Tying the knot
When I recall events that happened in just a few months during 1943, I shake my head. It was during World War II. My fiancé Don was leaving for Army Air Corps (as it was called in those days) training in about four months. We decided to get married.
I hope you’ll understand. This column is very negative, but folks, facts are facts.
Don could have stayed working at a defense plant but instead opted to enlist. Two of his brothers were already in uniform; Bob training to be a fighter pilot, and the other, Clayton — as we learned later — was working secretly on the atomic bomb as a chemist at Oak Ridge, Tenn.
My future husband Don and I were close friends to an assistant pastor and his wife at our church. We asked if they’d officiate at our wedding in their little row house in Philadelphia. They were pleased, and it turned out that we’d be the first couple the reverend would join in matrimony. One of the girls I worked with told me about a nice little apartment that was available in the building where she lived.
Don and I were thrilled when we saw the apartment, a tiny place just right for us, where I could stay after he left. To make it even more appealing it was within walking distance of my work. I was also working at the same defense plan, and after work I headed downtown to talk to my mother about some kind of small reception. I hadn’t wanted to talk to her at home in front of my father for personal reasons.
I also needed to buy a wedding dress. They weren’t very busy where my mother worked a department store, and we had a moment alone. When I brought up any talk of her and my father helping with the cost of a small reception — to be held in our apartment — I got some kind of “money was tight, they were busy, etc.” The mention of a cake got the same response, “when would she have time?”
Mother went to talk to a customer. I didn’t say goodbye, I simply left and headed for the dress department. I felt a little ill. My mother had always denied my father’s alcoholism. When I would mention that I could tell he had just gone down into the basement supposedly to stoke the coal furnace, and he’d come up with all the earmarks of having a drink, she’d laugh at me.
It was evident in seconds that my father had been drinking. Mother was my father’s co-dependent and my wedding wasn’t going to change a thing. Now, here I was in the dress department. The first one I picked off of the rack — OK, this is for the ladies — was an aqua with a v-neck, three-quarter sleeves, close fitting to the hips and then full to the hem with pleats.
I tried it on, didn’t look at another thing, left and also bought my shoes and a short brimmed white hat. Suddenly I was happy. I had long ago learned to ignore what I could not change and find solace in the good things. That was short-lived. I went to church that Sunday and suddenly my soon to be in-laws were cold and acted like I wasn’t even sitting in the same pew.
With the service over, Don and I headed out of the door. My future in-laws hurried off toward their home ignoring both of us. “OK,” I asked Don, “exactly what is wrong?”
Don told me that my father had gone to the drugstore where his dad worked and created a drunken scene. I wanted to die. All I could think was “gee, isn’t this a great way to begin a new life?”
I went home, took my mother aside, and gave her a slip of paper with the address of the minister’ s home, the date and time. Only she, my sister Jeanne and her husband Walt were to be invited. My father was not to be present. Mother tried to say something to me, but I put up my hand to stop her and I left.
When I think about it, I wonder how I managed all of this negativity. But I did. We had a beautiful ceremony with just the very immediate family — sans my father — a nice small reception. At that moment, during the beginning of that terrible wartime, that was all that really mattered.
Edna Van Leuven is a Churchill County writer.