Friday, April 1, 2011

My True Wedding Story

This is the month of my wedding anniversary. Were the love of my life still with me rather than with the Lord this past year, we'd be celebrating 54 years together. Be that as it may, I bring up the subject only to tell you the beginning of our life together. I imagine you're wondering why I'd do that. Keep reading and you'll find out. I would hazard a guess that you've never heard another wedding story quite like this one.

I met Jim when I was 16. He was 21 and fresh out of the Navy. Although I'd grown up in Minnesota, the state had determined it needed a new highway right through my parent's property. You don't get far arguing with the state. We were forced to move.

My dad had always wanted to live in California, though how he talked mom into leaving all of her family and moving to the west coast has always been a mystery to me. My folks bought a house in a new development in Carlsbad--right across the street from a family named Keith. Other than to notice that the young man who lived there was older than me and quite handsome, I hadn't paid much attention to him. I was busy trying to fit into a new high school as a junior, when everyone thought I was a freshman and tried their best to make my life miserable. (That didn't last more than a few weeks though for even though I'm short, I'm mighty in word and it didn't take long to set them all straight on how I was to be treated.)

Then came the day my middle sister and I were just heading out of the house on our way to the bus stop for the short trip to Oceanside High School. We'd walked only a few steps when a car pulled out of the Keith driveway and came to a stop. That cute young man asked if we'd like a ride to the bus. Sis and I looked at each other, nodding in agreement. The bus stop was only a block away. But here was a chance to actually talk with that cute guy. We got in the car.

Driving us to the bus stop became an everyday occurence after that. On one of those days, he said "Would you like to go out with me?" I looked at my sister, waiting for her to answer. With her slim little body and her long, blonde hair, she'd never suffered for boys hanging around. And while I'd done my share of dating, I'd never had a string of guys following after me as she'd had. So I sat there, waiting to see what she'd say.

Since neither of us spoke, Jim asked again. "Would you like to go to Disneyland with me?" I noticed he was looking directly at me. So I pointed to myself and asked, "Me?" He nodded yes and I informed him I'd have to ask my parents. That wasn't the usual drill, but since he was so much older than me, I knew I'd need permission. Isn't this story getting romantic?

Mom was most emphatic. "No," she said without even blinking an eye."He's been in the Navy. He's been around. Besides, he's too old for you." Dad said nothing. I guessed it was the end of the conversation. Too bad. Disneyland would have been fun. Later that evening, I overheard dad telling mom that Jim came from a fine family, that they knew the parents, and that he thought I should be able to go. I figured the world must be going to end soon--I'd never been allowed to date anyone more than two years older than me. I was thrilled at the chance. The guys my own age opted for movies and the drive-in. This guy had the moxie to think bigger. I prayed the world wouldn't end before my date with Jim was over.

He and I dated for six months. During that time I turned 17 and he turned 22. He had become serious; I had not. One night as he dropped me off from wherever it was that we'd gone, he told me he loved me. Then he questioned if I loved him too. I was so taken by surprise I could barely speak--which all who know me believe is nearly impossible. I'm usually a chatter-box. I thought for a minute how to answer him. Then I came up with this stunner: "I don't know. I haven't thought about it." So much for love at first sight.

The longer we went together, the more I realized that Jim was different than all the others I'd dated. He was always the gentleman, a snappy dresser, extremely kind and considerate, and his dry sense of humor could send me into gales of laughter. I'd never seen him get angry, even a bit and he had a ready smile that made his sapphire eyes sparkle with mischief. He was tall and navy fit. I was short and had always prefered dating guys who I felt could defend me if need be. One day it dawned on me that I'd become serious too and it was then that I made up my mind not to let this guy get away.

Jim asked my parents permission to marry me. Can't you just envision how that went over? My mom said I had a year of high school left. I was too young. Dad said we didn't know what love was anymore than a pig knew all about heaven. They voiced all their objections. "Absolutely not," they said. "Not for at least a year."

So we eloped.


One Sunday we drove to Yuma and found a wedding chapel, but the minister wanted blood tests. We hadn't known about that. So home we went and two weeks later, tests in hand, we eloped again. I was easier than it sounds. By now my folks had driven back to Minnesota to finish up business with the state and had asked a near-by aunt and uncle to stay at our home so we girls could finish school before spring break came around. Just before my parents left, they found out that Jim had plans to drive to Virginia to visit his oldest sister and family. Being ever thrifty, my mom asked Jim to drive us as far as Minnesota and then continue on his own vacation.

Spring break rolled around and Jim and I, married now, set off on our honeymoon. Jim and me in the front seat; my two sisters in the back seat. Our first day out, I told my sisters that Jim and I were secretely married. Aside from looking like two deer caught in the headlights, they began spewing forth all manner of wisdom. "Mom and dad are gonna be really mad," said one. "I'm glad I'm not you," said the other. I replied with all the wisdom of a now married woman and told them, "Well, it's done. I don't think they can do anything about it."

Do I need to go into detail concerning what my parents said when Jim told them we were married? Mom was just sure everyone would think I'd HAD to get married and found no solace when I told her she was wrong. Dad came up with his pig and heaven quote again. Mom stopped talking to me and went around crying into her handkerchief. Dad was at least plesant. Mom wanted to annul us; dad said no--what was done was done. Fortunately I had a close cousin who talked my parents into giving us a receiption when we returned from Virginia. Good thing. We had absolutely nothing to our names except our clothes. Oh yeah, and a grungy sea bag to keep them in.

My parent's Minnesota friends, who I'd known all my life,  really rallied around and because of all their good hearts, Jim and I ended up with everything we could ever want to set up housekeeping. We were both so thankful my folks had agreed to a reception.

I was never sorry I'd had the wedding I wanted. Neither have I ever been sorry we'd had the honeymoon we did. Being the oldest girl, I knew it would be my mother's wedding--all fancy smanchy, with all of their new California friends sitting in the pews. I'd have no say over anything wedding related and although I wasn't afraid to argue with her, I just plain didn't want to. Truth be told, it had been my idea to elope. I was the one who talked Jim into it. Brazen child that I was. Yet there were times in our life when Jim would question if I wanted a real honeymoon. I always said I was happy the way things were.

When we'd been married 15 years, Jim decided I should have the honeymoon I deserved. He told me to pack a suitcase for a weekend, good clothes and regular clothes. Then he spirited me off to a lovely hotel in Santa Barbara. We walked out on the pier, ate dinner at a extraordinarily pricey restaurant, saw a show, visited the mission, and played on the beach. The kids were home with grandparents. A neighbor was feeding the cat. I don't know where my sisters were--but they sure weren't with us.

Copyright 2011 by Sandra L. Keith  All rights reserved
Photos are the property of the author and may not be reproduced without permission.

 The actual photos are so old and degraded, I apologize for them. I use them only because looking at them still makes me happy for all the memories Jim and I shared over our 53 years as man and wife. I have always felt blessed that the Lord moved me all the way to CA to introduce me to the man who would be my perfect mate.

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