Today is Gene’s and my wedding anniversary. This would be our 59th. Gene died in 2005 after we had been married 53 years, but I still celebrate the Day. It was our Lucky Day, but it didn’t start out that way. It wasn’t what you’d call a Dream Wedding.
We were married at Immaculate Conception Church in Cedar Rapids on October 20, 1951. It was a dark and dreary day and then some. It didn’t merely rain. It was a deluge, and I don’t just mean outdoors.
Inside, the bride cried while getting ready for the ceremony. She sobbed throughout the ceremony, following the ceremony, at the brunch, at the reception, and leaving the reception. If Gene had any second thoughts about the damsel he had chosen as a bride, he somehow found the restraint to keep them to himself. And to find a raincoat.
In short, I was not what you would call a “dream bride”. Swollen eyes, red nose dripping, hankies borrowed from the priest and any hapless guests standing nearby to replace the soggy ones used as I cried my eyes out. And oh, yes, I chose that momentous occasion to break out with a nice big itching case of hives.
I was wearing my sister Joan’s wedding dress and left it permanently shrunk, mildewed, and tear-stained. (Years later, while stored in Joan and Tom’s garage, a family of mice made the gown into a cozy nest. They probably died of hypertension caused by exposure to excessive salt.)
Normal bystanders might have assumed the bride was getting married against her will. Not at all. The bride had acquired a habit of weeping at ALL state occasions.
I still do. I don’t just cry at funerals. I cry at baptisms, confirmations, graduations, WeightWatcher meetings. I cry at supermarket openings. At drill team competitions, dog agility trials, Irish step-dancing events. I had to quit videotaping clients’ weddings because the viewfinder got so wet I couldn’t see through it.
Somehow, Joan and my friend Louise helped me control myself long enough to get out of the damp wedding gown and dressed for our “trip”. In those days, the bride usually wore a suit, hat, heels and gloves as she left on her honeymoon. So did I. Somehow, I was made ready. For the first time that day, I was completely dry.
But not for long. On our way to the train station, the clouds opened up with a torrential cloudburst. Getting from the car to the train door was a scary and unforgettable experience. Somehow, bedraggled and drenched, we boarded the train and as we went to take our seats, people stared. And why not? Here was Mr. Soggy Wet Suit escorting Pitiful Pearl to her seat — soaked to the skin, hat drooping down on all sides, hair straight and wringing wet, shoes squeaking, and, – yes, I’m afraid so – wearing a corsage.
Once we got to Chicago, we were beginning to dry out, when Gene gave me my first taste of champagne. It was a mistake. No bridegroom really wants to remember his bride throwing up on their wedding night.
And here is one of my big secrets of life. It wasn’t till years later that I discovered this old wives tale. It says that couples who get hopelessly rained out on their wedding day, will have a long and happy marriage.
And we did. It wasn’t a Dream Wedding. But it was our Lucky Day.