboy hat. No veil. Just a hat. I’m practical like that.
Those girls were a serious bunch, intent on lookin’ good and doing things right. I was ready first so I wandered about the commandeered cabin. With one glance out the window, I saw a nearby camper trailer door swing open and I gawked as several good looking college boys stepped into the light o’ day. I reckon if I could have seen their eyes, they all would have looked like deer caught in the headlights, but from my portal window vantage point all I saw were some well-dressed country dudes. I rapped on the window and hollered, “Heya fellas! Up here!” My girls in waiting yanked me away and told me to settle down and wait.
Wait. Wait. Ho-hum. Humdrum. Drum, drum. Drum the fingers on the windowpane.
Whilst I waited, I watched strangers haul food from trucks to a shady white tent. Surprise, surprise, we had the whole shebang catered. Yep, a BBQ restaurant brought ribs, coleslaw, ‘tater salad, and lemonade. What’s a messy face and greasy shirt among friends? I always say the best way to break the ice is to eat the messiest food possible. So be forewarned, if I feed ya for the first time, expect nachos and expect no forks, folks.
Speaking of food, my tall drink o’ water didn’t smear my face when we cut and sampled the cake. He knew that I knew some self-defense moves, that I’d already tucked them underneath my belt (and yes, a belt was part of my bridal get-up), and that a wedding dress wasn’t gonna stop me from opening a can o’ whoop. My oh my, how easily it could’ve turned into an all-out wedded wrestling match, right there on the grass in front of family, friends, and a few high school teachers; but thankfully he kept his frosting hands to himself. And it was right then, that I knew for sure and for certain, that I had landed me a smart man. Have I mentioned that he’s tall and good lookin’ too?
Regarding the potential pain-n-agony associated with marriage ceremonies, the poor fella did suffer from a self-induced heat stroke of sorts. We had two-stepped ‘round and ‘round that outdoor dance floor and he had swung, dipped, and spun me like a rag doll during the Sawyer Brown and Chris LeDoux fast songs. He in his black suit, I in my white dress – go on and take a wild guess at which one of us got tossed (ever so gently) into the lake by my fellow student athletic trainers from college. Yes, yes, fancy suits dipped in lake water do dry and rental dudes are none the wiser. Thankfully my groom recovered enough to help fold and load chairs, fill trash bags, and drive us off in my mom’s white pick-up for our Oregon coast camping excursion (a.k.a. our honeymoon).
Okay, back to the aisle. I reckon you could guess that I’ve never been much for the da-da-daa-dum / da-da-daa-dum “Here Comes the Bride All Dress in White & Looking Quite a Perfect Sight” song so we had the local music man, who also doubled as DJ at the radio station, play a couple o’ favorite country songs. One of the groomsmen sang along with Randy Travis as our six stander-besider peoples paired off and strolled down the aisle before us. Because I wanted to hear our friend’s entire rendition of that number, I trotted off at a high clip, nipping at his heels.
“Too fast. You are going too fast. Slow down, Darlene,” my mom whispered as we walked. Even though we were shoulder to shoulder, we didn’t dare make eye contact because neither of us has ever been good at pretending. Pretending not to be happy. Pretending not to be sad. Pretending not to think about being separated after learning to be close. Pretending not to be what we aren’t.
I reckon if you think about it, nobody is really good at pretending. And nobody wants to do it with loving spectators looking on.
She in her boots. And I in mine. We held hands whilst we walked down the makeshift wedding aisle.
Just before she released my hand, she squeezed it tight, and all at once I wasn’t sure if she had been talking about my walking pace or my growing up pace. Either way, I simultaneously wanted to run wild-like down the aisle and I wanted to stay right there, where I could cling to my childhood and my mom. But yeehaw! it was my wedding, folks, so I marched forward, but I heeded her advice and slowed down just a bit.
Through it all, I kept my eyes on the prize waiting for me at the other end of the aisle.
Indeed, that’s how my actual-factual wedding went down twenty years ago today, but now, when I think about The Wedding that’ll take you, and me (if we’ve asked Jesus into our hearts as your Lord and Savior), up to eternal heavenly heights, I have a few questions for you:
When Christ returns as The Bridegroom for His body of Believers, will He find you, His Bride, ready and dressed in His Father’s holy white?
Or will He find that you were too busy humming the world’s songs to be set aside as His Bride?
Did you do your utmost to point others to The Bridegroom at the other end of the aisle?
Twenty years. Da-ude. I can hardly believe we’ve been putting up with each other for so long. Clink the glass. High-five. Fist bump. Bottoms up. Slap me some skin – on the side, high, low, too slow (ha). Speaking of lakes, we’re spending the day at a lake… in swim suits. Forget the wedding duds, dudes.
How we met. Well worth the read. If I do say so my own self.
And I do. I really, really do.