The day was so hot, I thought the corn was melting.
I know that the corn was actually thriving on that still, humid June day, but to me it seemed the day was so hot the fields around the little church were crying out for relief. The leaves rustled only rarely, since what wind was there was too hot for common sense.
My car lacked air conditioning, but the vents were marvels of German engineering and funneled fresher air through the front seat, as long as one kept the speed high enough.
That Saturday afternoon was just another period in a whirlwind week. Exactly a week before I had run out of gas, been struck but not bitten by a cottonmouth, and gotten fleas from the interior of a Good Samaritan’s car — within the course of a few hours.
The next day, we said goodbye to my beloved 1955 Chevrolet, as it went to a new and deserving home.
Throughout the week, I dashed back and forth to Wilmington, starting a new job and finishing off the details of its predecessor. Had I had any idea what was going on behind the scenes, I would have never left the first job — but that’s column for another day.
Rhonda and I broke every speed limit in three counties — twice — closing on our first home then getting back in time to satisfy the director of our wedding, for whom I had developed a decided tendency to dislike.
There was a tremendous relief when we suddenly came to the realization that all the people pushing and pulling us in different directions couldn’t rehearse, much less stage, a wedding without the bride and groom. I dropped the speed limit to something more reasonable and we enjoyed the ride.
That same night I managed a gaggle of groomsmen and friends who were determined to give me a bachelor’s party I didn’t want. The best I could do was protect them from my goat and make sure the morning drivers were hungover, not still drunk.
The morning that the corn was melting, some of my family came out to my place for an early lunch; my older sister adopted one of my kittens, and looked markedly nervous at being in a place where the directions began “turn off the dirt road, and look for the goat.”
I dashed through the barber’s shop, the same place where I had my first haircut as a toddler, and was fussed at since the trim would look “too fresh”. There was a call from my brother in Italy and sister in New Orleans, whilst my brother at home quietly anticipated and solved little problems, the jeweler’s touches that stressed my mother and father. My best buddy and best man, Darryl, kept me in line, while Brother Mike handled everything else.
And it all came together at a little country church not far from where I learned to walk, on a day when the corn was melting.
I thought for sure there was nothing else to worry about, but suddenly my soon-to-be father- and mother-in-law bailed out of their car. Aunt Fay, whom I truly love, came running toward me in a proper mother-of-the-bride’s dress that flowed and floated.
“The cake’s not here!” she yelled, almost as if it were my fault. “There’s no wedding cake!” I never knew the full story on the missing wedding cake, but I wasn’t that stressed over it. After all, as a wise man once said, the groom is only slightly more important than the ribbon on the handle of the backup wedding cake knife. I knew my place in the grander scheme of things.
For days we had been pushed and pulled, directed and demanded of, and I had decided not to worry any more.
In a little while, I was going to marry the love of my life.
I didn’t know at the time — but in retrospect, I was not surprised to discover later — that Miss Rhonda’s dad offered to spirit her away once, if not multiple times. He would do anything for his little girl, as any man should, up to and including engineering an escape, or turning the air conditioner down to a level that the punch was about to freeze at our careless reception. As I stepped inside I was grateful he had chosen the latter,
I was shocked at how many people were there at the church, and since no one had really told me what to do, I wandered around greeting people until I was gently directed toward one of the little side rooms to wait.
I know it wasn’t very long, but I wondered if that corn around the church would be ripe for harvest before the music began and someone waved an urgent hand through the door of our waiting room. I stood, nervous, as my friend Daryl tried to get me to relax, my brother Mike watched everything, and the other groomsmen cut up until an angry expression from one mother or another quieted them into quiescence.
I resisted the urge to wave frantically at my uncles and aunts who surprised me by driving hours to attend. I didn’t even really like one of the uncles, and I was sure he didn’t care for me, but I appreciated that he came for my mom.
Standing there fidgeting, dealing with a tuxedo that actually hadn’t itched until I came in from the heat into the artificial arctic of the sanctuary, I thought about the pending trip to Florida and the Bahamas, the years we knew we would spend restoring our house in Wilmington and maybe helping resurrect our new neighborhood, whether we would have children, what I would be doing in my new job, how my — now, our — dogs would react to living in a city, whether Mr. Claude would take good care of my goat — I thought of anything except those next few minutes that had driven the entire week.
I hoped I could be a good husband. I was excited at the adventures we would have together, even though I had no idea what they might entail.
I thought about almost anything except the doors opening and my bride slowly coming down the aisle like a dream, which was exactly what she did, on her daddy’s arm.
She was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen. Still is, for that matter.
I’m not sure either of us really had an idea what we would face. We sure didn’t know that almost exactly two years after saying I do, we would happily leave the city to return to the country.
We had no idea of the tears and the laughter or where we would call home. We had no idea of much of anything, except we were finally getting married, and that meant through thick and thin, good times and bad.
Somebody once said marriage is a war — it’s just a question of whether the husband and wife are allies, or enemies. I’m thankful I ended up with an ally.
When the weather is scorching, and the heat shimmers on roads passing old houses that beckon for someone to rest on a cool shaded porch, I think of June 6, 1991, a day when it was hot enough for the corn to melt. I wish sometimes that I had been a better husband, but I’m thankful that I still can be.
When those doors opened that day, I gained a right hand, a best friend, a trapping partner, a fishing buddy, a fellow defender of animals, and a sister in Christ with whom I am still growing, even after 29 years.
When those doors opened, I realized I was suddenly going to be whole.
Happy Anniversary, Dolly. I love you,