Today is our 50th wedding anniversary. I proposed to my wife on one knee in front of a ratty old couch in The Parkwood Estate. An overly glorified name for a trailer parked at the edge of nowhere in North Liberty Iowa. After I proposed and she accepted I took her to the Pizza Hut for an engagement dinner. We went there primarily because I was romantically an idiot but also because I worked there and I knew we could get a free pizza.
I bounced the check that paid for the engagement ring which became evident when we were walking by Hand’s jewelry store in Downtown Iowa City and the jeweler came out and questioned me concerning my lack of financial acumen. To my lasting relief he did not ask for the ring back. Later Lynn broke the diamond in the ring by accidentally hitting it on the door frame in our car. As I remember when she was waving at me. This lead to some questions about just how much I had paid for the ring to begin with. It was later shown that she could find work as a diamond cutter as she had managed to hit a cleavage point and cleanly shear off one facet of the ring.
After the proposal we went home to inform our parents of our commitment. My memories of the actual events are sketchy but I do remember that when we went to Lynn’s house to formally request her father’s permission. Yes I actually did that! I know that Lynn’s mom’s first question was “When is the wedding?” We replied next June and her response was, “Good, I do so hate long engagements.” No further discussion ensued from that comment but I think I knew what she meant. The most striking moment while telling my parents occurred when my dad reached out and gently patted Lynn’s hand when he heard the news. A striking show of public emotion for him. I am not sure to this day whether it was encouragement or if he was trying to reassure her that with work she might turn me around.
We got married the following June by Lynn’s Uncle Dale. Her family was filled with ministers. Oh how they must have at least privately questioned her judgement. We had a marital counseling session with him that lasted well into the night before the wedding the next day. He was upset about the quality of the pre-wedding counseling we had from our local pastor which took place over a 15 minute period in his hospital room while he was possibly drugged up awaiting surgery. Memorably the only thing I can remember about that hospital session was that he told us that he had read that birth control pills would rot your teeth so he didn’t recommend their use.
The church was a brick oven on the wedding day, high humidity with not even the hint of a breeze moving. The bride was beautiful I was a soggy mess. We were married to the whirring sound of small fans mounted on the wall by each window in what passed for air conditioning in those days. You can tell it’s hot in a church when the kneeling pad squishes each time you kneel during the service and the devil has stopped observing and gone to Snookies ice cream for a malted.
By modern standards our wedding was certainly not fancy. A reception in the church basement with painted concrete block walls and asbestos tile floor accented by folding tables and chairs. Set off nicely by food which consisted of the obligatory bowl of mixed nuts, green and pink mints, a nonalcoholic punch (probably created from rainbow sherbet ice cream melted in 7 up) and of course a modest wedding cake replete with a plastic bride and groom at the very top..
We lovingly offered each other a bite of cake and did not shove our first bite into each other’s faces and I believe from that very first moment of respect for the church, and our vows the foundations of our lasting marriage were set. I am also pretty sure that a slice of that cake resided in our freezer for quite a few years but I don’t know that we ever ate it. I think it might have a bit of freezer burn by now.
After the reception which probably lasted a grand total of 30 minutes the wedding party went over to Lynn’s house and had chips, grilled hot dogs, hamburgers, and baked beans for our wedding feast. We opened some wedding presents including one from Floyd and Harriet. A couple whom we assumed arrived at the wrong wedding put a gift on the gift table and then were reluctant to retrieve it leaving us a mystery and a set of sterling silver pickle tongs. Lynn’s dad was named Floyd but we know there was no Harriet for him just his girl Marg. To this day I often sign guest books at weddings “Floyd and Harriet,” just because I know that someday someone will be looking through that book and the mystery will continue.
After the wedding feast we drove to Sioux City Iowa and stayed in a room at the Holiday Inn for a first night of marital bliss a truly staggeringly romantic choice on my part. Went to dinner at a local restaurant which was interrupted by a tornado warning ( perhaps a precursor of things to come) and were so tired after dinner that we never got around to opening the bottle of champagne I had stunningly and very creatively iced down in the bathroom sink.
By modern standards our wedding was pretty plain and I was clueless as to romantics but the results have been rich and rewarding and after 50 years I can’t imagine it any other way.