I just celebrated my 35th wedding anniversary and have been reminded of so many family funnies/oddities that need to be saved for future generations to ponder. You may be wondering at the title of this blog and why my wedding anniversary makes me think of my Aunt Evelyn, especially since she wasn’t able to make the ceremony. I guess family memories are a lot like loose threads on a sweater, you tug on one tiny stitch and before long, if you are not careful, it unravels to reveal it was really one big stitch holding the whole thing together. My Aunt Evelyn would be that big stitch in my blanket of memories.
I started dating my husband, Jim, in the fall of 1984. We were both students at a small private college in Arkansas. I was from the ArklaTex, a region where Arkansas, Texas, Louisiana and Oklahoma meet on the map. He was from Missouri. When I told my grandmother about him and stated that I thought we might get married someday, her reply was less than enthusiastic. She said, “We already have one Jim from Missouri in the family and that’s enough.” Ouch! Poor Uncle Jim. Nannie could be so hard on her sons-in-law. She would have said the same thing if I had been dating a man named Bill, my Daddy’s name. Nannie was not a huge fan of men, in general, so I just laughed it off and changed the subject. Oh how I wish I had asked more questions! I am not sure how Aunt Evelyn and Uncle Jim even met! I just know that I admired their wedding photo that sat on my grandmother’s dresser for years. Uncle Jim, the handsome soldier and Aunt Evelyn, so beautiful she could have been a movie star!
My own parents had eloped and there were no pictures to document the quiet affair. As a child, I vowed I would not settle for an elopement. I wanted a church wedding like Aunt Evelyn! Which leads to my next wedding memory…
It was the Spring of 1985 and I had brought Jim home to meet my family. He had already met my little sister who had reported that he was okay, but his ears were really big and our future children didn’t stand a chance…between my ears and Jim’s our offspring would have Dumbo ears, for sure! Fortunately, Jim has a great sense of humor and didn’t take offense when Nannie repeated this story to him almost the minute he walked through the door! Oh, Nannie was doing her best to scare Jim off! I just glared at her and changed the subject. We were washing the supper dishes when Jim decided to tell Nannie we were getting married. There was a moment of chilly silence followed by a quiet but firm, No. Nannies exact words were “I raised this girl to keep, not give away.” I began to realize just why Mama and Daddy had eloped! Laughing it off, I told Jim not to worry. Daddy was the one giving me away and he would be more than anxious to get rid of me! So we went out on the front porch where Daddy was sitting. Looking back, I realize he probably knew what was coming and had been waiting for us. He didn’t miss a beat when Jim asked if we could get married. His first words were “I’ll give you a thousand dollars if you elope!” Poor Jim, I could see he was beginning to wonder just what kind of crazy family he was getting himself into! I told Daddy that I wanted a wedding and nothing would change my mind. I had grown up hearing tales of how Nannie eloped, Mama eloped, even my great aunts had eloped. The only Aunt I wanted to emulate was Aunt Evelyn. I even fashioned my wedding dress after the 1950’s style she had worn.
It wasn’t until three years later that I learned Aunt Evelyn had followed the family tradition of eloping, despite the much admired wedding picture on Nannie’s dresser. Take note, family secrets can be landmines when not shared with younger generations! Jim and I had come home to introduce our new baby, named Patrick, to Aunt Evelyn. As always, Aunt Evelyn was elegant and poised as she oohed and awed over Patrick! It wasn’t until after she left that Daddy told me about my unfortunate choice of names. Turns out Aunt Evelyn’s first husband, a not very faithful man from New York, with whom Aunt Evelyn had eloped in the 1940’s, was named Patrick! Aunt Evelyn was ever gracious and never said a word to me about my name choice.
And so dear children that is why I have started this blog of family memories. Some secrets need to be shared sooner than later! It was only after Daddy told me about Aunt Evelyn’s first husband that the mystery of the wedding photo was solved! I had always wondered why my Aunt Evelyn, who possessed exquisite taste in clothes, had bucked tradition and worn a blue wedding dress!
Is there a lesson somewhere in this rambling story about love and marriage? Well, family history reveals that men named Jim and Bill make good husbands, I guess. The other lesson would be when choosing a name for your baby there really is no perfect choice. Every name in history has been soiled by some jerk’s misdeed and will cause some regret. I have to admit that most of my regret over Patrick’s name came from watching a big pink starfish created by Stephen Hillenburg on television. I never saw that one coming! To be on the safe side, you could always follow Gwyneth Paltrow’s example and name your child after fruit or other grocery items. But in my opinion, if you are having a girl, there really is no name more gracious and elegant than Evelyn. Although, Alison isn’t too bad, either.