Someone – my great-grandfather, my grandmother, my dad, someone – told me how fathers announced the upcoming wedding of their daughters more than a century ago in the small, southern Illinois farming community where I was raised.
The story goes like this: After a wedding date was set, the bride's father saddled his finest horse to ride throughout the neighborhood carrying a cane covered in bows made of ribbon. When he arrived at the home of someone to be invited to the wedding, he'd slip a bow from the cane and hand it to the family as the official invitation.
Sometimes, the story continued, the father's good news was met with so much good cheer that only the horse was clearheaded enough to find the way back home.
Its original source likely was my great-grandfather, a blacksmith in the little town. He loved stories and this one is nearly as lovely as any bride.
My parents' wedding, Sept. 2, 1950, in that same town, was to be a garden affair. After the Lutheran ceremony everyone was invited to the edge of town where my mother's family home and sprawling lawn was the reception site.
The planning and preparation had been meticulous. Chickens, from the farm my mother and father had already established, had given their short, plump lives for the main entrée, chicken salad, and potatoes, peas and pies lay waiting the final “Amen.”
Then the rain began to fall. And fall and fall.
On short notice everything – bride, groom, chicken salad, guests, minister – were driven between raindrops to the Lutheran school for a dry reception. No one who attended ever forgot it.
Weddings of my brothers and sister, joyous all, hold similar memories. For example, my oldest brother's wedding was the evening of the hottest March Saturday in anyone's memory. The church, the same one my parents had been married in, was a stained-glass steam bath.
Soon, however, other things – much bigger things – began to move. The first was a cousin standing up for my brother. After two steps backward, Danny fainted with great drama, going down in a crashing heap like a boxer whose lights just got punched out.
The next to go was my sister, who melted into a puddle of taffeta and teased hair.
When others began to wobble and my brother and not-yet-sister-in-law still a prayer and a hymn away from any “I do,” Pastor Holstein (I'm not making this up) paused to survey the carnage.
Pastor then raced through the vows –I never heard “I pronounce you man and wife” and I was 15 feet from him – mumbled a blessing and that was that.
This Sept. 2 was equally hot and steamy in Washington, D.C. Sprinkles slickened the streets.
At 5 p.m., however, a strong sun defeated the day's dullness and our Mary Grace, daughter of the lovely Catherine and me, slowly walked through a leafy Georgetown garden to wed Andrew Foxwell.
No rain fell and no one with tall hair wilted.
Hey, give us three generations and we'll