A Confused Heart and a White Train

October 7, 1967 • San Francisco

On a crisp October day, my father escorted me down the carpeted aisle of Holy Name of Jesus, our church in the Sunset.

524817_212319162201159_1490773452_n-1I looked like a fairy princess, dressed in the white wedding dress my stepsister wore when she married. It fit like a dream: white lace, cap sleeves, darted at the waist… not a dress I would’ve chosen, but beautiful, the train following me, my knees shaking, my lips twitching, my mouth so dry my lips were stuck to my teeth like a fool’s tongue on a frozen flagpole. Six-foot-six Father O’Shaughnessy, in his black robes, smiled his handsome crooked tan smile. Our four bridesmaids (my three high school friends and my niece Debbie, fourteen and stoned) wore matching, full-length, empire-waist coral bridesmaid dresses, holding bouquets of dyed carnations and baby roses. The four ushers (Bob’s two school friends and two brothers) dressed in black tails, and Bob, looking baby-faced and nervous, waited for us expectantly at the altar.

It’s better that I didn’t invite Mom. It would be too hard on Daddy and she would’ve wrecked this, and besides, I haven’t seen her in years and she wouldn’t care anyway.

Wedding photo Cath & BobI thought about how hard Marie worked to make this a beautiful wedding, about what it cost and how Daddy used his inheritance money, about how far everyone traveled. I wanted to run—but I didn’t make promises lightly; I also didn’t want to disappoint everyone.  As I peered out from under my veil at 150 people, our families and friends, our parents’ friends, Bob’s mother… oh my god, she looks like a leprechaun! She’s got on a green, knee-length, lace-covered dress and matching pantyhose, a green flowered hat and veil, green eye-shadow, holding a green handbag, with her feet stuffed into three-inch, dyed-to-match podesua heels barely making her five-foot tall. I was bobbling on the edge of hysteria. I glanced sideways at my father, looking so handsome in his tuxedo; I could smell his lapel flower and his splash of Old Spice. I forgot about Velma (who wasn’t particularly thrilled about her little Bobby marrying me) and moved into a silent rant with him.

How did I get here? How could this be happening? This is your fault! If you hadn’t chimed in and nearly knocked your chair over at Bob’s birthday dinner party when he announced we were getting married with your “oh no…” 

And so, with my family and friends as witnesses—against all my better judgment—with a confused heart, a bowed head, a white train, and a full Mass, I married a boy who shared the same thimble-full of common sense as me.

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  1. I am lucky to have married Bob. He gave me the opportunity to work out some of mother mother-stuff (we often marry our parents, you know), the courage to start a couple of businesses and the sense to run them, and two great sons. And for that, I thank him.

  2. Jan Erickson says:

    so scared and unsure, could not sleep the night before…flash to 6 a.m. when my 6’4″ dad is comforting me by holding and rocking me in his rocking chair. So many memories of Dad comforting his little girl like this from my earliest memories…

  3. Peggy Bair says:

    Cath, I had never heard this story… well-written, it goes without saying… my reaction to it… made me want to cry… glad it is all past… glad you are such a wonderfully well-grounded person, glad you share your writing… and of course, I love you.

  4. Susan Dalberg says:

    As usual, I howled at your story. I have a very similar story. On the picture of my dad and me, clearing the arch and starting down the aisle, both of us look like we are walking to our own hanging. All the way down the aisle, I’m thinking “what the hell am I doing here?” Thanks for the laugh, Cathy. 🙂

  5. Good story Catherine. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard a similar story from so many friends and a couple of family. In fact, I was blamed for a family member deciding not to marry someone after I asked about his hesitancy to marry. He replied: “Well, she already bought the dress and the invitations went out. I told him to send a check, which he did.

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