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Mother Wore Black


She orchestrated the entire thing. She made my wedding gown. She baked the cake. She ordered the flowers. She borrowed flower baskets and arranged gladiolus artfully in each basket. She rented candelabrum. She planned the reception. She was doing what she did best. She was running things.

I think I was the only bride in the world that didn't have a tiered wedding cake, but she talked me into a two layer sheet cake with a Bible on top. The page that the Bible was opened to said "As for me and my house we will serve the Lord." She actually covered a real Bible with frosting and printed the verse on it herself! Everyone was amazed at the things she could do and like a banty rooster in all it's glory, she actually took pride in putting all the pieces together.

To all outward appearances she was lending her approval. But I knew how she felt about my choice of a husband.

"He ought to finish school, now that the war's over." I knew he did not have enough education to suit her, and she considered that a big drawback to my father's success because he hadn't finished school.

She wanted more for her daughter and I knew it just by all the little things she said.

"How do you stand that Okie accent of his ... he murders the King's English." I thought it was cute.

At Sunday dinner, she'd mumble about his table manners leaving something to be desired. From "he really doesn't know how to dress" to "He's a little pigeon toed, don't you think?" ... when all I saw was his straight, white teeth and crooked smile.

I'd heard it all, but I didn't hear it. In my eighteen year old mind I just knew that I could teach him all that stuff after we were married. I would change him! I knew he was a little rough around the edges but he'd just gotten out of the Navy ... give him time!

Three O'Clock was approaching as I slithered into the satin gown.

At the time, Poppy had been restoring a 1929 Pierce Arrow touring car. Our garage on Draper Street was on the back alley, so he drove it around the block to the front of the house and parked. He came in the house dressed in his best Sunday suit and hollered in the front door.

"It's time! Come on or we'll be late!"

I came out of my bedroom dressed in the finest of Skinner Satin with a net veil held by a tiny seed pearl crown. Nobody said "You look dazzling." Nobody said, "Best wishes." Mother just made one final tug on the peplum where she had stitched it on me to keep it from puckering at the waist. She was a perfectionist and she had nearly worn out the material sewing it over and over so that it would be smooth at my waistline.

"It'll never be seen on a galloping horse," my Grandma said as I minced out the front door to the waiting black and tan Pierce Arrow, holding my train up to my waist.

Poppy didn't say anything as he drove the two blocks to the First Baptist Church on the corner of Draper and Genter. I waited in the choir room with my attendants Conita Stillson Miller, Betty Reeves and Harriet Fritz. Then we heard the organist play the Wedding March and we all walked outside and up the steps of the church to the vestibule where Poppy was waiting.

I was so nervous the orchid on top of my white Bible was quivering.

I looked inside the rustic cedar wood chapel as my mother was being ushered down the aisle.

She was wearing black!

I'd been so full of myself and my plans I had not even asked what she would be wearing to my wedding.

Everything was in motion. Conita, my matron of honor, walked down the aisle followed by the bridesmaids. I couldn't stop and think about this now, but I couldn't block it out. Just then I saw the photographer, Mr. Schiller, out of the corner of my eye, and realized that forever after, recorded for posterity in my wedding album for all the world to see, would be Marguerite, the mother of the bride, wearing black!

I swallowed hard, grabbed Poppy's arm and we lock-stepped together down the aisle. I'd grown up in this church, but I never grew up more than at that moment.

It was the end of an era. I knew she wasn't going to be there for me anymore. She didn't have to say a word.

My mother, wearing black to my wedding, said it all.

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