Mom had chosen that date and time because she knew he couldn’t possibly forget it.
I had successfully whined about the petticoat in my dress — “It’s itchy, I don’t want to wear it, can I please take it off, ouch!” — and Granny sawed out the culprit with her pair of kitchen shears. The skirt wilted a bit without its mesh support, but sensitive skin, and, essentially, my life, had been saved, so I didn’t care.
I really liked that dress. Pine tree green with little flower bunches. It was a Louisiana autumn, so, early that November morning, I decided it was the perfect time to prance around Granny’s driveway in my frock and admire my handsome shadow in the crispy morning sun. Barefoot, of course.
Mom and Granny had barely noticed I wasn’t with them for about an hour, so I was able to pirouette to my heart’s content and curtsy to my silhouette, but apparently “guests were about to arrive”, so I had to come inside.
I can’t remember if I stood nicely in the corner with my uncles and Granny, or if I romped under the dining room table in my stockings, but, knowing me, it was probably the latter. Guests filed in and neatly filled the rows of chairs in Granny’s den. I waved frantically at my pastor’s daughters and my absolute best friends as they sat down, and, in bewilderment, was scolded for doing so and not “getting ready”.
We had rehearsed it all the night before. I was supposed to follow Miss Holly down the aisle. And, I was supposed to walk in a straight line. The first time I tried it during rehearsal, I staggered all the way down the aisle like a drunken dwarf. So Pastor Rench advised me to find a line on the floor and follow it. I was prepared to do exactly that.
More guests filled the den while the cellist and violinist from the Opelousas church settled themselves in the front left corner of the room, by the brick fireplace, and started playing the chosen hymns. I, meanwhile, parked myself next to the bowl of mints.
Suddenly the room had quieted. Miss Holly was about to walk down the aisle. Oh snap. Initiate warp-speed chewing.
I was scurried into place with a basket of flower petals by some attentive person. I watched as Miss Holly reached her destination, next to the pastor and Mr… I mean… Oh, it was my turn.
I focused on that invisible line on the floor and marched slowly between the rows of folded chairs. March. March. March. Focus. Focus. Focus. Ahh, I made it. And I didn’t even tumble into Uncle Ben’s chair. Perfect.
And then Momma came around the bend, her tea-length dress the most warm and welcoming shade of cream. Her perm was done to perfection, little Grecian-style curls framing her smiling, rosy face, and she had pretty silk ballet flats. For some reason, people started crying, but all I could do was beam up at my beautiful mom.
I had to stand there for about half an hour. No idea how I did that, honestly. I’m pretty sure I glanced around the crowd behind me, scouting out my friends and cousins and uncles. I’m also pretty sure my uncles gave that universal parent scold face, where, without words, the kid knows exactly what the parent is trying to convey. So I most likely quick turned back around and watched my mom get married.
It’s not like I didn’t know the guy. But I was shy. I had only talked to him in emails before now. Emails full of shark facts. And I couldn’t just pull more shark facts out of thin air for conversation. Plus, I think I told him all the shark facts I knew.
As the wedding guests folded up their chairs, piled into the dining room and kitchen, and hummed about the bride, my new, introverted dad stood along the dining room wall with his best man. Here is my chance… my first words as his daughter! I didn’t want to embarrass myself, so I chose the coolest way to initiate our first father-daughter conversation: I sprinted past him and yelled, “HI, DAD.”
I then bounded away into Granny’s room and flopped my face onto her high-rise colonial bed. Nailed it.
A couple weeks later, we drove north to my dad’s home in Pittsburgh. Mom bought me my first winter coat. I saw my first snow. And, just in time for Christmas, I got the best dad.
P.S.: I learned to talk about more than just sharks with my Dad. And how to have a pleasant time in his company without saying a word.
P.S.S.: I love you, Dad. God knew exactly the man Mom and I needed.
P.S.S.S.: I love you, Mom. Thankful God equipped you with the mental and emotional strength and stability to be my mom.