Give and Take with Cake

“Let them eat cake!” That’s what newly weds and their guests do at wedding receptions. At 9 ½ minutes after three o’clock on August 5, 1967, I fed my groom a huge mouthful of cake, and he returned the favor more gingerly ten seconds later, if the clock on the wall is any indication.

WeddingCakeCliff

WeddingCakeMe

We are on the verge of celebrating our 49th anniversary. Like the seventh note in an octave, we are almost there, but have not yet reached the golden mark.

How have we gotten this far without hitting the skids? I could make a long list of suggestions, but right now I have only one:

Watch Your Words

Cake is sweet to the tongue just as our words should be to one another. Words have power. Let your spouse or partner hear “please” and ”thank you” every day. Sarcasm is out. Surely contempt must go. Public humiliation, a big NO!

  1. Say “Yes” as often as humanly possible.
  2. Wait for the best time to make a request, offer a suggestion. Everyone needs 5-10 minutes to decompress after walking through the door. Let your spouse have time to breathe before requiring a response.
  3. Once a day, notice the positive out loud: the way they look, something they’ve said, or done.

Michael Hyatt, author and speaker, affirms that “Marriage is a powerful visual of how you treat the people you value the most. (“Why Speaking Well of Your Spouse is So Important”)

Ever the tip and list maker, Hyatt in another post shares his recipe for how to become your spouse’s best friend. Many of items on the list regard minding our words, for example: “Extend grace to me when I am grumpy or having a bad day. Speak well of me when I am not present.”

“Listen without judging or trying to fix me.”

Humorist Ogden Nash adds a dash of rhyme and reason to the mix:

If you want your marriage to sizzle

With love in the loving cup.

Whenever you’re wrong, admit it.

Whenever you’re right, shut up!

And finally, Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer everyone.”  

~ Colossians 4:6, New Revised Standard Version

 

Light a Candle

CandleWedding

This candle first flickered and then burned brightly on a pedestal at Calvary Presbyterian Church in Charlotte, North Carolina. The candle came with instructions to burn for one hour on our anniversary date. Some years the candle probably has shone for more than an hour. But we may have even skipped a year or two. Nevertheless, the long, tapered candle is very short and stubby now. Yet the flame still burns brightly.

Whether you are married or not, on this day I light a candle for you and whatever family relationship is most important in your life.

 

CandleDiningRoom

 

Your thoughts, recollections, or advice are welcome here. Thank you!

 

Coming next: Drawing on Love: A Brief Retrospective

Comparison Shopper Finds His Valentine

Gump-a-bump-a-rump-a! (Repeat – repeat)

No driver wants to hear this coming from under her car hood, even if it is my aging Infiniti. When I reported these scary noises to my husband Cliff, he immediately went into Investigator Mode. His problem-solving scenario proceeded like this: visiting a neighbor who restores antique cars, checking with an auto shop we’ve used before, and then contacting the dealership, the most expensive option. He wrote down notes for each, notes with names, dates, schematics, and most importantly, dollar signs.

ComparisonShopperNotes
ComparisonShopperNotes

He handles plumbing problems at home or HVAC hang-ups the same thorough way. Whether buying a new lawnmower, computer equipment or making travel plans, my husband Cliff is a comparison shopper supreme.

Once upon a time, Cliff used this same methodical system to find suitable dates. During college he had a little black book in which he entered names of girls to date. After they passed the sensational-physical-attributes test, their names and interests were entered into this book. Some girls’ names were crossed off the list because they were too giggly, walked like a duck, or were unable to sing on key.

Cliff went into serious search mode to find a mate after an unofficial engagement fell apart. Then his college roommate suggested he meet his next-door neighbor, a teacher and a Mennonite, during Christmas vacation. We met on a blind date In December 1965. I say blind because the normal-looking Mennonites he had known from the West were very unlike the girl standing in front of him, plain with hair coiled up under a prayer cap – me.

Maybe because of the mystique of our differences or because we had similar interests, ours was a whirlwind romance sustained by letters for months after Cliff returned to post-graduate work and me to teaching. Then his letters dwindled, probably because of his hesitation about dating a girl like me from such a strange background.

He went into comparison shopping mode again as he began his first year teaching, dating a nurse from a fine family. Later, he said after he had come to his senses, “I couldn’t get you out of my mind. I thought I would miss something if I said goodbye to you forever.”

According to Cliff, two things I did sealed the deal for him.

  • I made him a monogrammed bath robe for Valentine’s which kept him from freezing on off-campus housing his last few months in college
  • I called various hospitals to try to figure out in which hospital he was a patient when he had pneumonia and was too sick to contact me.

Fortunately our friendship was rekindled when we both attended the August 1966 wedding of the couple who introduced us. Now it was Christmas 1966, and Cliff drove from Jacksonville Florida to pick me up in Charlotte, North Carolina where I was teaching. From there we headed to my hometown, in Elizabethtown, Pennsylvania in his white Plymouth Savoy.

Replica of Cliff's 1963 Plymouth Savoy now offered on eBay, poster
Replica of Cliff’s 1963 Plymouth Savoy now offered on eBay, poster

There one snowy evening before Christmas Cliff said, “Let’s take a drive.” So we bundled up and headed out, crunching footprints in the new fallen snow. Fat flakes were falling from the sky even thicker as we slid into the car, the plastic seats crackling from the cold. Memories of the evening have become a movie in my mind.

“Where are we going?” I quizzed.

“Oh, I don’t know. We’ll just take a drive in this beautiful snow,” Cliff replied rather lamely.

As he tried hard to urge the heater to warm us up, we reminisced about our first dates the Christmas before. “Do you remember how deep the snow was when we went to see the Sound of Music?”

“Of course I do!” The car’s windshield wipers were swishing away mini-cotton balls of snow now.

In the back of his mind, Cliff wondered, “What will she say if I ask her to marry me?”

As we approached the archway between Rheems and Mount Joy, I exclaimed, “The road hasn’t been plowed any farther. We’re at a standstill!” We had come to a crossroads.

Then he said, “If you thought it was God’s will, would you marry me?”

Quickly I responded, “Of course I would.” But in an instant I recognized this as a marriage proposal encased in a tricky question, a snowy fleece.

“Well, then, will you marry me?”

With a “Yes,” the camera dissolved into hugs and kisses.

And yes, the little black book has been destroyed long ago.

Vintage Cut-out Card, Cliff Collection
Vintage Cut-out Card, Cliff Collection

 

Is there a comparison shopper in your family? Are you such a shopper?

You are invited to share your marriage proposal story here too.

 


 

 

Coming next: My Day of Change @ a Middle School

Halloween Advice from my Good Witch of the North

MY STORY

Dorothy had the Good Witch of the North to give her “magical protection from fatal harm” on her journey to the land of Oz and back. Yet she followed an uneven path, using her brain, sometimes thinking with her heart, and slowly but surely developing courage.

I had my own Good Witch, Aunt Ruthie Longenecker from Pennsylvania, not Kansas. As a plain Mennonite, she never gave me glittering red shoes. I had to buy them on my own after I turned from plain to fancy. But she gave me plenty of golden advice, none more emotionally charged than the time she perceived I was veering off course at college and falling for a young man she imagined would be my downfall.

The advice arrived in a 4-cent envelope written in her flowing, left-handed cursive:

Envelope_note-to-Marian_layers

The Gibson greeting card is a cute pop-up.

HalloweenCardRuthie

Enclosed with the card was a terse note written on the back of a deposit slip from the First National Bank of Marietta, a curious choice of stationery. (You can read this note or the text below it in print.)

RuthieNoteMarianHalloween

Here is her message in print form, directing me to forsake that boyfriend (aka “opera singer”) at the top of the hill:

Tell that opera singer on the top of the hill he has already sung his “swan song” and that you have decided to contribute more to this world than dishpan hands and another case for the marital appeasement courts. Think for yourself and your own future and let him produce positive evidence of his greatness. Call his bluff. – Don’t be licked. If he doesn’t understand English there’s always the possibility of a second semester transfer to Millersville, E-town or Goshen – Halloween is a good time to get rid of all ghosts and apparitions, so good luck to the Little Witch in Peachey House.

 

Added to this note was a “Hazel” cartoon clipping to reinforce her words:

Hazel-cartoon_Ruthies-note-to-Marian_layers

The ink jotting has become almost indecipherable over the years, but she notes:

Hazel never went to High School, but she sure is a graduate student of human nature – by the length of the unwritten line the word must be “nuts” – or maybe it’s “yellow.”

At the time (my sophomore year at Eastern Mennonite College), I was trying to keep my life on track academically despite romantic upsets and did not then realize the full force of Aunt Ruthie’s words or the depth of feeling behind then. Squinting back through the telescope of years as a much older adult, I do now.

MY REFLECTION:

In Aunt Ruthie’s day, women usually chose either the single life and a career or motherhood and maintaining a household. Hardly ever both.

I was beginning to see from the models emerging in the 1960s that one could answer the call of both vocations, professional and domestic. Choices did not have to be an either-or proposition, and they didn’t have to happen simultaneously either.


How about you?

Did you ever benefit from unsolicited advice?

What models of vocational choice made an impression on you growing up? How did these influence you?

Ray & Ruth: A Sparkling 40th Wedding Anniversary

True Love

This month would be the 75th wedding anniversary of my parents, Ray and Ruth Longenecker had they lived. True, they bickered from time to time, but I knew their love was deep and abiding. I rested in the assurance that they would never divorce. There were signs: Before Daddy left for work down at his shop after the noon meal, he often played a little game with Mom, chasing her around the house to get his hug and kiss, as she pretended wanting to escape him. Daddy dried dishes once a week, on a Sunday somewhat unusual for a culture with strict divisions of labor between husband and wife.

They celebrated their 25th anniversary with the attendants at their wedding, Howard and Pearl Longenecker, also married twenty-five years.

When their 40th came along, we had a big shindig in early November, a week after their actual anniversary date of October 26, 1940. My sister Jean sent out fancy invitations:

40thAnnivCardFront

The table was set just so with the “tulip” design wedding silverware, a florist’s bouquet, and finger food with cake the grand finale.

40thAnnivTable

All four of us, my sisters and brother chipped in money to buy a chiming clock that sat for years on top of Mother’s buffet in the dining room, the ticking heart of the home. Our son Joel has inherited this clock.

40thAnnivClock

And there were sparklers – and smiling faces on this happy day when I heard Daddy say, “I could never have found a better wife!

40thAnnivCandle

How It All Began

October was a favored month for weddings, at least among Mennonite couples in the 1940s-1960s. Farmers had harvested their corn, wheat, and sweet potatoes. The sowing-hoeing-harvesting cycle was slowing down. The land was preparing to lie fallow for the winter. Thus, plain weddings were often celebrated amid the riotous colors of fall.

I was born in July — 9 months, almost to the day, from my parents’ honeymoon night the previous October. When I got older and could figure out such things, my mother simply said, “Nothing happened before we were married.” Because she said it, it must be true, I reasoned. In those days, abstinence was the professed norm for engaged couples, and a white dress almost certainly meant the bride was a virgin. A couple whose first child arrived too soon after the wedding date had to appear in front of the congregation and confess their sin of fornication before they could be restored to church fellowship. I saw it happen once.

That was not the case for my parents, of course. I was born right on time, a honeymoon baby, possibly conceived right here within this idyllic, stone cottage.

HoneymoonNiagaraCottage

My parents were married by the bishop of Hernley’s Mennonite Church and then returned to the bride’s home on Charlotte Street in Manheim, Pennsylvania where these pictures were taken. My father was wearing a plain, Mennonite “frock” coat with bow-tie paired with a natty fedora hat on his honeymoon. My mother too sneaked in some fancy touches on her dress. Another, of course, a large, fancy bouquet on the lawn.

WeddingMomDadFlowers

And though Mother wore covering strings attached to her prayer veiling and her dress was plain with no collar or lace, tiny buttons covered in white crépe traced a vertical line on the snug cuff of her sleeves. They don’t show on the photograph, but as a child I remember seeing them all in a row, sewn on her dress then draped on a hanger and pushed to the back of her clothes closet. Were there five? Seven? I don’t know or remember, but in my mind’s eye I can see them attached there. And I thought they looked pretty!

I liked her wedding shoes too, black suede with a vamp that reached almost to her ankle, very modish, I thought. When I saw Nine West with a similar vintage shoe and a button on the strap, I knew they had to be mine.

ShoesVintage9West

When we cleared out Mother’s house after her death, we discovered a saucer I had never seen before with a charming pink & blue imprint, a prophecy of things to come. They would have a baby, a girl, in fact three daughters and then a son.

NIagaraFallsSaucerNiagaraFallsSaucerDetail

Marian_as baby_5x5_72 19-05-17

Sparkling or not, what anniversaries (or other milestones) can you recall?

Coming next: Halloween Advice from My Good Witch of the North, Aunt Ruthie

Through a Glass Darkly: Anniversary # 48

This week Cliff and I celebrate our 48th wedding anniversary. We are not experts on marriage by any means, but we have learned a thing or two about

  • navigating its mysteries and
  • negotiating the best for both

 

  • PragueCubeSidePragueCube

We sometimes see through a glass darkly

Image captured in a 3-D hologram cube created via laser – visit to Prague, Czech Republic 2006

(Nothing dramatic happened in Prague except black light shows with marionettes. If you want wild and crazy drama, you’ll have to click here!)

I Corinthians 13, American Standard Version
I Corinthians 13, American Standard Version

For now we see in a mirror, darkly . . . But now abideth faith, hope, love, these three: and the greatest of these is LOVE.

* * *

Poet James Dillet Freeman expressed his view of the mystery of marriage In “Blessing for a Marriage” in at least 8 ways:

  1. May you need one another, but not out of weakness.
  2. May you want one another, but not out of lack.
  3. May you entice one another, but not compel one another.
  4. May you embrace one another, but not encircle one another.
  5. May you succeed in all important ways with one another / And not fail in the little graces.
  6. May you look for things to praise, often say, “I love you!”
  7. And take no notice of small faults.
  8. If you have quarrels that push you apart / May both of you hope to have / Good sense enough to take the first step back.

In the last last stanza he concludes:

May you enter into the mystery which is

The awareness of one another’s

Presence — no more physical than spiritual,

Warm and near when you are

Side by side, and warm and near when

You are in separate rooms

Or even distant cities.

May you have happiness,

And may you find it making one another happy.

May you have love, and may you find it loving one another.

Cliff & Marian_Wedding Day_96dpi

Here’s where you can share your own tips or observations.

August Wedding: Love Over Time

During the first week of August Cliff and I celebrate three wedding anniversaries, our son and daughter and their spouses along with our own. Our children are beginners at marriage (sort of), but for us it’s # 47, three years away from golden.

Cliff & Marian_Wedding Day_96dpi

Our romance was of the “Some Enchanted Evening” sort, recounted in an earlier blog post which near the end merely hints of conflict to come. In the beginning, there was the clash of cultures: a high-energy, pioneer-type from the Pacific Northwest marries a Mennonite school teacher from southeastern Pennsylvania. As my mother-in-law said on our wedding day, “You two will have a lot of adjustments to make.” I knew that was true in my head but naively imagined of course we will be the exception: Doesn’t love conquer all?

Because of Cliff’s career, we settled in Jacksonville as newyweds, a city with a semi-tropical climate and an overwhelming expressway system–a far cry from the gentle, rolling hills and farmlands of Lancaster County; Southern accents, not lilting Pennsylvania lingo. Our adventures included both the typical and the unconventional: Living in a 8’ x 24’ foot travel trailer for a year and a half with a two-year-old daughter and baby son. Starting a fledgling graphic arts business in our home where we experienced both feast and famine. A miscarriage. Working on graduate degrees while raising a family. Long separations as Cliff traveled the country with his own art show. The deaths of Cliff’s mother and my father. And other unwelcome events: a mammoth falling oak just grazing the side of our house, the dining room ceiling becoming a sieve as the roof leaked, my new car totaled putting my back out of whack. Larkin Warren in her vignette “Because love grows deeper over time” illustrates her own version of marital challenge:

In the early days it was all about him. His favorite foods . . . . favorite flavor of ice cream, and whether he liked my hair up or down. I loved to make him laugh, and worked hard not to cry in front of him. I cleaned my house before he came over, always wore mascara, always had champagne in the fridge.

[But] we’ve seen each other at our worst, and that’s not an exaggeration. Physically ill, emotionally grief-stunned, job-panicked, or angry enough to throw crockery at the wall . . . .  Red-faced, blotchy, hoarse from yelling. Our parents grow old, and ill, or nutty: our children make mistakes that drop us to our knees. Through it all, how on earth can he love me, given what a flawed, messy, moody person I am: The artifice is long gone; he see me.

Yes, the artifice is gone. The scales, if there were any, have long since fallen from our eyes. In retrospect, we see clearly now. But we remember beholding the luster of un-tested love, the gritty struggles mingled with the shiny penny days. “We have seen it from both sides now,” says poet E. J. Mudd:

OldWivesPNG

Adam Gopnik adds metaphorical wisdom:  Love, like light is a thing that is enacted better than defined: we know it afterward by the traces it leaves on paper.

Dear reader, your traces on the “paper” of this post are welcome. Thanks for commenting. You may also enjoy reading secrets of a 20-year-marriage @ http://notquiteamishliving.com/2014/07/twenty-years-three-things-about-love-n-marriage/

*  *  *

One of the beloved members of our family has gone home to be with the Lord this week. Following the publication of this edition, postings on this blog will be suspended for a time.

 

 

Anna Mae and Hiram: A Mennonite Wedding

This is the wedding portrait of my mother and father

Ruth Landis Metzler and Ray Martin Longenecker 

October 26, 1940

Ray and Ruth Longenecker_4x5_72

June is the month for many American weddings. And so is August. Because many Mennonites were farmers, Mennonite weddings often took place in October, a month that signaled a break in heavy farm work after most of the crops had been harvested. My dad was a farm implement dealer, so his work cycle mimicked that of the farmers he served, which would probably explain the October date for the wedding.

The bride and groom, my parents, are dressed in Mennonite attire and comply with the rules for weddings prescribed by the church in this era: no bridal party prancing down an aisle to “Here Comes the Bride,” no flowers, and definitely no exchange of rings.

Excerpts from Article II, Separation and Nonconformity, Section 2. Public Worship. (19) from the Statement of Christian Doctrine and Rules and Discipline of the Mennonite Church, 1968:

  • “We deem it improper to employ instrumental music in worship and church activities.”
  • “Weddings shall be conducted in a Christian manner avoiding all vain display and in accordance with the prescribed regulations for weddings.” 

*  *  *

Anna Mae Longenecker’s father John is my dad’s first cousin on his father’s side of the family. Anna Mae with her brothers and sisters lived on the farm at Bosslers Corner, a farm bought from William and John Penn by Robert Allison in 1762,  and subsequently bought from Jacob Bossler by John and Nancy Longenecker and kept in the Longenecker family for five generations.  On the lawn of this homestead, one of John’s daughter’s, Anna Mae, poses  for wedding photographs with her new husband, Hiram Aungst.

Anna Mae Longenecker with her sisters on her wedding to Hiram Aungst.
Anna Mae Longenecker with her new husband and sisters posing for wedding photos on the lawn of the John Longenecker homestead.

Either the rules for wedding have relaxed a little in the ten or more years since my parents’ wedding, or brides have become more bold. This wedding accessories include corsages for attendants, a white Bible with streamers for the bride and the groom and groomsmen in non-Mennonite suits and neckties.

As the video shows, there was muted frivolity after the wedding which included rice throwing. Yes, it was real rice, not bird-seed!

Note the cars decorated in full post-ceremony regalia, worthy of any “fancy” wedding.

OldCar

 

Then and now: Your thoughts on wedding ceremonies welcome.

 

 

 

 

Mennonite Flashback III: Rabbits and Rings

This is a sequel to a previous blog post: Flying the Coop: Leaving Mennonite Land with a link to my original story on Mary Gottschalk’s website.

His Story:

I proposed to Marian my Mennonite girl friend one snowy evening, my car stuck in a snow-bank. When she accepted my proposal, I also asked her, “Would you be willing to wear a ring?” This is the plain girl I have fallen in love with: no make-up, no jewelry, especially no ring on her finger, ever.

Now it’s close to Easter and Marian is flying down from Charlotte to spend the weekend with me in Jacksonville. Technically, she’ll be with me most of the time though she will spend the night at Mom and Pop Rea’s house, members of Fellowship Bible Church where I am youth pastor. No sleeping together before marriage.

I’ve been wracking my brain to find a way to make the ring presentation unforgettable—and a surprise too. So this is what I’ll do. I’ll make a ham dinner for her finishing it off with dessert, a cake with her engagement ring baked inside. No, wait! A cake is too big; the ring may get lost in it. I’d better make cupcakes or muffins. That’s it. A blueberry muffin. She’ll find that ring for sure if I wrap it four or five times with tin foil.

And I’ll make some rabbit cutouts with toothpicks, blue for me and red for her, so I know which muffin the ring has been baked in.

Scanned from the original bunny sticks, 1967
Scanned from the original bunny sticks, 1967

Her Story:

Charlotte is my home this year, but with every stitch of my wedding gown, I dream of my life with soon-to-be-husband Cliff in Florida. Easter weekend I take an Eastern Airlines flight to Jacksonville. The carefree, goofy guy I have fallen in love with has hit real life, teaching sixth-graders in an inner city school. He has also exchanged a college dorm for a $ 50.00 per month, second-story garage apartment with a turquoise-teal kitchen, where I will live after our honeymoon. But his humble abode has not killed romance and his wish to entertain.

We sit down to a home-made ham dinner.

The Discovery:

Dessert is served. Oh, little bunny muffins, I think. How cute even if they’re from a mix. I take 2-3 bites and my teeth strike something hard and metallic. Uh-oh. I don’t want to embarrass Cliff by exposing his lack of baking expertise, so I try to hide the wad of foil under my plate. Eying what I think is a faux pas, he urges, “Why don’t you see what’s inside?” Cautious but obliging, I unwrap the layers and layers of foil, and my eyes pop with pleasure – a glittering diamond solitaire, my first ring ever.

Postscript: Years later when I am a young mother, I remove the ring to apply lotion to my hands, placing it on a top of the bedroom dresser. What happens later occurs out of sight and only in our reconstructed memory: Three-year-old daughter Crista finds the ring and puts it on. Wearing it to go potty, she flushes my diamond down drain. Screams ensue. Cliff digs frantically into the lawn hoping the ring has gotten lodged somehow in the trap of the drain pipe before flowing into the Neverland of the city sewer .  .  .  to no avail.

Stand-in for the Original
Stand-in for the Original

What story can you share about receiving a special piece of jewelry?

 

Have you ever lost something precious? A family heirloom?

 

We always learn something from your comments. Thank you!

Be My Valentine

RevValentineTable

“All you need is love. But a little chocolate now and then doesn’t hurt.”

So says Charles M. Schulz. Valentine’s Day is interpreted by many to include cards, chocolates, candlelight and roses. Some even break the bank buying expensive jewelry. Valentine’s day was named for a Christian martyr dating back to the 5th century, but according to Arnie Seipel in an essay for NPR, its origins are dark and bloody even, beginning with the wild and crazy Romans and their feast of Lupercalia.
During the Middle Ages tokens of love were first expressed by handmade paper cards. In the 14th century Chaucer helped romanticize the holiday with his love quotes like “love is blind” from The Canterbury Tales and his Parlement of Foules, featuring an assembly of birds gathered together to choose their mates. From the Renaissance to the Victorian Age and beyond, poets wrote sonnets extolling romantic love: Shakespeare, known especially during this season for Sonnet # 116, and Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s famous lines “How do I Love Thee? Let me count the ways” in Sonnet # 43.

Today, Valentine’s Day is big business. In 2011, sales reached $ 18.6 billion. This year the figure will probably exceed 20 billion. Seipel quotes Helen Fisher, a sociologist at Rutgers University, who says that if commercialization has spoiled the day, we can blame only ourselves for buying into it. But the celebration of Valentine’s Day goes on nonetheless. Even with some sayings on candy hearts we never imagined:

A few candy heart sayings we never saw: Courtesy Google Images
A few candy heart sayings updated by social media: Courtesy Google Images

Years ago, candies like these were hand-picked for that special one, but many valentine cards were home-made. I remember making valentines for friends at school or punching cut-outs for classmates and dropping them in to the big, square box decorated red and white for Valentine’s Day at Rheems Elementary School. Stories in our readers illustrated children making, not buying, Valentine cards for friends:

"The Surprise Valentines," Gray and Arbuthnot, Scott Foresman & Company, 1941.
“The Surprise Valentines,” Gray and Arbuthnot, Scott Foresman & Company, 1941.

Do you remember making or receiving hand-made valentines? Are you holding on to an old Valentine card for sentimental reasons?

Vintage Cut-out Card, Cliff Collection
Vintage cut-out card, Cliff Collection 1966

Your thoughts start the conversation—or keep it going. Thank you!

Wedding on the Cheap

The year 1967 was historic: It was the year of the world’s first heart transplant. There were race riots in Detroit. Polaroid cameras were all the rage as was Twiggy. The average annual income was $ 7300.00 while a house cost about twice that much. Gas was a mere 33 cents a gallon.

It was also the year of our wedding. On the cheap. In August, not June. After moving from Lancaster, PA to Charlotte, NC, my teaching salary increased by only one hundred dollars to about $ 3500.00 stretched to pay for most of the wedding expenses. I was on a pay-as-you-go, no-credit-card system! Today’s Bridezillas would freak out at my teeny tiny budget for a church wedding. Ever the list-maker (call me OCD), I began my planning with a double-columned list: item + amount spent. The cake, flowers, napkins, photographer, and honoraria are missing here. Probably on another list! I was not very good at justifying my bank balance. I remember standing in front of a teller at Wachovia Bank unable to choke back tears at my overdrawn account just weeks before the wedding.

. WeddingNBcover              List-Expenses

January through May was consumed by pattern-buying, fabric-cutting and sewing a gown heavily influenced by Jackie Kennedy’s style. How is it that the fabric for the bridesmaids and the bride, including a train with appliques cost only $ 83.05 then?

BelkReceipt  WeddingPattern

My hair was still in a bun but without the prayer veiling. One day in June, about six weeks before the wedding, I got the courage to dramatically change my hair-do. Off I went to a beauty salon, recommended by my roommates, to experiment with a bob. The stylist began, oddly, by braiding my hair into one long braid, almost waist length. And then she CUT IT OFF! I will never forget the sensation of hair still attached to my head swinging free. Was it in shock? Dancing? I’ll never know, but I do know the agony of trying to get my hands and fingers to contort themselves in odd ways to comb, brush, tease my shorter locks into the new style.

HankofHair

                       Heaven only knows why I still have this hank of hair!

Half the guest list were Mennonite friends and family from Pennsylvania, and they came to North Caroline in droves. Frugal Daddy gladly footed the hefty bill for the full course rehearsal dinner. Families from Charlotte Christian School put up my immediate family. Grandma and Aunt Ruthie were thrilled to stay in the home of Billy Graham’s mother, who had also hosted a bridal shower for me. Except for the bridal party, the wedding itself was a curious blend of plain and fancy: plain-coated, bow-tied Daddy with fancy bride.

 Wedding Day_Marian+Father_8x10_150

You may ask, “Why didn’t the groom help more with the wedding expenses?” A teacher/preacher at the time, he spent the summer as a rigger at the Jacksonville Shipyards carrying heavy chains on his shoulders up and down ladders trying to pay for the honeymoon and all that followed. No metaphor intended here!

The summer months are traditionally wedding months, particularly June. Do you have a wedding memory to share? Your own? Someone else’s?

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