Today is the last day of May, one of my favorite months of the year. Spring flowers grace our yards and milder temps arrive. We celebrate our mothers and it's my birthday month, as well. This final day of May also has significance for me as it is my parents' wedding anniversary.
They were married 79 years ago on the 31st of May in 1938. No big wedding for them. No guests at the wedding, no bridesmaid or best man, no wedding gown, no cake, no gifts. They eloped and kept the marriage a secret for six long weeks.
Why did they elope and then tell no one? No one in my mom's family liked my dad. Not her mother, not her oldest brother, not the other brother either. That was one reason. Money was another. In those depression years, weddings were far more simple but theirs was super simple!
Dad picked Mom up in his little coupe as if they had an ordinary date. She came out to the car wearing a red linen dress. Not the kind of wedding attire most girls dream of. They had a license and knew where a Justice of the Peace lived. They rang the bell at his house and asked to be married. The J.P.'s wife acted as the witness.
They had an interruption during the ceremony which gave them time to have second thoughts but they didn't change their minds. They stood in the living room together while the Justice answered a phone call and planned an early morning fishing trip for the next day. He returned to finish the simple wedding, finally pronouncing them man and wife.
What is a wedding without a celebration? Theirs was with a guest list of two--the bride and groom. They went to a favorite bar and grill in the neighborhood to have dinner. Mom ordered a plate of spaghetti and Dad said he wasn't hungry, he'd pass. When the steaming pasta arrived, Dad watched Mom eat and then picked up a fork to take a bite now and then. It was much later that Mom learned that her new husband only had enough money in his pocket to pay for one meal. He had a job but it didn't pay much.
After they ate, Dad drove Mom to the apartment where she lived with her mother. Daylight still reigned but she went to bed early as she was up in the wee hours of the morning to go to work at her mother's bakery. An unconventional wedding, an unusual wedding reception for two, and a wedding night apart. Mom had to hide the gold wedding band etched with scrolls that had belonged to her new husband's mother.
Weeks went by and they told no one, although Dad tried to convince Mom to fess up to her family so they could start living together. She tried but she couldn't manage to get the words out. When over six weeks had passed, she and her mother were taking a tea break at the bakery one morning. They sat at a long table covered in a light green oil cloth, the aromas of baked goods surrounding them. Her mother looked her in the eye and said, "You're married, aren't you?"
Mom probably blushed and stammered out her yes answer. She knew an eruption would soon follow but all she heard from her mother was "Then, you'd better go live with your husband." Next came the silent treatment which felt almost worse to her than if there had been a tirade.
Later, her brothers were the ones who exploded over what she'd done. They refused to talk to Dad. How easy it must have been to blame him for claiming the sister they loved. Mom worked with her mother every day and one of her brothers at the small neighborhood bakery her mother owned. The anger and disappointment ebbed slowly but surely toward Mom but not Dad. He was still the culprit.
That ended with my birth, two days before their first anniversary. Mom told me about it being one of the happiest moments of her life when her mother, brothers and Dad were gathered in her hospital room. The brothers stood on one side of her bed and Dad on the other. My uncles reached across the bed to shake Dad's hand and congratulate him. From that day forward, he became a member of the family, finally accepted by his mother-in-law and two brothers-in-law.
Why did the family dislike Dad so much? They thought he was a ne'er do well kind of man who would never amount to anything and probably not be a good provider, husband or father. He proved them all wrong as he and Mom traveled down life's pathways together for 57 years before he passed away.
My mother was a wonderful storyteller and the one about her marriage and that difficult first year were related many times. As a teen, I thought it terribly romantic to have eloped and to be married secretly for several weeks. Looking back, it wasn't so romantic at all. I think my mom spent those weeks worried sick about being found out and Dad spent them yearning for her to be with him.
What do you know about your parents' wedding? Write what you know for your children and grandchildren and those yet to come. Stories about your parents are a part of your family heritage. Savor them, record them, and share them.
|Mom in 1937|
|Dad with his car in 1939|