wedding

Affairs of the Pagan Heart

April, 2018

Ostara and Eggs

Eggs are an old symbol of new life. With fertilization, care and time, something new comes to life, and what a great opportunity it is to view a wedding as something new. A marriage is born!

The most opulent display for an Ostara wedding ceremony or reception is to make or commission a Fabergé wedding egg. It is a lot of fun to make one yourself, and a great exercise for you and your partner any time, not just at Ostara or Easter.

What you’ll need:

  • eggs (raw); white are best to get the colouring you desire

  • food colouring and jars

  • pencil with a straight pin stuck into the eraser end

  • wax candle

  • paper towels

  • some patience and a bit of creativity

Method:

Choose the colours you want to add to your egg and prepare the dye water. Remember combinations like blue and yellow make green, so you don’t need to prepare a mix of green dye. Are there colours that represent your partnership or colours you want to use at your wedding? Have these ready for a later step.

Select a design. This is where you can get really creative and it forms the basis of the end result. What patterns or symbols do you want to use to represent your union? Maybe you have a symbol or word that you want to include that has meaning to your relationship. Draw it out in pencil on paper first if you’re an inexperienced doodler, then draw it on the egg when you’re ready.

Stick the pin in the end of the pencil and dip the pin head in some melted wax. Trace what you’ve drawn in pencil, and this is where you can be really creative.

When you’re satisfied covering one layer with wax, carefully lower the egg into the dye water for about 15-20 seconds. If it’s not the intensity you want, put it back in the dye water. It could take 10 minutes or more. Then trace some more wax as another layer and lower the egg in another colour for another 15 seconds to see the colours blend and mix. The spots where there is wax won’t get dyed, so keep that in mind when planning your layers and colour combinations.

Remove the egg from the dye water with a spoon between each layer and carefully pat it dry with a clean paper towel.

Removing the wax is a difficult task but is also satisfying to see how it all comes together. Carefully hold the egg near (but not directly over) the candle flame, just close enough to melt the wax that you can carefully wipe off with a clean paper towel. You’ll do this several times as you move the egg around to get all the wax off.

You’re done at this point, and your egg is beautiful. Or maybe you want to repeat the steps to add some more. The choice is yours!

For more in-depth descriptions of these steps and a wide variety of tips and tricks, visit http://www.instructables.com/id/Pysanky-Ukrainian-Egg-Dying

Be sure to poke a small hole in both ends of the egg when you’re done and blow out the contents. It would be bad enough if your egg cracked or smashed, but the smell of the rotting contents would make the situation even worse. However, once a hole is poked, you can add a thin ribbon to it and make it an ornament, an activity you could also do for Yule or other sabbats.

***

About the Author:

Rev. Rachel U Young is a pagan based in Toronto, Canada. She is a licensed Wedding Officiant and under the name NamasteFreund she makes handfasting cords and other ceremonial accessories.

Affairs of the Pagan Heart

February, 2018

Choosing Handfasting Cord Charms

Congratulations on your upcoming wedding! You’ve planned every detail of the ceremony and reception with your partner and you’ve committed to having a handfasting ceremony, and now it’s time to choose what your cord looks like, from which colour(s) to choose to which charms represent the two of you. Of the two, the charms are, by far, the hardest to choose. There is a limited number of cord colours, but an unlimited number of symbols that could be used.

Charms at the end of a handfasting cord aren’t essential, but if you choose to add charms, the symbols should be the most meaningful symbols to you. After all, there are only two ends to a cord, so make them count!

The current definition of symbol on Wikipedia is spot on:

A symbol is a mark, sign, or word that indicates, signifies, or is understood as representing an idea, object, or relationship. Symbols allow people to go beyond what is known or seen by creating linkages between otherwise very different concepts and experiences.”

Charms you choose may exist already and made of metal, or they could be carved from wood or a crystal, or they could be printed and placed into a photo charm.

As for how to choose symbols for your handfasting cord, think on the symbol you want to evoke meaning for your relationship and marriage. It may help to light some incense, meditate, sit cross-legged in front of each other, or even doodle with pen and paper with your eyes closed until you feel something has come forth.

You may want a literal charm. If you met at the seaside, you may want to walk along the beach together until you find some shells that compliment your cord. If your engagement took place at the Statue of Liberty, find a charm of Lady Liberty and something else to accompany it. If you have Celtic or Norse heritage, perhaps you’ll want to add a charm of a Celtic Love Knot on one end and the Ehwaz rune on the other end.

Sometimes choosing a charm based on what your relationship means can evoke a deeper representation. When you spend time with your partner, does a particular image come to mind? Does a particular animal frequently appear near you or cross your path when you talk about your partner? Does the same symbol keep appearing in any wedding-related dreams you have leading up to the ceremony? The universe is speaking to you in dreams, animal encounters, repetition, and strongest memories and wants you to take notice. So do!

And as relationships change, grow, and mature, the symbols you use to represent it may change as well, so if you reuse your handfasting cord later for a vow renewal or rebonding ceremony, consider changing the charms to represent what and who you are now. Add in charms for your family, your home, your spiritual path, or anything that may have changed or evolved since your marriage began.

***

About the Author:

Rev. Rachel U Young is a pagan based in Toronto, Canada. She is a licensed Wedding Officiant and under the name NamasteFreund she makes handfasting cords and other ceremonial accessories. She is also the Chair of Toronto Pagan Pride Day.

Affairs of the Pagan Heart

November, 2017

Adding a Spindle to the Wheel of the Year

As I wrote this, I was finishing up work for the day to head home to get ready to celebrate my 5th wedding anniversary with a quiet dinner at one of our favourite fancy restaurants. Though my husband is not pagan, we did a handfasting with cords of orange, brown, green, and silver in a beautiful loft space gallery that used to be a piano factory. It was an overcast day that rained on and off, and we didn’t care, as long as we had each other and were surrounded by our friends and family. We bound ourselves to one another, and by the grace of the Gods, the rain paused just after our ceremony so that we could run outside to get some outdoor photos amongst the glorious fall colours of late October.

I didn’t have my parents there to celebrate with me. They both passed away years before, and never even met my husband. It breaks my heart every time I think about how much my husband and my dad would have gotten along, or how easily my mum would have welcomed him into the family. I never dreamed of how my wedding would be, and was not that little girl who walked around in my mother’s shoes and a veil on my head and “played wedding” as easily as “playing doctor” or “playing school” or “playing tea time”. In fact, though I wholeheartedly believe in love and wasn’t opposed to marriage, enough time had passed by that I guess I thought it just wasn’t for me. So I never had those dreams of my dad walking me down the aisle, or getting ready in the morning with my mum.

However, when the time came, their absence was sorely missed. My parents were still married for 46 years when my father died, and were not at our wedding in person to witness their youngest getting married. But I know they were there in spirit, as were my ancestors before them, and I know they come forth when the veil between the spiritual plane and the living is most porous or at its thinnest. Each year, our anniversary has felt like the start of that thinning, the overlap between summer and fall, or Mabon and Samhain and forward to Yule.

And as I think on my ancestors and my immediate family that have passed on, I don’t think of them as lost. I think of them as pillars of love and endurance. They have faced so much in their lives, living through wars and social progress and political strife and so much more than what I have experienced, and if I can get a glimpse of them through the veil at this time of year, or gain a portion of their wisdom or obtain a sliver of their bravery, perhaps I would have even more inspiration to keep my heart strong for my marriage.

We mark and celebrate our anniversary as a reminder of how we fell in love, to look back fondly on the day we were married and celebrated our commitment to one another in front of our family and friends, and to take stock of our relationship. I also take the time to evaluate how my spirituality plays into the marriage, and how I can improve myself for myself mentally, physically, and spiritually.

If we think of the wheel of the year as a ship’s wheel, we see the evenly spaced spindles that indicate each season and sabbat. It’s important to can add to our own wheels with anniversaries and special occasions so that they are actually that – special occasions. They are things that we celebrate specifically for us, separate from what others are marking, so that we can spend energy on why that day is important to us.

This time of year has a lot going on for me. I honour my ancestors, I miss my parents, I celebrate my wedding anniversary, and I acknowledge the turning of the wheel as the year progresses, as sure as my heart beats.

***

About the Author:

Rev. Rachel U Young is a pagan based in Toronto, Canada. She is a licensed Wedding Officiant and under the name NamasteFreund she makes handfasting cords and other ceremonial accessories. She is also the Chair of Toronto Pagan Pride Day.

Moon Owl Observations

September, 2017

Handfasting

 

I recently got married, and while I was planning my wedding I decided to look into the tradition of Handfasting. I remember attending one a few years ago and thought it was beautiful. I had heard of them, but that was the first one I’d ever been to. I decided to look more into it to see if it was something my husband and I would want to incorporate into our day.

 

The first thing I wanted to find out was obviously the meaning behind it and the history. When the tradition was in its prime it was generally set for a year and a day. If the two people were still happy and wanting to be together after that, then the bond would stay in force. If, by that time the couple decided it wasn’t for them, they were free to walk away. It was also sometimes used to see if they would have a child in that time as well. It may seem kind of weird, but in a way it would save a lot of people from divorce. It was a binding of marriage before weddings became government or church functions, and the tradition involves the hands being bound together to signify the joining of their lives. It is the meaning behind “tying the knot”.

 

 

(This green Handfasting Cord is called Dragon Mother.  It can be purchased at Divinity Braid by ASV Weddings on Etsy.)

 

 

The two hold hands and a third person (preferably a priest or priestess) binds the hands together. Ribbon or small cord works best and the colours can be twisted together, or as most people prefer, the colours are separate and each one is woven individually through the hands. Most of the time around 3 or 6 colours are chosen. And I’m assuming most reading this know how much significance there is in colour, and on a day like your wedding, choosing the correct ones is something to think about. Below are the main colour choices of ribbon and what the meaning behind each one is:

 

Red: will, love, strength, fertility, courage, health, vigor and passion

Orange: Encouragement, adaptability, stimulation, attraction, plenty and kindness

Yellow: Attraction, charm, confidence, balance and harmony

Green: Fertility, luck, prosperity, nurturing, beauty, health and love

Blue: Safe journey, longevity and strength

Purple: Healing, health, strength, power and progress

Black: Strength, empowerment, wisdom, vision, success and pure love

White: Spirituality, truth, peace, serenity and devotion

Gray: Balance, neutrality, return to the universe without repercussion

Pink: Love, unity, honor, truth, romance and happiness

Brown: Healing, skills and talent, nurturing, home and hearth, the earth

Silver: Creativity, inspiration, vision and protection

Gold: Unity, longevity, prosperity and strength

 

 

(This Handfasting Cord is called PRIDE . It can be purchased at NamasteFreund on etsy. For more information read below*)

 

The actual meaning behind the word Handfasting comes, of course, from old Celtic traditions and wording. “Hand- festa” means “to strike a bargain by joining hands” which also refers to things like a basic handshake. It was popular years and years ago in Scotland and Ireland, and for a while it was viewed as almost an engagement, and for the most part once Christianity became more wide-spread, weddings became taken a lot more seriously, and due to the lack of clergy, most couples would hold a handfasting before the clergy would come around so they could be joined in union without needing to wait for someone to come around.

 

In today’s times some people still use a handfasting as a type of trial-marriage, or it can be incorporated into a full ceremony. Most of the time it is held before the legal paperwork. Other traditions that work well with a handfasting are a wine blessing and a unity light blessing with candles. Some aspects that may be a little bit different than a typical wedding would be that usually you want people to stand or sit in a circle around the couple, and there should be a blessing of the scared space beforehand, and a circle may be cast. Typically a mention of various gods and/or goddesses and also the various elements. Another tradition that may be incorporated is jumping over a broom and even a maypole dance. Because of some of the traditions talked about may not be accepted by family members or friends who are invited. Some people may also be confused so if you are going to have a handfasting or any other ceremony you may want to put something in with the invitation or program. I definitely suggest looking into finding a High Priestess or High Priest so it is done correctly, but you can even do some research and get a close friend or loved one to do it, especially if you live in a small community.

 

All- in- all it’s a pretty customizable and meaningful tradition. It’s a beautiful thing to witness and be a part of. There are a lot of options and traditions to look into when planning to get married.

 

*Rachel Young is the owner of NamasteFreund. She began making handfasting cords by making one for her own pagan ceremony. Five years later she continues to make a wide range of wedding cords, infusing them with her best wishes that a marriage can bring, & has shipped products to every continent. Her product line expanded to include besoms, wands, bookmarks, & more. She is also a licensed Wedding Officiant specializing in handfastings, inter-faith, & same-sex marriages. You can find her on NamasteFreund, Etsy, Facebook, Instagram, & Twitter.

 

HedgeWitch Days!

May, 2015

Sneaky Parenting and a Wedding Day!

Hi my lovelies….and Beltane blessings to all of you guys out there!

Now, as you can imagine, the process of me writing this column doesn’t happen on the 1st of each month, the day of Pagan Pages publication. It’s just as well too as I am, especially the moment, swamped with 100 things on my list to do and very few crossed off. So it is lovely this month to be able to take a few moments out to have a natter with you amidst the chaos that is permeating every corner of my home and life. Today’s date is the 17th April as I am writing, and I am sure as you are reading this on the 1st May my time in between the two dates will be filled with stress, worry and above all extreme tiredness!!!

My daughter is getting married!

Oh yes lovelies, I am the mother of the bride, who knew that the role would involve so many, many duties? It has been a seemingly endless round of months in which so many decisions have had to be made. You know the kind of thing, colour scheme (I was never aware just how many shades of green there are out there), seating plans (who gets to sit where is a political minefield), favour bags (wow, really?) everything down to the shade of lipstick of the bride and the buttercream filling for the cakes (Ummmm, ask me on the 30th April how well THEY turned out) has been discussed and pondered and fretted about. Weddings it seems today have taken on a new, almost spooky life of their own, demanding that jobs on the list be ticked off as quickly as the money flies out of my purse! I am sure my own wedding was never this organised, and mine was a healthy size of 50 people, this one is a small do for 20! So why, you ask, am I rambling on about this wedding in my Pagan Pages column? Because, my lovelies…

  1. If I don’t talk to someone I may just be dragged away by men in white coats, kicking and screaming about apple green and ivory lace.

  2. It has taken over my entire existence including every room in my home.

  3. It is a Beltane Wedding!!!

My frustratingly difficult, but incredibly beautiful eldest daughter has decided to get married on May 1st. She said that it was the perfect day for the wedding, being Beltane. She has chosen to wear a wedding dress that is called ‘the Fairy’ and her theme is natural and white, like a spring day. Her bouquet is loosely tied just as though the flowers have just been picked from the hedgerow. Her make-up will be natural as will her hair,

That is to be bedecked with a sprinkling of tiny pearls and blossom.

Of course all old traditions are being observed, something old, something new, something borrowed and something blue.

Throughout this whole wedding process I have sat back and watched this now all grown child of mine as she has made her choices and I have listened avidly as to why she has made them. Along with being extremely proud and have also become extremely aware that I have been the ultimate ninja of sneaky parenting. Over the years I have subtly explained the traditions and ways of the path we walk to both of my girls, over and over again at every opportunity. I have always been keen for them to make their own decisions on what path the follow, in fact I believe that we don’t actually come to our path until we are really ready to embrace it. I hope that throughout their growing up period I have never forced my beliefs onto my girls, but instead tried to explain the festivals and their links to the old ways in gentle relevant conversation. During the traditional holidays of Easter and Christmas (noooo, not the C word lol), I have thrown myself into the middle of it all, as we do with our kids, but have also passed along pieces of information about the wheel of the year and the celebrations that accompany each turning point. As a parent you are never entirely convinced that anything you have said will actually go in one ear and stick inside that head of theirs, the chances are that your words will instead go flying all the way through to the other ear and out the other side into the dimension known as ‘I am not interested!’ But we parents are nothing if not persistent! Year after year we witter on about the olde times as year after year the eye rolling gets more exaggerated and the ears get deafer. And then suddenly, one day you are treated to the most wonderful reward for all your efforts! As one would drip feed a small plant and watch it flourish I am now being blessed by all the subtle honouring and recognition of our past traditions that I have ‘dropped’ into their lives through my daughter and her decisions.

May day, the time of the union of the Goddess and her young suitor, the day of traditional handfasting, the ultimate day of the maiden and her beauty being rivalled by no other is THE perfect wedding day for my English rose baby girl. The reception will be lit by candles, representing the Beltane fires of old, where cattle were driven through the smoke as blessings and chants filled the air on their way to the summer pastures and good sweet grass. Spring flowers bedecking both the bride and the tables honour the time of the year in Mother Nature, turning the wedding feast into an enchanting altar. Although all of these wonderful things can be seen to be ‘normal’ wedding adornments their meaning to us on our spiritual path is so much more magical. And the most magical thing of all for this old hedgewitch is that she GETS it, she understands and has actively planned and designed her wedding with the magical meanings in mind. The ceremony is a registry office service and the venue is a local hotel, so although no one is being handfasted per se, it is a symbolic union of the maiden and her lord, the day of making a commitment to another.

My sneaky parenting technic seems to have resulted in a wedding that is so much more than just a marriage, it is a magical life event that I am so blessed to be part of.

So although I am overrun with lace and green ribbon and my wrinkles are getting deeper by the day, Goddess help me, I am immersed in the glow of the magic of my path, and have a feeling of immense pride in the young woman my daughter has become. Now I wonder what daughter 2 will pull out of the bag to surprise me, Kids eh? They never cease to amaze me!

Well, my lovelies, I will get off and get back to these favour bags, thank you guys so much for listening to me witter on, my sanity is somewhat restored!

I hope you have a blessed Beltane

*And to Alexandra and her consort Anthony*

May your life together be filled with abundant blessings, love and grace.

May you walk together as one through any trials that come your way

And may you always have magic in your hearts

Love you too too much

Mum xxx

WEDDING BELLS

January, 2009

The time eventually came that just as Papa had promised all those years before Sherry and I got that “pretty piece of paper” that legally made us “man and wife”. It was hot that year, even for May in East Texas . Most people who were old enough said that it had already been the hottest spring since the end of “the war”. Of course even with Vietnam still raging, there was no doubt in anyone’s mind which war they were referring to. It promised to be a real scorcher of a summer. Not a sign of a breeze was stirring. The twenty-year-old air conditioner in our church struggled mightily – aided by antique ceiling fans – to keep everyone as comfortable as possible. Outside, the sun beat down from a clear blue sky and shimmering ripples of reflected heat rose lazily upward to meet again their source. The service was set to begin at two o’clock but as usual people began arriving a little after noon.

We had gotten up around six am and it had already been a long day.  Several months before, while everything was still in the ‘planning stage’ Sherry had found Mama Carries old wedding dress – perfectly preserved – and had decided that it was the ‘only thing’ to wear for her own wedding. Fortunately the two were about the same size and no alterations had been needed. Still, on the morning of May 19th 1972, exactly  67 years after it had been worn for the first time, it took us six hours to shove, cram, prize and push Sherry into it and all of the accompanying petticoats and other accessories.

It’s supposed to be ‘bad luck’ for the groom to see the bride just before the wedding, but that little bit of superstition came a little late for the two of us. Besides, if I hadn’t been there it would have taken a week for her to get dressed.

“Can’t you hold your breath Baby Girl?

“I am holding it Jimmy.”

“No you’re not, you’re talking.”

“Am not.”

“Are too, now shut up and hold your breath. Why in the name of God do you gotta wear all these damned drawers and petticoats anyhow?”

“The dress won’t hang right if I don’t.”

“Won’t ‘hang right’? Like who’s gonna know?” I pulled and tugged while she struggled and grunted.

“I will.”

“You don’t count. Now shut up and hold your breath and help me.” She clammed up and began to wiggle her bottom as I continued to pull at the recalcitrant petticoat. “Jesus Christ Baby Girl. We’ve still gotta get the dress on you over all of this.”

“We’ll make it.”

“Why couldn’t we get married at some nice nudist colony?”

She began to laugh. It was a good five minutes before we could resume the struggle.

Papa and Mama Carrie were sitting in the kitchen drinking coffee. They weren’t about to come into the bedroom while we fought the battle of the gown. Every once in a while we’d hear one of them laughing. Finally Mama Carrie got up and walked to the door, opened it just a crack and stuck her head inside. “What’s keeping you two? It’s eleven o’clock and we’ve got to be at the church by twelve-thirty.”

“Mama Carrie, her butt’s bigger than yours was when you were her age. We can’t get this stupid petticoat pulled up.”

“Shut up Jimmy. My butt is not big!”

“Yes it is,” I grinned, “but I like it that way. Now you shut up and help me pull.”

“I never have this much trouble with my ‘Halloween’ dress.”

“Mama Carrie was a year or two older when she bought that dress.”

“Not that much older.”

“It was enough. Now shut up and help me pull. Quit  breathing for heaven’s sake.”

Sherry exhaled hard and with four hands pulling we gave it another try. Still no luck.  The petticoat kept hanging just as we got it up to the lace frill around the bloomers that went with the outfit.

Mama Carrie walked slowly into the room and surveyed the problem. “Now Baby,” she smiled. “Jimmy’s got a point. You are… just a tad… bigger than I was when I married your Papa Pete… in the hips anyway. She shook her head and made little clucking sounds as she traced a circle around us and appraised the situation. Finally she came to a decision. “Jimmy, hold this for a minute”. With Sherry’s help she removed the petticoat and handed it to me.

“Now Sherry, shed the bloomers.”

She did.

“Here Jimmy. Hold these and give me the petticoat. We’ll put it on her first and then pull the bloomers up under it. She needs the petticoat to make the dress hang right but if we can’t get the bloomers up nobody’ll notice that. She can put on a pair of regular panties and pull them up under the petticoat.”

I nodded and took the bloomers.

It was still a struggle but with six hands working we got finally got the thing pulled up and in place. Finally, she stepped into the bloomers and carefully pulled them into place. “See… it worked. Thanks Mama Carrie.”

I grinned. “Yeah, thanks.”

It only took a few more minutes for her to slip the gown on over all of the underclothes. I buttoned as she smoothed and straightened. I smiled as I eyed the end result. “You’re beautiful Baby Girl,” I winked at her. “Even if your butt is too big for that petticoat.”

“Shut up Jimmy.”

“Why? I told you I like it that way.”

We both started to laugh.

Mama Carrie just shook her head in resignation and went back out into the kitchen to her now cold cup of coffee.

The six hour ordeal finally ended with Sherry standing in front of the full length mirror on our closet door and admiring herself as she pinned her veil into place. It only took me about five minutes, as usual, to put on my dress blue uniform jacket and adjust my cap. We walked out of the bedroom arm in arm, just as we would walk down the isle in less than two hours.

Papa and Mama Carrie rose from our tiny kitchen table and admired us as we walked into the room but they didn’t waste too much time doing it. As soon as both of them had decided that we both looked the way we should we loaded into Papa’s little Ford and set off for the church.

Our church had been built in the middle of the last century and air conditioning was a – much later – addition to the original plan of the little white frame building. With Papa being the only doctor in the county for so many years everyone knew him, and us, and the place was packed to the rafters. Even the parish hall, where we were supposed to wait for the services to begin, had people milling around in it. Now we were glad to have so many well-wishers, but it was hot. There’s no way to exactly describe how hot it was. You just have to live in East Texas to truly “appreciate” it. The ancient air conditioners wheezed and the even more ancient ceiling fans whirred and it was still blistering.

Papa wiped sweat from his brow and combed his unruly silver mane for the tenth time in as  many minutes and scowled. “I hope Ronnie keeps this short. Even the statue of the Holy Virgin’s breaking out in a sweat.” He tugged at his necktie while I ran two fingers down the front of my high collar hoping to let a little air inside my jacket.

Only minutes before the services began, Papa stepped over to the church proper and collared Father Brandley, our old parish priest, at Divine Infant  Catholic Church – and one of the guests of honor — and his young replacement Father Ron in the foyer as they greeted arriving guests. He had intended to let both of them know that we all wanted them to keep it short, but he didn’t have to.

Father Brandley had served our congregation for over forty years before his retirement, and naturally knew everyone in town. The old priest wiped has brow as his piercing eyes swept the crowd. “Jaysus wept, it’s hot today.” He crossed himself briskly. The inside of the church was like an oven. Even ceiling fans going at full tilt, the residual heat from a packed-to-the-rafters congregation was oppressive. He reached into a tiny cabinet, took out a pitcher and glass and poured himself a drink of tepid water. He then passed it on to Father Ron. “Here Ronnie, take a sip.” He nodded, as much to himself as to the younger man. “Take th’ pitcher an’ glass t’ th’ pulpit wid ye’ — Yer no after knowin’ how dry this wark can be as yet, but yer soon t’ be after larn. “Now, as I was sayin’ Ronnie. Keep in mind th’ farst rule o’ effective preachin’, which is this. Allus remember that th’ moind can only absarb tha’ what th’ arse can endure. Keep it shart. Tis too ‘ot fer ye t’ be windy.”’

The younger priest nodded as he wiped sweat from his own brow.

Papa came back to the parish hall and made his report. After about five minutes we heard the first strains of the processional and went to take our places in the foyer as we waited for Mrs. Harrison to begin playing the traditional ‘wedding march’.

The dear old soul did things right. She played four choruses of “ruffles and flourishes” and then went into the wedding march. We set off down the isle. Papa and Mama Carrie waited proudly on either side of the altar for us to complete our march arm in arm. We had decided not to have bridesmaids or groomsmen because we had so many relatives and friends who would be offended by not being chosen. We walked our last few yards as “officially” single people alone, save for each other.

As we passed the section where our relatives sat we both stifled laughter as a tiny hand clapped my cousin Beverly on the shoulder. “Mamma?”  She ignored him. “Mamma?”  The little voice began again, this time just a bit louder and shriller. Still, she continued to ignored him. At least she tried. “Mamma?” This time the child was loud enough to be heard by the entire pew, by us, by Papa and Mama Carrie and by Father Ronnie. The five-year-old boy’s voice was pleading. “Mama, I gotta pee.” Beverly was mortified and looked it. “Shut up Mikey,” she hissed. The child grimaced.  “Mama, I gotta pee bad”. She grasped the child’s hand and squeezed tightly – perhaps a bit overly so – perhaps intentionally. “I thought I told you to shut up Mikey.” Then we all started snickering again when we heard a tiny, apologetic “uh-oh”.

We couldn’t help laughing that time. Neither could Papa, Mama Carrie or Father Ronnie.

We reached the front of the church right on cue and Father Ronnie began the ceremony immediately. He never missed a beat. We had already been to confession and taken communion the night before so we had been spared his homily, which had also been kept short due to the heat. All we had to endure was the actual recitation of the vows. I really don’t remember them. I know what they say but at the time, Sherry and I were too lost in each other to pay much attention except for answering when we were told to and waiting for the ‘big moment’. Finally he reached the point that everyone had been waiting for all afternoon – and Sherry and I had been waiting for all our lives. He pronounced us man and wife. He  then smiled and said. “You may now kiss the bride.” I did. We left the church running as the good Father intoned his benediction. He made a flourishing sign of the cross over the assembled congregation. He then raised his right hand in the symbol of the Holy Trinity. “And now may the grace of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, the Love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit,” he solemnly intoned, “abide with each and every one of us now and forevermore – Amen.” We were already half way across the parking lot by the time he managed to get out that “amen”.

***

We didn’t go on a “honeymoon”, after the ceremony we just went home as usual. We were still camped out with Papa Lee. By that time Papa was over 90 years old and had long since given up his medical practice. He wouldn’t admit it but he needed someone there with him and we were glad to take that place. In any event, when we got home that evening after the wedding and reception at the parish hall, Papa and I headed for the kitchen and a cup of coffee while Sherry made a bee-line for our bedroom. In ten minutes flat she reappeared clad in her usual “fashion” for the home – when Papa was at home — barefoot, with her hair down and wearing one of my green Marine Corps tee shirts over what God gave her. Now when you consider that it took both of us over six hours to prize, pull and shove her into that wedding dress, the time it took her to get out of it was nothing short of a miracle. She had a devilish grin on her face and something hidden in clenched left her hand. She walked up to Papa and hugged him. “Papa, we’re married now y’know.”

I knew something was coming. I just didn’t know what. I sat at the kitchen table, sipped at my coffee and watched the show. I knew better than to open my mouth.

Papa smiled and nodded. “Thank you Jesus.” The old man rolled his eyes comically, looked up to the ceiling and crossed himself.

“Well,” she went on with her usually bubbly voice and that evil grin getting bigger by the minute. “I’ve been waiting over three years for this.”

“Funny, I thought it was loner than that.” He chuckled.

“No… not to get married, Papa, to do this..”

What’s that Little Sqaw?”

“This.” She walked over to the kitchen sink, turned on the cold water tap and flipped on the disposal. She turned toward Papa and opened her clenched fist revealing half a package of birth control pills. She then very flamboyantly opened box, took out the plastic topped card inside, then very carefully popped each little plastic bubble and dumped the pill inside into the palm of her hand. “You remember these Papa Lee?”

Papa nodded. “Yeah Little Squaw. I sure do.” He could tell what was coming and unfortunately so could I.

Then, without another word, my new, but not-so-new bride walked back over to the sink and dropped them down the drain one by one. There was a rattling sound that stretched out into infinity as each pill was converted to dust and useless slush by the whirring blades.

Papa shook his head slowly and began to chuckle again. He smiled knowingly at her as he walked over to the table, sat down and began sipping at his coffee. “Somehow I was expecting that.” Then he glanced over the table at me and said “Grandson, you’ve got troubles.”

As soon as the last pill hit the grinder, Sherry came over, plopped down in my lap, picked up my cup, took a long sip of my coffee and said “Oh, it’s no trouble at all Papa.” Then she put her arms around me and chirped merrily “Is it Jimmy?”

“Oh no… No, it’s no trouble at all.” I tried hard to look as happy as she did.

Papa grinned. “Then why does your face look like she just said ‘my, doesn’t he look natural’ or ‘look at all the pretty flowers’?”

My attention was fixed on the three miserable stripes on the sleeve of my dress blues and the equally miserable salary that accompanied them.

It’s a matter of definition really. You see, Sherry and I both being “only” children we had long before decided that we wanted a big family. The problem was our definitions differed considerably. Mine was something like three kids. Hers was a personal baseball team or rifle platoon. It was no secret, especially to my grandfather. It was also no secret that our roles in this ongoing project were, and had long been well defined. I was expected to nod my head in agreement, smile broadly and perform on demand. She was expected to look pretty, be cheerful at all times and swell up as required. The typical Marine Corps couple — something else that in spite of the old man’s wisecracks and ‘knowing’ looks, we had learned, and learned well, from him and Mama Carrie.

A little over ten months later,  with everyone who knew us counting backward on their fingers, in March of 1973, Sherry proved that it really wasn’t any trouble at all. And… there really were a lot of pretty flowers. When our Sammi was born, their room at the Camp Lejune base hospital looked like Sherry had just won the Kentucky Derby. Papa was about to turn 93 years old at the time and Mama Carrie was 86 but they were able to fly out and be with us. Both of them hung around long enough to see her produce one more of their great-grandchildren too.

© 2008 by Dr. J. Lee Choron; All rights reserved unless otherwise specified or granted by the author in writing.