Thursday, June 16, 2016

A wedding in the family

Helen remembered that today was our day to blog—thank you, Helen! Since it is June and many thoughts are turned to weddings, that’s where we turned ours, too. Only mine wouldn’t go there—it’s always about the marriage with me, not the wedding, so I have very little patience with what usually feels excessive to me. But surely there’s something that would make me sound less like the Scrooge of all weddings…let me think. While I'm doing that, read about Helen's grandparents--surely a story worthy of a romance novel all its own.


by Helen DePrima


The most dramatic wedding in my family is the one that never happened. 

My grandmother Florence Averill was the youngest daughter of a wealthy Indianapolis family. She visited a friend in Louisville and met my grandfather when the two girls attended a dance at the Kentucky Military Institute. Henry Holzheimer was a handsome man and must have cut a dashing figure in his blue-grey dress uniform. 

They fell in love, but her family was horrified at the notion of their baby girl marrying a farmer in Kentucky, undoubtedly picturing her hoeing weeds and slopping hogs. I’m sure she tried to explain that she would be living in a large modern (for the day) house with servants on the outskirts of Louisville, that the only “farming” she might do was caring for her flower garden.
 
As soon as she reached eighteen, she boarded a train to Louisville with only what she could carry in a small carpetbag and eloped with my grandfather. Her wedding photo shows her wearing a stylish traveling suit; my grandfather bought her the elegant hat for the occasion. The hat cost forty dollars, a fabulous amount in 1910. He always teased her that if he’d known the price of the hat would have sent her back to Indianapolis. 

My grandparents were married over sixty years and my grandfather continued to indulge her during their long marriage; they died less than a year apart.

by Liz Flaherty


There was our daughter’s wedding. She asked me to make her dress, so I did. And three bridesmaids’ and two flower girls’ dresses, too. I started sewing in March and on August 5, the night before the wedding, I was still sewing. Everyone looked beautiful. In my memories of the wedding, one of them is sitting in the kitchen sewing while the girls milled around me preparing to go out. Everyone was home, our only grandchild (at the time) was there. It was a perfect time. A joyful noise.

                Our younger son’s wedding, when my daughter-in-law who could do anything set the tables with sheets and quilts and sewed cloth napkins from fabric scraps and made the big tent on our side lawn into a thing of beauty. She ordered a cake decorated with edible flowers, which was so lovely and so good that I never got the first piece—not even a petal.

                Our older son’s wedding, when the kids just went to a church and got married. But the pastor made sure there were pictures and pretty little girls to toss grass seed when they left the building. Whenever I think of that wedding, I think of how brave my daughter-in-law was. And still is.

                Oh, and our wedding. I wore a blue size five dress that cost $14.99 and was the definition of a mini—my daughter thought it was a blouse when she found it hanging at the back of the closet, a training bra (34-AA), and black shoes that hurt my feet. My just-home-from-Vietnam husband wore gray bell bottoms and a navy blazer. We had a corsage and boutonnière of blue and white carnations.

We had no idea what we were getting ourselves into.

And maybe for me, a non-wedding type, that’s the great part of it, that none of us really knows what we’re getting into. Only that marriage is one of life’s greater adventures and, if we’re lucky and work really hard, there's a Happily Ever After at the end of the day.

38 comments:

  1. LIz and Helen, this is one of the loveliest posts ever! I'm constantly going back to my mother's side of the family and digging into their photos and stories...and there are so many stories in our own families aren't there?
    Liz, your sentiments made me tear up! Beautifully written from the heart.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Catherine. I just loved Helen's story and pictures. My grandparents were married in 1908 and 1891 and I wish I knew something about their weddings.

      Delete
    2. Hi Catherine -- I'm so lucky that my mother's family saved many wonderful photos, some going back to the 19th century. Lots of great stories too. I should write some of them down for the younger generations, but I have incorporated some in my books.

      Delete
  2. Like, Catherine, I really enjoyed reading this post, too. Although I enjoyed reading all the stories, the one that truly captured my heart was your wedding, Liz. Thank you for sharing.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Kate. It was a happy day--except for my feet. :-)

      Delete
    2. Liz's wedding story was so poignant; mine would make dull reading, a nice but ordinary event.

      Delete
  3. I love both of these stories. I'm not into weddings, either. I just don't understand spending so much time and money (especially these days) for what amounts to a party. I'd much rather elope with someone I love enough to run off with. Not to mention, someone who loves and indulges me, and thinks I'm the best thing that ever happened to him. :)

    And that's probably the biggest reason why I read romance novels.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That's the criteria that works, isn't it? Thanks for coming by, Heidi.

      Delete
    2. Hi Heidi -- My ideal would have been to be married on a mountaintop in the Smokies but that wasn't done in my day.

      Delete
  4. Loved the pictures of your grandparents Helen! I love history and can spend hours on genealogy websites. When we find pictures and stories like that, it's such a treasure! And Liz, I'm with you on weddings! When my husband and I got married, I borrowed a dress from a friend and him and I went to one of those quickie wedding places. We didn't even tell our families that we'd gotten married for two weeks. I love beautiful weddings but sometimes I think they put too much money and effort into the show and forget to prepare for the journey.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I think you're right, LeAnne. I love Helen's pictures--makes me want to write something historical!

      Delete
    2. Hi LeAnne -- Appalling the amount spent on weddings nowadays. The nicest one I ever attended was my sister's in small western Pennsylvania farm community. The bride's bouquet was picked from her inlaws' garden and the reception was a potluck back at the farm.

      Delete
  5. Wonderful stories. Thanks for the post.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Sigh. What a great way to start the day. Love, love both stories. Love the faces of your grandparents, Helen, and love him for buying her that beautiful hat! There's an historical novel there, certainly. And, Liz, you find the heart of everything, so your children always will. I can imagine you sitting in the kitchen sewing, with happy family noises around you. That is what it's all about. Thanks, both of you, for this beautiful post.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Muriel. When I read Carol Christmas (the first of so many times), I remember you talking about every kid having a lap--that was how the scene in the kitchen was. There were way too many people in that small room, but it didn't matter at all.

      Delete
    2. Liz's story of sewing up to the last minute reminds me of finishing an Easter dress for my daughter by hand while working the night shift at a nursing home the night before. The light was poor and I accidentally sewed in one skirt panel inside out. I never did change it -- a memory of hunching over my sewing on my break, racing to have it ready for her when I came home at 7AM.

      Delete
  7. What beautiful stories, ladies! Love the pictures especially. Thank you so much for sharing. :) And Liz, I'm with you--not a real big wedding person, unless I'm writing one. Then I go hog wild!!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. My grandparents' marriage proves that no big wedding is necessary for long-term success.

      Delete
    2. That was the size ours was, too! I like writing weddings, like you, Anna, but even then they're not usually elaborate--just emotional and funny!

      Delete
  8. Love this post, although I agree with Liz that it always comes back to the marriage. Our entire wedding in 1973, including all our clothes and shoes, the flowers, and dinner afterward, cost us $89.47, so when I see wedding budgets today upwards of $50K, I wonder if they think they'll be any happier than I've been the last 43 years. Hmmmmm...I believe it truly is about the marriage, not the wedding. That said, I do love the pictures of Helen's grandparents--what a beautiful story!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. My grandmother lived a pampered life with her "farmer" although they had their share of tragedy, loss of their first child in infancy and their younger daughter (my mother) in childbirth. Still, they hung on together through two world wars, the Great Depression, and declining health. Too bad so many folks just call it quits nowadays when the going gets rough.

      Delete
    2. We spent our wedding night in a motel courtesy of someone giving us cash as a gift. The motel's gone now, but we're still here. We were one of those couples that people thought wouldn't last--made us very determined.

      Delete
  9. Love the wonderful stories and photos. So agree that it's the marriage that counts--the wedding lasts a day, the marriage a lifetime.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. One of my aunts set me straight when I started freaking out about my wedding: no matter what goes wrong, you'll still end up married. I guess she was right -- 49 years for us come August.

      Delete
    2. If I'm honest about it, I'd have liked a wedding, but I was a single mom--that was where any money I had went. I've never been sorry.

      Delete
  10. I love these stories. Big or small, all weddings are beautiful if they lead to a happy marriage filled with love. And that is some hat!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I guess the one justification for the fancy wedding is a girl's big chance to be the star in her own fantasy.

      Delete
    2. There is that, and everyone wants to feel beautiful sometimes. I like parties, so I like that part--just not the formality of it all.

      Delete
  11. I had a tiny wedding--8 guests in my parents' living room. I just couldn't face all the formal wedding stuff, so my mother put the wedding together for me. It was lovely. And we were married at the end of it, which was the best part. LOL!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I've been to a few that were 20 or so, in someone's living room, and they were delightful.

      Delete
  12. I tried to have a small wedding, but it kept growing.

    Helen, I want to hear more about the grandparents. What a love story.

    ReplyDelete
  13. Love your stories, ladies!! I love weddings - big, small, doesn't matter.

    ReplyDelete
  14. Thanks, Amy. I love the happy factor of them. And the hope. I'm going to a wedding shower tomorrow and am excited about it. :-)

    ReplyDelete
  15. This was a great post. I loved the stories. Thanks for sharing your memories.

    ReplyDelete