by Jane Doe
The wind nearly blew me over as I stepped off the school bus. As the protection of the bulk of the bus moved past me, a fresh blast swung me around, almost toppling me in the ditch with my the armload of books. Head down, I moved crosswise to the wind toward the mailbox. I wondered why March had to be such a wild month. Couldn't the seasons just go quietly from soft wadded snows to warm spring nights without this tempestuousness? It wasn't easy living in a region where the seasons had as much trouble as this changing from one to the other.
It wasn't easy getting the mailbox open either with the wind trying to blow the lid shut with my hand in its metal mouth and the books slipping for the puddle the mailman's tires had gouged out under my feet. I hesitated to look through the several envelopes for my name out of the fear that the wind would grab and carry off some important letter for the folks. Like another bill. I stuffed the mail in the flap of my algebra book, clasped the heap to my chest and headed into the wind for the walk up the lane.
I wondered if I had lost of any of the mail. I turned around to look back, to catch my breath. The wind seemed to have a grudge against my breathing any of the air it was so carelessly throwing around. If I lost a bill, would the folks mind?
They had finally found the house they wanted. It was old-fashioned and falling down in my eyes. Every weekend and most evenings the two of them were there knocking down walls, scraping paint off hinges and heavy doors. Probably mother was there now. I could have walked there instead of riding the bus home, but I was respecting my vow never to pick up another paint brush for my mother's sake, so I bounced up and down the country road until there was just one grade school kid and me left in the empty egg carton seats.
I rather liked coming home from school to an empty house. No one told me what to do. I always had enough to do anyway. I could never decide which was most important. To go to the bathroom, read the mail, get something to eat or get out of my school clothes into jeans. For discipline, I'd change the order of their importance each day.
There was rarely mail for me, except Wee Wisdom, which Grandma still subscribed for me, forgetting that I had outgrown it. However, I took the letters out of my book first so I wouldn't forget and carry them around a week or two as I had done one time. Mother wouldn't let me forget that. It seemed that every day was a loaded question when she asked, "Where did you put the mail this time?"
Hey, the big, thick, white envelope had my name on it. Strange handwriting. It looked so childish; none of my pen pals used heavy paper like this. I opened it. There was another envelope with just my name on it. Was this one of those jokes like my uncles played on me at Christmas time when a present was only filled with box after box of empty boxes?
Mr. and Mrs. Kenneth Crimple
Who were these people? I picked up the outside envelop to make sure it had my name on it. This time, looking at the card with the printed writing so fancy it was hard to read, I saw:
David Morris Hawthorn
First Methodist Church
Sitting in the bathroom, I tried to let it all sink in. They were really getting married! My David! So soon! How could he forget me that quickly? True, I had told him to. I said, go find the wife you need. Boy he sure did, and fast. I still thought of my heart as having
After a half slice of dry toast, I felt a little more tolerant. Well, David had been ready to marry last fall. I was a bit relieved, on one hand, that it was not my name on that stiff white card, and on this hand was a fist of resentment for the days of missing Dave, and
Well, here was my invitation. I could go to take a look at her, this Dagmar. When was the wedding to be?
March 28, 1952
First Methodist Church
Our church! He was getting married in our church! Why not hers? Did it have to be our church, where we had sung together in the choir, cleaned up the kitchen after the MYF parties, and explored the secret place in the belfry? Oh, well, it made it easier for me to go there for the wedding than to have to find someone to take me to wherever Dagmar went to church, if she ever did.
When I showed the invitation to mother, she read it through, twice, silently, sighed, and said, "What are you giving them for a wedding gift?"
The more I thought about the appropriated gift for them, the more I felt the only thing from me should be a soup pan. With this in mind, I went to Jonesy's hardware store to buy a copper-bottomed pan, just like my mother's.
"I say, Jane, you settin' up house keepin' already?"
"No, it's a wedding gift. For someone else."
"For the Hawthorn boy?"
I wondered how he knew so much. If he knew that much, did he know that I used to go with the Hawthorn boy? "Yes. How did you know?"
"Must be going to be a big shindig. Everyone in town, it seems has been in shoppin' for them. I'm keepin' a list of the stuff I've sold so they don't get no duplicates and have to come draggin' the stuff back here after the party is over. I'll look 'n see, but I think someone already got 'em a pan like that one. Would you want to get the skillet? They ain't got one of them, yet."
With one finger I moved the soup pan box around so I could read Jonesy's scribbled number. Mentally counting the money in my closed purse, I looked at him.
"Something less expensive, perhaps?" he asked.
"If you don't mind being rather anonymous, you could give 'em some of their china. The girl picked out that pattern over there. Look around a bit, this man's awaitin' for a part for a a sick chain saw, eh, Charley?"
I looked at the assorted dishes arranged in Jonesy's artless art on a shelf. Swedish modern all black, red and white with sweeping blunt forms. So that was Dagmar's choice. I could not imagine David sitting in the little tenant house eating breakfast off of such bold dishes. It was really none of my business what they laid their food on. If he wanted to drink out of black cups on white saucers it should mean nothing to me. I needed a gift. It was the price of admission to the wedding.
"I'll take a cup and a saucer, Jonesy."
"If you want to sign this card with your name, there's a lady comin' in to gift wrap all the stuff and it'll be taken to the church so you don't have to carry nothin' "
"Thanks, Jonesy. Thanks for all your help. Do you think you can retire after this wedding?"
"No," he laughed, "I'm goin' to stay in business until I can sell all the gifts for your weddin'."
I laughed for Jonesy and his joke, but as I walked out the door I thought, "You'd better take your vitamin pills, old man, it's going to be a long time before you get that wish." I wondered again if he had ever seen David and I together and was trying to cheer me up. Or was it just part of his salesman's patter? You could never tell.
Hurrying up the walk to the church in the dark on the night of the wedding, I felt the comfort of doing something so familiar. How often had I walked here? Coming to church nearly every Sunday. coming to choir practice, MYF, the special nightly services at revival time, Easter, Christmas – it was like a habit I was proud of whether anyone could see it or not.
Inside the usher, whom I didn't know, led me to the far right back pew, by the stairs to the balcony. The church looked so different. It was a little like Christmas all dark with candles at the front altar and on the window ledges. But very different. Instead of the big thick red candles stuck in masses of evergreen and holly, tonight there were slender white candles in small flowery bouquets. Strangers sat down next to me. I slid over against the end of the pew.
The music started playing, giving me background music for my thoughts. I felt maybe I should be thinking about David and Dagmar; perhaps praying for them, but my mind wondered around like a lost sheep. In the darkness, I tried to see who else was here. How many of these people could see me? Were they surprised that I came? It seemed that too many of them found an occasion to look in my direction.
The people shuffled their feet around. Getting comfortable, I supposed, for the long sit through the service. Then I saw David and a man I did not know in front of the preacher at the altar. Both were facing the congregation. I felt I didn't know either of those young men standing there looking so serious and scared. One of them, I felt, had to be David, but he wasn't the David I knew. Girls looking like butterflies settled around him while the beekeeper ushers lined up. The movie music started. The big wooden doors swung open like magic, like they did the day Mr. Strauss , in his knighthood carried Annie, the faint princess, through the castle door. A large figure
My, my, my she did have a fine set of boobs. From clear across the church I could see that she didn't need piles of net and wire for faking it. As I stared at her back, standing next to David's, I critically assessed her figure from this angle. She looked like a model for one of those prewar European "Mother Of Our Race" statues.
Would they have children? Probably, I thought, as I remembered David's hand on my striped sundress tummy. After this ceremony is over, will they leave here to go somewhere to "do it," together. I couldn't picture David having intercourse with this person wearing so much white finery. Would they look like mother and dad did that one time? I wondered how David looked in the nude. The most I had seen was his broad brown chest the day we planted tomatoes. It had been enough that day to set my mind rolling in the fine warm earth. The remembrance of the slanting rows of dark hairs pointing under his belt buckle that day made me cross my legs. The strangers stared at me for being disruptive in the holiness of the moment.
That's too bad. I went back to David's belt buckle and below. How did he look there? Like the drunk in the park? For Dagmar's sake, I hoped not. No, I knew how his penis felt that night in the drive-in. Even under our clothes, it had more power and pleasing than the drunk's. To imagine David and Dagmar having their bodies twined together, I had to get rid of these costumes. Like paper dolls, I lifted off their clothes with the little white tabs. Without looking at that was printed on their fronts, I laid them down face to face, and covered up their bare, gray cardboard backs with a kleenex blanket.
That could have been me, standing up there in that lovely white gown beside David's strong, dark back. It could have been me going to some strange motel, slipping into a lacy, white, full length peignoir while David shaved once more. Then he'd come out of the bathroom and I would be sitting by the window, the moonlight bathing me in more pure white.
David would come up to me, pull me against his pajamas body. This time he would stand with his legs slightly spread, sliding both hands down my back to press me against his eager body. Remembering, we finally had a bed for us and our own, we would get under the covers. David would slowly pull down the strap of the thin nightgown to kiss what was all his. For better or worse. How nice to kiss lying down comfortably in stead of having hands and arms go to sleep in the sitting embrace when everything else was so alive. Would I have to take off my nighty or would David do that? Who takes off his pajamas?
"Let us bow our heads in prayer. Our Dear Heavenly Father, We ask a special blessing on this couple as they stand on the threshold of a new life together. We pray that you go with them every step of the way, caring for them, protecting them, loving them, until they join You , together, in heaven. Amen."
I looked at the people looking at David and Dagmar smiling at each other. With my veils of thought lifted from my face, I had no desire to see their eyes. Rising quickly, out of etiquette, I half-ran into the tiny vestibule to the balcony. I say half-ran, because only half
As the feeling returned to my foot, with more pins and needles, I diagnosed it as a case of sitting too long with my leg crossed.
Copyright © the Estate of Jane Doe 2010