Starting off a new year, clearing out attic accumulations, and I struck familial gold.
One small strip of film negatives, and the usual, holding it up to the light, hoping for recognition of something or someone.
Then the flood of childhood memories came to me. Overwhelming me. I knew instantly what that little piece of celluloid amber was. . . I knew her immediately.
The shape of her ebullient face had been etched on my early childhood brain. It was Mama at her most resplendent: she was seated in their getaway car just after her wedding to Daddy.
June 7, 1964. Atlanta, Georgia. A Lutheran church on Peachtree Street. My parents both spoke of Reverend Buck, the man who married them. As I grew older, Mama would recall the pre-marital counseling she and Daddy went through with this clergyman, whom they both respected. Mama had been married and divorced once before Daddy. A second marriage in the good Rev’s church was a tad, tee-niny bit scandalous in those days. The story goes that he looked at Mama and asked her to promise that this would be her last marriage. And she did make the promise. Ironically, it would not be her last divorce. Even more ironically, she and Daddy, despite divorcing after 26 years, would remain as close knit and live together for the remainder of their lives. After all, a promise is a promise.
But I look at these images and I see joy. I see Mama at her Southern (Baptist) finest. Beautiful, put-together, in love, and oh, so appropriate. A second marriage in those days meant wearing white was simply not done. Hence, her powder-blue, knee-length sheath and short finger-tip veil. She was the vision of second-wedded bliss. And my father, so handsome, behind the wheel of his ’57 Thunderbird.
Daddy, decidedly un-Southern Baptist, was not confined by these trappings. He couldn’t have cared less that Mama, four years his elder, had been married before. He was gobsmacked by her beauty and untamed, wild spirit. She was a number, I tell you.
Back to Rev. Buck. . . in addition to The Promise he asked of Mama, his other stipulation about officiating this union was that there would be no photographs allowed in the church. As Mama would retell their wedding-story, Daddy would chime in to add his recollection, “Rev Buck said his church would not be turned into a ‘three-ring circus’.” Their photos would be taken outside the sanctuary, during their reception and the getaway.
I’m so grateful to have these photos of a 30-year old Thelma and a 26-year old Gordon. I remember the “important papers” file where she kept them all, and several other family treasures that have since scattered.
Recently, I’ve asked Mama to come be near me, as she’s been very quiet since her passing. Daddy is with me alllll the time. But Mama is a little more selective in her visits. Well, she dropped in this time with this big hug, reminding me of that little gap between her teeth and the red lipstick that was her calling card. I love you forever, Mama and Daddy.