A wedding day clad in plaid, preserved with laughter
Tomorrow, Dec. 19, is a pretty special day to me. On that day 45 years ago, I married David Jones. Every year, when I drag out that old wedding photo, I can’t help but laugh, remembering the unintended silliness of that day in Columbia, where we were both grad students at Mizzou.
For starters, there’s the wedding party’s attire. Looking at the picture now, I can’t help but muse that there really should have been some kind of dress code to head off the apparently accidental theme of lounge lizard plaid.
Smiling into the camera, Dave is proudly wearing his best 1974 dress clothes: red-and-blue plaid slacks, turtleneck sweater, denim sports coat and platform oxfords with 2-inch heels that kept his bell-bottoms from dragging the floor.
Dave’s friend Leon and my sister, Mary Ruth, are the classiest-clad ones in the picture. Leon is wearing an actual suit and tie, and M.R. is wearing a black turtleneck and long, bold-plaid skirt.
Standing nearby, Dave’s dear dad is wearing the most spectacular outfit: red slacks, red-plaid sports coat, a hot-pink turtleneck and brown, lace-up Hush Puppies.
M.R., who lived in Kansas, had met me in Kansas City a few weeks earlier to shop for my wedding dress. It being the age of Aquarius and me being poor, I selected a slinky, floor-length, jersey-knit tank top kind of thing that a hooker might have worn as lingerie. Fortunately, it came with a little bolo-style jacket that tied under the bust, hiding the fact that the hippie-era bride wasn’t wearing much in the way of underwear.
In those “au naturale” days, I didn’t wear makeup, but I worried that the dark circles under my eyes would mar the, uh, beauty of my wedding photo. My last final of the semester was the day before, and I’d had about 15 minutes sleep in the last week. So I went to a drug store and discovered a fabulous new product with tremendous promise: Bonne Bell “White-White” eye-circle concealer. Being a makeup novice, it never occurred to me that the stuff would shine in the glare of the camera flashbulb to make me look like a football quarterback who’d exchanged the usual under-eye black stick for bright-white safety reflectors.
My cousin Mike Breeding, as close to me as a brother, served as my attendant, escorting me down the aisle, giving me away and then, to his horror, being directed by the priest to hold my two-rose bouquet as Dave and I exchanged rings. Mike stood there, primly holding the roses with two hands, the way a good bridesmaid would do. But he still remembers “standing there, scared to death that someone would take a picture of me holding the flowers. I knew I’d never hear the end of it.”
I tell Mike no one would have noticed the roses because they would instead be admiring his forest-green polyester-knit leisure suit. (Folks, it was the 70s, and Mike was high-fashion stylin’.)
My hometown friend Randy McGhee had ridden up from Springfield with Mike; he and a couple of Dave’s chemistry department friends made up the audience. The ceremony lasted about 10 minutes. One friend arrived a little late and missed the whole thing. To celebrate, we all headed to Dave’s apartment, where I, being poor, had cooked my own wedding reception dinner. Or at least I thought I had.
Growing up, I’d always seen my mom put something in the oven before we went to church on Sunday—roasts and such. Then, when we got home, she opened the oven, and voila! Lunch was ready.
I’d never actually asked Mom about details of the procedure, but I’d seen it done so many times, I was sure even a non-cooking bride could pull it off. That afternoon, I had bought a frozen turkey – I think it must have weighed around 50 pounds – and at 5:30, before we headed to the church for our 6 p.m. wedding, I put the turkey in the oven and set it for 350, happily imaging the golden roasted bird I would serve to my guests for the home-cooked reception.
When we all arrived back at the apartment about 6:45, I eagerly headed to the kitchen. Randy was standing beside me as I opened the oven door. We both looked in, horrified to find the pink pimpled bird hissing as its icy juices hit the sizzling hot pan.
“Let’s get pizza,” Randy said.
So off we went, caravaning to the Village Inn Pizza Parlor, where we happily settled at a long table and celebrated together. When the manager found out we’d just gotten married, he gave us a coupon – for half off our next visit.
My life with Dave continued along those lines for 33 crazy years – moments of joy, adventures and silliness interspersed with occasional puzzlements and failures. We lived in seven houses in five states, raised two wonderful kids and shared four dogs and three cats before Dave died unexpectedly in 2008.
It’s a hard, hard thing to lose someone you love. But if you’re lucky, grief will be tempered by memories of wonderful days and ridiculous silliness you’ve shared, intentionally or accidentally. On Dec. 19, I’m thankful I can pull on one of Dave’s old shirts (plaid, of course), look at that funny wedding photo … and laugh again.