There are many kinds of weddings: big fancy and small simple, quickies, with a justice of the peace, and those that take months, literally, to plan. For my parents, theirs was rather unique. It wasn’t big or fancy, not an incredibly strange wedding, but rather unique.
It was Saturday 21 July 1945. My mom was dressed in her wedding gown, of white dotted Swiss cloth sewn by her mother. She and her parents, her cousin Bibi, the flower girl and her friend, Lilana, as her maid of honor, rode to the Palazzo Vecchio, the ancient stone City Hall of Florence, Italy. Once there, her dad and she were ushered into a small, simple room, where an army nurse arranged veil my mother wore and the train of her dress. Her dad stood off to the side, watching and wiping away some tears.
“Are you all right, papa,” my mother asked.
“I was just remembering a day,” said my grandfather. “It seems only a moment ago, when your mother and I came to visit you out on your grandparents’ farm. Somehow, you got hold of a bottle of Chianti. You couldn’t have been more than two years old. You fell asleep in a puddle of Chianti, under the table. You were the most beautiful baby I’d ever seen. And now, you’re the most beautiful ….” His voice trailed off as he fumbled for a handkerchief to wipe his face.
The nurse placed my mom in front of some double doors and got my grandfather lined up next to her. He held my mom’s right hand in his and patted it with his other hand. He gazed at her, his eyes glistening with tears, and opened his mouth. His lips trembled, but no words came out.
“I love you, Papa, now and forever,” said my mother. “No matter where I go, how far away I live or how long it is before we meet again, I will think of you and Mama every day. No matter where I am, my heart will always be here, with you.”
My grandfather lifted her veil slightly and kissed her cheek. He was unable to speak. He let his actions speak for him.
The nurse opened the double doors. Before them was the main hall of the building. It was a large room, decked out for the wedding. Rows of chairs faced a low table; men and women filled every seat. Everybody rose as my mom and her dad entered; Bibi and Lilana stepped in front of the two to lead them down the aisle toward the table. My father and his best friend, in their dress uniforms, looking just about as spiffy as they could manage, stood with a chaplain at the table. My dad positively glowed he was beaming with so much joy. The band struggled to play the wedding march without it sounding like a military march.
This was not a fancy wedding. There wasn’t much in terms of decorations. There was no crepe paper or streamers to brighten up the chairs. There were no tuxedos, no fancy gowns. My mom’s wedding dress was homemade.
Yet, for those people, in that room, for that one brief moment in time, no church, no cathedral, it wasn’t Westminster Abbey or St. Peter’s, could ever match its simple beauty. The reason this wedding was unmatchable was that for one glorious instant the room was a palace of perfect love.
When Bibi and Lilana reached the table, they stepped aside. My mom and grandfather reached my father, who took her arm. The audience sat. The band stopped playing. The chaplain smiled at the couple and began the ceremony.
All the while, my grandfather stood behind the couple and mouthed, “I do.” He didn’t speak English. Someone told him that at some point the chaplain would ask, “Who gives this woman in marriage?” It was then he was supposed to say, “I do.”
The ceremony continued. Vows exchanged and prayers said, finally gold rings slide into place, on the third finger of the left hand of the bride and the groom. Through it all, my grandfather kept mouthing, “I do.”
In a cruel twist of fate, the chaplain forgot to ask the question!
Later, in the Pauline Bonaparte Palace, the reception took place. All during the party, my grandfather complained, to no one in particular, how the chaplain was supposed to ask the question, but didn’t. A big moment was lost.
Again, not a unique, different or incredible of weddings, but a story that always makes me and my family smile.
Combining the gimlet-eye, of Philip Roth, with the precisive mind of Lionel Trilling, AJ Robinson writes about what goes bump in the mind, of 21st century adults. Raised in Boston, with summers on Martha's Vineyard, AJ now lives in Florida. Most of the time he writes, but sometimes he works at Disney World to renew his fantasies and get a few dollars more. AJ writes, with insight and passion, about his family and his dog. His liberal, note the small "l," sensibilities often lead to bouts of righteous indignation, well focused and true.
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