All I remember of the wedding day is that our dresses matched Mom’s – white with tiny green and yellow flowers – and that Mr. Ed got sick.
Hearing my mom say, “We’re going to get married” is the memory that never dims down the long hallway of years.
I didn’t cry when she told me.
We were eating dinner – pork chops and mashed potatoes. And probably a canned vegetable. I remember setting down my fork because there was suddenly a lump in my throat and I knew I wouldn’t be able to swallow any more food.
But I did not cry.
I didn’t like Wayne. He was Mom’s boyfriend. There had been a few other guys over the years, but they were never around for more than a few dates. Wayne was the one who stayed … the one who wouldn’t go away, despite my cold and unlikable behavior.
In that instant, my ten-year-old mind grasped a mature concept: if my mom was talking about marriage, Wayne was never going to go away, and my tears would only make her feel bad. I understood that when people announced they were getting married, they expected everyone else to be happy for them. So I stared down at my plate while Mom talked about matching dresses. My sister was delighted by the idea. At six, it meant a new dress for her … not a new life.
I liked my life the way it was. I liked having Mom all to myself.
“Aren’t you happy?” my mom asked, and suddenly she was crying.
“Uh-huh,” I mumbled, trying to sound convincing. To this day I’m not sure if she was crying because I didn’t react with joy … or because she could see my struggle, and knew I was doing my best not to be selfish for the first time in my life.
It was a hot August day when Mom and Dad got married. I don’t remember the ceremony, except that it was in a judge’s office.
I have a photo of the four of us assembled awkwardly into our brand new family. We’re standing in the back yard by the rose bushes. My mom is radiant in her light floral dress, her hair piled on top of her head. My sister and I smile at the camera, all lanky bare legs and arms in our “wedding dresses.” Wayne – who became our Dad in every sense of the word – beams from the height of his promotion to Husband and Father.
Then Mr. Ed, our beagle mix, added drama to the festivities by collapsing from the heat. No amount of cajoling would persuade him to get up and act healthy.
My sister and I were shipped off on our “honeymoon” at Bob and Sally’s house in the country. Then Mom and Dad piled Mr. Ed into the car for a trip to the animal hospital. They called us later to report that he perked up for the car ride, and was grinning a happy doggy grin by the time he hopped onto the examining table.