There’s a line from The Hundred Lies of Lizzie Lovett about “life looking different depending on where you were standing” that seems to apply at my parents’ first meeting. Appropriately enough considering their future together, my parents met on a Sunday at Sturgis Baptist Church. (Not the famous Sturgis in South Dakota where they have the motorcycle races – the village in Mississippi that few people have ever heard of)
Daddy had come to church with pseudo-cousins and was immediately smitten. Whether it was love at first sight, he never said, but he told his cousins over Sunday dinner that he had just met the girl he was going to marry.
Mama must have been standing in a different place. She also had a comment at Sunday dinner around the long table with her parents and five brothers and sisters. “I just met the ugliest man I’ve ever seen.” Before you get disturbed at what this did to Daddy’s ego, he is the one who told this story the most often and laughed the loudest at the punch line. I think he took it as a personal triumph that he won her over.
In the unbiased view of his oldest daughter, I would say he was neither handsome nor ugly but had a distinctive look. His abundant hair, that never grayed or turned loose in his seventy years, had a deep reverse “V” on either side like an extended widow’s peak, his tie was crooked in every picture he ever took even after he and Mama married, and his eyeglasses were ever-present. Mama evidently took a second look from a better angle and changed her mind.
Eighty years ago, on this date, they “slipped off” to get married at their pastor’s home. They were twenty-six and twenty-four years old, doing a quiet wedding in consideration for my grandmother who was already dealing with health concerns that would take her life the next year. They returned immediately after the wedding to my grandfather’s place to announce the good news. Mama’s eight-year-old sister ran into the house to tell my grandfather. “Daddy, you’ve got a new son-in-law and a preacher, too!”
Their marriage, like all the other marriages I know much about, was not perfect, but it lasted until Daddy’s death forty-five years later. In many ways, they were complementary opposites. In one of the most important ways for the longevity of the marriage and the life they needed to live, Mama’s steadying influence on Daddy was balanced by the humor he uncovered in whatever life handed out.
I’m pretty sure my three sisters and my parents’ eight grandchildren join me in being glad that Daddy had a clear view through his glasses and that Mama took another look. Maybe even the thirteen great-grandchildren who didn’t know them are grateful. They have heard the family stories!