Twenty years ago at this time, it was all over.  I had planned my wedding for an entire year, and it was over just like that.  I cried after we left the wedding reception because I felt like I had missed it.  My special day had come and gone, and I hadn’t enjoyed it.  It was at that point that I knew I should have taken the money.

You see, my parents offered us money if we would just elope.  It sounds crazy, I know, but I think they were very wise.  My sister and I got married within 6 months of each other.  Daddy told us what he had in savings and said, “You get half, and you get half.”  He and Mama told us that if we would rather have the money, we could have a great honeymoon with it.  I, being a 19 year old dreamer, chose to take the wedding. 

I planned my wedding for a full year before it happened.  Mr. Everything and I had known we were getting married since I was 16 years old.  We just had to wait until I was old enough that my parents would not freak out.  We knew our wedding date for a year and a half before it happened.  May 22, 1993 was the day.  I have no idea why we picked May.  We picked the 22nd because our dating anniversary was on August 22 and my birthday was on December 22.  I figured Mr. E could remember our anniversary if I just kept the number the same. 

As May, 1992 approached, I kept reminding Mr. E that he had to propose to me during that month.  I wanted a full year to plan my wedding.  I have no idea why.  I just did.  I had been sneaking wedding magazines past my parents and into my bedroom for months, and I was ready to come out with it.  Mr. E teased me that he was going to wait until May 31 to propose.  Actually, he did it on May 1.  I’m pretty sure he didn’t want to listen to me nag him all month.  Not much to his surprise, I said “yes,” and the wedding planning began.

You can't see Micah's ponytail, but it's there!
I did my own flowers.  My family made the food for the reception.  I didn’t do my own cake, but I should have.  The cake I got was awful.  I told the lady what I didn’t want, but I’m pretty sure she heard me say, “I want.”  It was the opposite of what I asked for, and it was U-G-L-Y.  It didn’t even taste good.  There was nothing redeeming about this cake, and the groom’s cake was equally as bad.

Any who…  I was 20 when we got married, and I was bossy!  I didn’t know it at the time, but looking back, I really was.  I was very concerned about everyone else’s feelings, so I’m pretty sure I didn’t turn into a Bridezilla.  I was too much of a people pleaser for that.  However, I was pretty specific with my wishes.  I did NOT want Mr. E to have a bachelor party.  I just didn’t see a need for that.  I wanted Micah, Mr. E’s best friend, to get his ponytail cut off.  Neither of those wishes were granted.

Don't you love the curling ribbon?

We had our rehearsal dinner at church in the fellowship hall.  My in-laws hosted a nice dinner for us.  (By the way, I’m pretty sure I never thanked them, so I’m saying it now.  Thank you to my in-laws for their hard work and contribution!)  After the dinner, Micah and a few other guys decided they were going to kidnap Mr. E for a bachelor party.  They literally carried him out of the building.  I was furious!  I told him, with hands on hips, that he better not do anything stupid like get himself killed and he better not be late for the wedding.  

The day of the wedding arrived, and all my plans were made and ready.  We had decorated the reception hall the day before, so everything was set.  The ugly cake and the handsome groom just had to show up, and we were good to go.  

I went early in the morning for a nail and hair appointment.  I had Peanut M&M’s for breakfast.  That’s always a great way to start the day.  I had left my dress hanging in a classroom upstairs at church.  It was pressed and beautiful with the train spread out so it wouldn’t get wrinkled.  When I got to the church, I discovered that Mr. E had left a card and a gift for me on the train of my dress.  That is actually one of the most romantic things he’s ever done.  Come to think of it, I wonder if his mother told him to do that.  (If so, thanks!)

I wasn’t nervous until I heard the people.  We were in a classroom above the auditorium, so I could hear as people started arriving.  Then, I thought I was going to pass out.  That may have also had something to do with the breakfast of champions that I had enjoyed that morning.

My bridesmaids, Willow and my sister, were there and dressed.  The photographer took all the traditional photos of the bride’s side.  He went to take the groom’s pictures and came back to tell me that the groom had not arrived yet.  That was another of my demands that wasn’t met.  The man was late for his wedding.  He finally showed up, looking tired, but he was there.  Later, when I asked for true confessions from his bachelor party, he told me he ended up being the designated driver because he didn’t drink.  He was such a good boy.

The most awkward walk of my life...
As I walked down the aisle, I remember thinking, “Where do I look?”  That was the most awkward walk of my life.  Was it “left together, right together,” or should I just walk naturally?  Should I look at my flowers?  Should I look at the guests?  Should I look at the groom?  Could I just pass out and be done with it?

The ceremony was quick.  My father-in-law performed it, and he took my wishes very seriously.  I had told him what to say, and he said only that and nothing more.  I didn’t know anything about preaching a wedding, so it was over in about 5 minutes.  The photographer had just gotten upstairs to take overview shots when he had to run back down to take our departure picture.

My father-in-law had teased me for months that he was going to say “Obey,” in the vows.  I did not want the word “Obey.”  Actually, I still don’t like that word.  I’m not a dog.  I’ll cooperate.  I’ll even compromise.  But obey?  I don’t think so.  During the ceremony, I was so stressed out about whether he was going to say that word or not.  He had teased me that if he said it, I had to repeat it after him.  I had practiced in my mind skipping right over the word.  Luckily, he didn’t say it, so I didn’t have to skip it.

The look on my face says it all.
After the ceremony, the photographer took pictures; lots of pictures.  That man moved slower than any human I’ve ever met. (Except maybe the Goose when we are running late for an appointment or for church.)  My mother kept commenting that he was taking so long that the guests were leaving.  She went to the fellowship hall and came back a few times to say, “Ten more people have left.”  I know she wasn’t stressing me out on purpose, but she was doing a really good job of it.  I cared so much what people thought.  Were they leaving because they were mad that we took too long?  Were they leaving because I didn’t look at them as I walked down the aisle?  Were they leaving because the cake was so ugly?  Were they leaving because the pig shaped groom’s cake was hideous?  I didn’t care for my sake that they were leaving, but I wanted to be sure everyone was happy.

This was NOT what I meant...
By the time we got to the reception, I was so overwhelmed with worry.  I vaguely remember cutting the cake and taking a sip of punch.  (Luckily, Mr. E did listen to my demand that cake would not be shoved in my face.  I had spent way too long getting beautiful to have someone smear icing all over me.)   I barely remember speaking to people.  I remember that all I wanted to do was look at, kiss on and talk to my new husband, but I was so afraid of offending anyone.  I’m not sure Mr. E and I said two words to each other during the whole reception.  I remember at one point asking him what we should be doing, and he said he thought we should talk to people.

Then, it was time to leave, so I went to change into my going away outfit.  Mr. E’s one demand for the whole wedding was that no one do any permanent damage to his car.  That demand was not met either.  At least we were together in the fact that no one was listening to us.  We got out to the parking lot, and his beautiful red Firebird had shaving cream on the top.  I saw all his blood rush to his face.  And to this day, I am not ready to discuss the condoms we found inside the car.

I tried to say goodbye to everyone, because I did not want to offend anyone.  We got in the car and headed straight to the Mobil station for a car wash.  As the water came down the windshield, the tears began to come down my face.  I had just missed my wedding.  I had worried so much about what everyone else thought, felt and wanted that I had not enjoyed even one minute of it.  At the same time, I couldn’t remember if I had thanked my parents and family and friends who had worked so hard for my big day.

Mr. Everything, being the patient man that he was, obliged my wish to go back to the church.  I needed to tell everyone thank you.  I needed to tell them goodbye.  When we got there, people were vacuuming and washing dishes.  My guilt was increased.  I wanted to help vacuum, but Mr. E wouldn’t let me.  For once, I obeyed.

We left and headed to enjoy a nice dinner and our wedding night at Chalet Suzanne in Lake Wales, Florida.  I cried again after dinner.  I’m pretty sure Mr. Everything was wondering what he had gotten himself into.  Or maybe, after 5 years of dating, he already knew.

The next day, I woke up and realized I was someone’s wife.  I cried about that too.  We headed to the airport to fly out to Man O’ War, Abaco, Bahamas to enjoy a week of wedded bliss.  I think by the second day of the honeymoon, I started to relax and to stop worrying about whether or not people liked my wedding.  Little did I know that, 20 years later, I would look back and wonder why it even mattered. 

If I could go back in time, I would tell my 20 year old self not to worry so much.  I would tell myself not to care what people thought, and I would say to have a small wedding at the beach.  Better yet, I would tell myself to take the money and run!    -Al

Mr. Everything talked me into going on a nature walk with him.  I knew this was not a good idea but succumbed to his charm. (Okay, actually, I knew I needed the exercise.)

When we lived in Brandon, we walked pretty often, but we were on paved sidewalks.  The possibilities of seeing a snake or a bear or worse were not very good.  On a walk in the woods, the chances would be increased significantly.  I was a nervous wreck, to say the least.

Notice how fast the man was walking.  How was I supposed to keep up with that while tripping over roots and vines?   Now, keeping in mind that I fall a lot and Mr. E always misses it when I do, was this the best place for him to be walking?  Will the man ever learn?  He could have left me on the ground in the woods, and he would never know it, because he never looked back!

Actually, though, I was happy for him to be ahead of me.  It meant that he could knock down all the spider webs.

Before we even got off the porch, we saw a deer.  Can you find it?  It's like the Florida Bible Camp version of "Where's Waldo?"

I was hoping this would be the only kind of wildlife I saw.

As we got to the back of the property (or at least as far back as this city-girl was going) I learned that the grass is, indeed, greener on the other side of the fence.

Mr. E kept reminding me that I was slow.  I kept reminding him that I had birthed two children for him.  He reminded me that the last one was 12 years ago.  I told him just to be quiet.  He told me to speed up.  I told him that I was doing my best and that I didn't ask to go on this little walk of his.  He said, "Ew," and ducked.  He had been hit in the head with a spider web.  I tried not to laugh out loud.

We kept seeing dead sticks along the way.  They seemed to be grouped like these.  Mr. E said they just fell like that, but it looked like the beginning of a nest to me.  I was convinced it was Skunk Ape.  (Also known as "Big Foot.")

When we came upon this tree, I checked overhead for buzzards.  Good news.  They weren't circling, so I wasn't dead yet.

I'll just call this "Exhibit A" for my murder trial against Skunk Ape.

I kept asking what lived in the holes.  There were a lot of them.  Mr. Everything said it was probably cute little bunny rabbits.  I'm pretty sure he was just humoring me.

Mr. E said he wasn't taking me on a walk in the woods again.  I just don't know why.  I thought we had fun.

This is what Mr. E looked like after our walk.  You'll notice there is barely a glisten.

By the way, that's a really weird look on his face.  He either looks wise or creepy.  I'm not sure which.

This is what I looked like after our walk.  The Beetle and the Goose thought it was hilarious that I was so sweaty and Mr. E was not. I laughed with them and then gave them a big hug.  That'll teach them.                     -Al

I had to chuckle when I saw this book in the dollar store in High Springs.  I have no idea what this book is about, but I love the title.  Who knew there was a book about how to not become your mother?  Maybe I should have read it, because I’m pretty sure it’s happening for me pretty quickly.

I’ve always said I wouldn’t become my mother.  It’s not that she was a bad mother or anything like that, but who wants to become your mother?  I mean, she’s old, right?  My mother has been old to me since the day I was born!  I guess that’s how I look to my kids too.

There are certain ways I have transformed into my mother.  For one thing, sometimes, I open my mouth and my mother comes out.  I remember the first time it happened.  I used my mother’s favorite phrase, “Don’t look at me in that tone of voice!”  Then, I looked around, scared and whispered, “Mama?  Is that you?” 

Another way I have become like my mother is that I can smack my children while driving down the interstate, and I never even take my eyes off the road.  Back talk?  (Smack out of nowhere.)  Fighting?  (Pow!)  Looking at me in that tone of voice?  (Bam!)  Of course, sometimes it’s challenging to actually hit them, since we drive monstrously big vehicles.  My children are apparently smarter than my sister and I were when we were younger because they know how to move quickly before they actually get smacked.  This leaves me to flail around blindly and look like a crazy woman while I’m driving.

I can cook like my mama, too.  If it’s white, fried and southern, no problem!  If you want me to tell you the measurements for most things I cook, we have a problem.

As I glanced at this book in the dollar store, it got me started thinking.  I’ll admit that, in many ways, I am quickly transforming into my mother.  But, really, is that a bad thing?  Mama had (and has!) a lot of great qualities that I only hope I am living up to.

Mama fiercely loved (and still loves) her kids.  If you don’t believe me, just say something negative about me or my sister in front of my mother.  Hell hath no fury like a mother offended.

No matter what, we always knew that Mama loved us.  She was always there for us, even when it wasn’t convenient for her.  She always put our needs first, and my sister and I never did without.  Mama put her career on hold to be home with us and to make sure we were taken care of.  No matter what, I always knew Mama was there.

Mama created a home for us.  We felt loved and cared for, and we always knew we were welcome.  This applies even today.  As we have been driving back and forth from High Springs to Brandon for the last month, we have stayed with her every weekend.  She has let my kids have friends spend the night, and the Beetle even had 4 teenage boys over to swim for his birthday.  Mama never complained and never said we couldn’t come.  Although this is not the house I lived in as a child, it’s Mama’s house, so it’s home.

Mama taught us to laugh at ourselves and at others.  She let us know that it was okay not to take life too seriously.  I’m pretty sure I learned that lesson a little too well.

Mama let us try everything.  Between my sister and me, we had dance lessons, gymnastics lessons, horseback riding lessons (and I owned my own horse), violin lessons, flute lessons and ice skating lessons.  We went to day camp, friends’ houses and more.  I was on the tennis team and went to a math tutor.  My sister had activities too (I can’t actually remember what she did.  I was too busy with my own stuff).  My mother ran a taxi service, and she never complained.  My mother didn’t even make me stay for the ever-dreaded pep rallies in high school.  She would pick my friend, Willow, and me up from school early so we did not have to go.  Now, that’s a nice Mama!

Mama was friends with my friends.  She got to know them, and she laughed with them, and she enjoyed them.  My house was the house that everyone wanted to go to, because everyone was welcomed there.  Plus, Mama would cook some southern macaroni and cheese for us.

When I fell in love at the ripe old age of 15, Mama accepted Mr. Everything as one of her own.  Never did she treat him as an outsider.  In fact, at one point during the dating years, she told me that I might as well marry him because if I didn’t, she was going to adopt him.

Mama was not perfect.  I could name her flaws, but that wouldn’t win me any points, now would it?  (She does read my blog, you know.  I’m not that stupid.)  She tried her best, and she was fully committed as a mother.  My sister and I were never anything less than her top priority.  She loved us and raised us, and we both turned out to be (somewhat) decent human beings who can form complete sentences.  I can only hope that I am as good of a mama as my mama has been for me.  I was loved.  I was nurtured.  I was cared for.  I don't thank my mother enough, so I'm thanking her here for the world (or the dozen people who actually read this) to see.  Thank you Mama for all you have done and will continue to do for me!  Happy (almost belated) Mother's Day!  -Al