He has changed. He was twenty, legally requiring a signature from his mother for a marriage license. I was 18 ½ and did not. [Powers that be in Mississippi must have known that girls mature more quickly than boys.] We did receive permission from my parents for our June 1 wedding the year I graduated from the local community college – even a “blessing” like Hodel and Perchik in Fiddler on the Roof .
Little did we know what “for better or for worse” would entail, but we meant the words when we said them. He was a shy country boy whose life had been confined pretty much to Pontotoc and Lee Counties in North Mississippi. The most exotic food he ate was his mother’s “scrambled salmon” – canned pink salmon scrambled into eggs. Everybody that he knew spoke English, not necessarily in standard form, and anybody without a drawl “had an accent.”
He’d grown up with the Ozzie and Harriet existence of a father who made the living and a mother who put good meals on the table. My expectation was to share Mississippi rural life with him. I knew how to cook.
Four years into the marriage, he got a letter from Uncle Sam on his birthday. “Greetings,” it began, before it turned into something that was obviously not a birthday card. The draft notice would trigger the change. The Army put that very square peg in a very square hole. He organizes things that don’t need organization, and the Army loves organization. The Army took the country boy far from his roots to assignments in six states and five foreign countries. He tasted quite a few foods not under the heading of “Southern Cooking” and heard several languages that were not part of his North Mississippi comfort zone.
Somewhere along the way, the country boy became a take-charge Sergeant Major in the Army. He encouraged me to change as well, asking each time I received a diploma when I planned to start on the next one. He learned to cook and shares the kitchen. He’s taken over the grocery shopping, maybe because he can make his own grocery list organized by aisles and check things off as he goes. And he’s my number one encourager as I write, reading everything to be sure it doesn’t go out unpolished and castigating any editor who deems it necessary to send a rejection letter.
A couple of questions come up when I tell this story, and I have answers.
• Question: Would I advise other young people to get married at that age? Answer: Never. There are too many uncertainties in that “for better or for worse.”
• Question: If I had it all to do over, would I do it again? Answer: In a heartbeat.