Here we are, Juliets without our Romeos
When Mom says “sca-doo!” at home, we know we can find amusement at Grandma’s house. Aside from the mysteries of the woods behind her house, other attractions include a slope where lilies of the valley blossom in April. A chicken house big enough to actually play house in. An out-house equipped with a Sears & Roebuck catalog for wiping, its little roof-top smothered by lilac bushes–wonderful air freshener! And a willow tree. We love that willow tree by a trickling brook where we play Bride, with a cast-off piece of netting like my mother, aunts, and grandmas use for prayer veilings.
At ten, I’m the oldest, so I direct my sisters at first. “Jeanie, go to the chicken house for the veil.” There are no chickens in Grandma’s chicken-house anymore, just a bunch of crates and wooden boards we use other times for make-believe. Jean goes off to retrieve the big square of white netting in its hiding place inside the door in a crate on the right. “Janice, let’s find some flowers for the bouquet.” Off we go in different directions, and Janice comes back with dandelion blossoms, and I find some irises.
Blue Willow book from parents early 1950s
We meet back at the willow tree, its arching fronds our sanctuary for many a glorious wedding. We need a bell ringer, a bride and a groom. Before I can get a word in edgewise, Jean pipes up, “Let me be the bride this time; I wanna be the bride, pleeease.” Well, I guess we can give in this time. Then Janice and I dicker for who plays groom and who rings the bell. Next, we have to get the bride ready.
Janice places the netting on Jean’s head just so, and I pull her pigtails up behind her ears and use the light brown braids to tie the veil securely to the top of her head. Now, we’re all set: Groom Janice loops one arm around Jean’s, and I rush over to the longest willow branch I can find and pull on its thin, sinewy length until the wedding bell chimes overhead, and then we all, including the bride, sing together in warbly voice: “Here comes the briiide, please step asiiide.” It’s a magical moment. A breeze blows gently through the willow branches and fans the bouquet of purple and gold. But before the bride has a chance to whisper, “I do,” we hear Daddy’s truck drive in the lane. He’s come to pick us up and bring home a big kettle of saffron-flavored pot pie from his mom’s stove for our supper at home on top of the hill.
There are no crystal balls to visualize our own weddings in the future, but we are careful not to duplicate color choices for our attendants. Jean starts with blue, Marian with pink, and Janice has yellow, a pleasing bouquet of hues. But our veils are white.