I Take Thee, Tom

by Elaine Glimme

Tom proposed to me in July, and I accepted. We set the wedding date for Thursday, September 9 - 9/9/99. Tom picked the date. He thought it would be easy to remember anniversaries that way. As soon as we set the date, I went into shock.

My stomach twisted itself up like a mangled, tangled slinky, and I panicked. Why? What was all this - normal pre-wedding jitters or some sixth sense warning me of danger ahead? Was this common sense telling me to abort the mission - put the brakes on the marriage steam engine and avoid the worst mistake of my life? Or was I about to hurt a really good man - and myself?

Prayer is therapy for me, and, let's face it, I needed therapy. So I asked God, "Please help me. It's about the wedding - I'm way beyond scared. Maybe I'm really not supposed to get married. Are you trying to tell me something? Help me sort out my feelings, please. Brides aren't -supposed to feel this way."

I figured that there were three things that could be setting off my panic: (1) Tom's the wrong guy for me; (2) I had less than two months to plan a wedding; (3) I'm scared of commitment.

While I was waiting for God to get back to me, Tom and I went ahead with the wedding plans. We reserved Christ The Lord (CTL) Church in Pinole for seven in the evening, and Father Pat agreed to marry us. Since we both have college-age children, my daughter, Lisa, would be my maid of honor, and Tom's son, Eric, would be best man.

I made the invitations on our computer, and Tom sent some to his family and friends, but I procrastinated about sending them to mine. That way, if I backed out of the wedding, there would be fewer people to notify. We did put an announcement into CTL's newsletter inviting everyone, so most of my friends knew about the wedding anyway.
Tom's the only guy I could imagine marrying. He put up with my panicking without getting angry. (Some people might have taken it personally.) He's the kindest man I know, and thinking about him I get a soft, mushy feeling. Oh, in case you're wondering, the sparks are there. The sparks are definitely there.

He's struggling with the question of faith and God. I'm an almost-every-Sunday Episcopalian. CTL is like home and family to me. Tom goes too, but it's just because of me. He'd rather watch football.

The thing is, if Jesus ever showed up at my house, I'd probably keep the front door chain latched and talk to him through the crack. Tom, on the other hand, would invite him in, and serve him salami, crackers and kippered snacks, and tell him all about his '53 Ford.

By late August I finally sent out invitations to my friends, and I really had to plan a wedding. (Tom was doing the honeymoon.) I ordered a wedding cake and flowers, and arranged for music. My friend Jean would play the standard wedding march and recessional and Lisa would sing.

I always freak out over formal affairs, and a wedding definitely counts as one. I avoid formal events the same way I avoid poison oak. My standard dress style is blue jeans and T-shirt.

"Don't get your bowels in an uproar," said my down-to-earth friend Renee. "You're inviting friends, not tabloid reporters."

Meanwhile, the city of Pinole was presenting a series of concerts on Thursday evenings in Fernandez Park across the street from Christ The Lord Church. A bluegrass band was scheduled for September 9. I could be married to music from Deliverance.
Parking was going to be a problem. CTL was doing extensive remodeling and had no parking lot. People attending the concert would take up any available street parking. The kitchen/social hall was mostly torn up so there wouldn't be much room for wedding cake and socializing after the ceremony.

Pinole United Methodist Church is only one block up the hill from CTL. It's beautiful and roomy, and has a large parking lot. I knew we should move the wedding up there, but my heart did a sick plop at the idea. Christ The Lord is like family.

On Thursday, September 2, one week before the wedding, Tom and I checked out the music/parking situation. The music was loud, and there was no parking available within two blocks of our church. CTL wasn't going to work out. I started planning logistics in my head - cancel baker, florist, guests. Put out signs.

Tom said, "So we let people park at United Methodist, and get some of Eric's friends to shuttle them down the hill to CTL."

"But CTL's all torn up and we'll have to compete with the bluegrass," I said. "The bathrooms are next to the altar. It used to be a Portuguese dance hall."

"Who are you trying to please?" asked Tom. "Most of your friends go to CTL. They would want you to get married there. Anyone who knows me expects me to be married in an old Portuguese dance hall with the bathrooms next to the altar. Besides, CTL is us. It's comfortable. It's where I want to get married."

"Oh, yeah," I said, and finally relaxed. Maybe this marriage would work after all. That's one thing about Tom - he takes me as I am. My first wedding was beautiful, but the marriage wasn't so hot. Lisa was the only good thing about it. I said and did what my husband expected, but throughout our marriage I was numb inside, and never truly laughed or cried or loved. That was twenty years ago. I haven't put on an act for anyone since then.

D-Day - September 9 - finally arrived. My best friend, Renee, helped me set up for the wedding. She'd been watching Martha Stewart's homemaking tips on television and was determined to use what she had learned. "What are you going to wear?" she asked me. Martha would have been proud of her.

"I couldn't find anything good in the stores, so I'm just going to wear 'something old.' It's from a maternity store and hides my extra thirty pounds quite nicely."
"You're getting married in a maternity dress?" asked Renee. "You're going to look like a shotgun bride."

By 6:45 Lisa and I were waiting in the -modular trailer that served as our temporary Sunday school. The band - S.F. Pickins - was really good. We could hear the music loud and clear, and I danced to some of it. From the doorway, I could wave to guests on their way to my wedding.

Renee's husband, Rick, came in to ask about the rings. Eric couldn't find them. I told him I'd hidden them in what was left of the kitchen, between the knives and forks in a cupboard under the microwave. Then I asked him to get the band across the street to play "Bottle of Wine" some time after eight o'clock. That's Tom's favorite song.

At 7:05 Father Pat said that we should start in as soon as the band finished singing "Your Cheating Heart." I said a quick prayer to God. Would he just please bless our marriage and be part of it for the rest of our lives together.

Jean started Lisa's entry music, and then mine. My knuckles were white as I clutched the bouquet against my throat. Our tiny church was packed with family and friends: people from work, people from church, college friends. They had all shared some part of Tom's life and mine. Tom's aunts waved to me. Couples held hands. I loved every person and every thing. My dress was bright blue, and my bouquet was multicolored - like flowers against a summer sky. I smiled and let my hands with the flowers rest comfortably against my waist.

Father Pat talked about Vegematic -marriages, where couples verbally slice and dice each other, and he said that Tom and I don't do that to each other. He's right. Tom doesn't hurt anyone. (I hope I don't either, any more.) But, of course, my first marriage was a Vegematic one. That's why I was so scared. I know what a bad marriage is like, but not what a good marriage can be.

After we said our vows, Lisa sang "The Rose," and filled the room with her heart and her voice: "It's the heart afraid of breaking that never learns to dance." We took communion while the band across the street played "Bottle of Wine." It was our first meal together as a married couple.

After the ceremony, Tom and I cut the cake and fed each other very gently. Father Pat had warned us in no uncertain terms that there was to be no shoving of cake into faces. Later, while I was washing dishes, Tom came up behind me and smeared a little of the whipped cream gently around my mouth. It was very cute. I have a whole married life to get him back for it. (In a gently loving way. Don't worry, Father Pat. There are many things a wife can do with whipped cream that husbands find desirable.)

My friend Kay had told me not to do any setup or cleanup, but I did both. I was glad to be doing some of the "serving others." It bodes well for our marriage. I even enjoyed washing the dishes, although it would have been easier if the contractors hadn't turned off the hot water.

So there you go. My prayers were answered. We're married, and it feels right. I think love is a gift from God, and Tom is God's gift to me - a lifelong party complete with cake and whipped-cream frosting.



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