I always knew TV-style wedding planning was overdramatic, but I'd never planned one myself, so I had no idea.
When people said they took every bit of a year to plan their weddings, I believed them. And perhaps they didn't lie, but Holy Whoa. That's unnecessary if you live in a small town.
In a small town, you only have so many options and of those, you're probably related to or work with someone in each industry. Need a tuxedo? My co-worker runs a shop. Cake? Another co-worker ordered from the same woman. Honeymoon? His uncle owns a resort. Invitations? Ask the crafty co-worker with a scrapbook shop in her basement.
Here's proof of small-town simple: I got engaged two months ago.
Already, I've picked out:
* colors: black, silver and green. No brainers as I was raised in a home with green carpet, green roof and green bedding. Plus, now I'm going to live on green acres. It's only fitting.
* bridesmaids dresses/shoes: ok, they picked them out and I'm not telling you anymore because it's a secret. I'm just jealous I can't wear one too :)
* dress for me: ah, ah, ah-- You'll just have to show up and see :) But I will tell you this, the shoulder pads exceed the height of my head. Pure decadence. I couldn't shop anywhere in my city of residence as we have no bridal attire here. I could though, shop with my mom and aunt and in four hours, the dress and decisions were done. Perfect.
* flowers: white, tasteful and prepared by the best man's sister. I didn't bother to shop anywhere else.
* photographer: not only does she take amazing pictures, but I'd totally friend her on Facebook. The cost of the photos, however, might make me unable to afford it.
* church: sacrifice to Jesus, which is OK because after all these years, I'm due. Plus, the pastor chaired a committee to help people recovering from flood damage. I heart me some small-town connections.
* reception hall/caterer: entree is chosen, now for the sides! It's also the same location where the Cowboy and I met.
* cake: five tiers and about $1 per serving (small-town steal! as some city places charge five times that price)
* invitations: picked out, designed, but not made. Breathe mom :)
* DJ: recommended by the hotel, but costs a good paycheck
* HONEYMOON: less than the Dj...?
Now all I need to do is narrow down the guest list.... and pick out the groom :)
Afraid but not alone, I’d driven those miles many times in three years. Five hundred miles to my hometown.... turn south at Fargo and you can’t miss it.
Cowboy and I were driving to Omaha. A trip my Volvo could do in reverse, but one foreign to the man from Up North.
The journey was one of endings and beginnings. Vinny’s final voyage was Cowboy’s first. First to Omaha, first to the family, first time to meet the in-laws in Iowa.
Terrified, I’d taught him the card game of my birth. Euchre. Known as the game of bowers where the right Jack is higher than any ace, some in-laws attempt a first game with my uncles, and then never return for a second.
Don’t let that happen to you, I said to the Cowboy. You have to get to know them. They aren’t going to get to know you.
I’m not worried, he said.
Well I am.
Cowboy’s good with meeting new people. He doesn’t shy away from shaking hands and story-telling, the customary get-to-know-you rituals. But my family is as tough as it is big. (My mom is one of 11 children and I’m one of 39 cousins. We served 60 people that Saturday.) If you’re going to bring someone new into the family, they seem to say, he has to impress us. We won’t bother to impress him. In fact, it’s the opposite. The uncles find it funny to scare future family with phrases like “With which hand do you smoke your crack?” and “Don’t trump my ace, you bitch.”
Without knowing it, Cowboy was under the second-most pressure of any decedent of of Eldora and Paul. My father is known as one of the most vicious. Known for his taunting and teasing, many cousins warn their mates to avoid him.
The only uncle worse is one of three Uncle Bills. For those unfamiliar, you’ll know him by his neck: it’s thicker than my thighs. A two-time war veteran, Jujitsu champion and narcotics enforcement officer, Uncle Bill searches all the boyfriend’s pockets and wallets... in search of paraphernalia of the drug and birth-control persuasion.
Uncle Bill wouldn’t make it for Easter, but I was scared anyway. I won’t baby-sit you, I said. I can’t. You’ll have to make conversation with people you don’t know all on your own.
Don’t worry about me, Kate, he said. I’ll be fine.
You don’t understand.
My mom, though, she knew it too.
She and an aunt took me dress shopping, a custom customarily sans-man.
You’re going to let him meet your grandmother, without you? she asked.
Guess so, I said, shrugging my shoulders like I didn’t care. And when it comes to my grandmother, I didn’t. I cared about their first impression, yes, but was I worried they wouldn’t hit it off? No.
Play cards with her, I said. And when she tells you to eat something, just do it.
Six hours, 60 wedding dresses, and the one I’d picked out weeks before later, we arrived at a home minus one Cowboy.
He’s at the boat, Grandma said, gambling with the boys.
So, what’d you think of him? I asked.
Well, he kept leading trump aces, she said. An evaluation meaning: he’s got work to do.
The next morning, grandma’s kitchen resembled an elementary cafeteria with relations eating with their fingers and crowding the center table. The noise level rivaled that of Superbowl Sunday and one child even stood in the corner and covered his ears. Oh wait... that was my dad. And then another child threw jelly beans at my aunt. Oh wait, that was my dad too.
Cowboy didn’t seem to mind. He did OK with names... all except for one. I introduced him to my Aunt Karen, but he called her Aunt Shirley. He learned the names of my cousins and remembered the names of the relations he’d met gambling the night before.
Signs pointed in the right direction, but the true test was when I left him to his lonesome. Anxious for my bridal shower, another sans-man activity, Cowboy navigated the river of uncles and moseyed over to the big kid’s Euchre table. At the big kid’s table, only experts are allowed, as the number of players double and the speed of play triples.
My mother, myself and my grandmother at my bridal shower in Manchester, Iowa. Thanks for the photo, Aunt Bev. :)
You’re going to leave him with the uncles alone? my cousins asked.
Do you know how many times we’ve walked into places where he knows everyone and I know no one, I answered, nonchalantly. This happens to me all the time without so much as an introduction. This is my one chance to get back at him, I said, wiping the sweat from my brow.
By the time I opened my presents and read from recipes I’ll never be qualified to cook, even if I’d wanted to find Cowboy, I couldn’t. He talked to one cousin about wiring projects and an uncle about cattle. Words like “Cat 5” and “cattle magnet” escaped their lips. Words foreign to me, but cozy to the Cowboy.
I may have driven him 600 miles from his land of origin, but with my family, he was already home.
Ok, I have lots and lots and LOTS to write about, but until then, I have this short story.
Cowboy and I celebrated the anniversary of our first date Friday by dining at the restaurant in which we shared our first meal. It's the nice restaurant in town and of course, the most expensive. (That's how you know it's a small town... because it's THE nice restaurant in town rather an **one of** the nicest)
He wore Wrangler jeans and Cowboy boots and I wore a little black dress, because that's how we roll. We are our own people. Manifested in attire we wear.
He treated me better than that first night, opening every door, spooning my appetizer and this time, I even let him pick me up at my apartment. (I said I'd meet him there, the first time, heh).
To quote his sister: "What a loser."
But I was in a state of mush, totally lapping it up like a thirsty puppy on an August afternoon.
Cowboy held my hand, took my coat and ordered for me. When he told me I was beautiful, I agreed.
But when the check came, his wallet didn't.
Did I leave it in the car? he asked. My other jacket? Let me go look...
Sure enough, no. He had no wallet. No cash. No credit card. The jerk thought opening doors and flirty compliments would get him a free dinner? He was wrong. I may have paid the bill, but he paid later... in the form of washing my dishes and vacuuming the carpet ;)