October 26, 2009

Living in Squalor

In thinking about our “silver anniversary” tomorrow, husband wondered what wedding gifts we still own.

Reviewing a mental checklist, we realized not much remains from our little apartment overlooking the gun shop. I referred to our first little apartment as “living in squalor.” Husband corrected me and says, “We didn’t live in Squalor, we lived in Largo.”

I said, “Get a dictionary and look under squalor.”
Husband finished my sentence, “Look under squalor, and you will find “See Largo.”

A quarter of a century later, what do we still have?

• An ironing board cover (barely used)
• An elegant, etched crystal decanter and six matching wine glasses (rarely used)
• Silver-plate engraved wedding goblets (used once)
• A framed art poster from my brother
• Cousin Helene’s cut glass relish bowl
• Foley teacup and saucer
• Old-style type faces spelling our names
• Our wedding rings (they are smaller now, and not wearable. Curious?)

Our favorite gift hangs in our foyer. It’s the first thing you see entering the house. Julie, who with her husband John, was my church youth group leader, made this sampler for us. “Life is fragile—handle with prayer.”

Marrying in a rural, pre-Walmart world, the only place for gift registry was Teghtmeyer’s Ace Hardware.

We received many wonderful gifts from loving friends and family that day.
Our married friends Ghern and Fern, a groomsman and bridesmaid, gave us a 3-foot troll. named Stanley. He was hideous--but we loved him like a brother. He guarded our Florida lanai until he met unfortunate death in Hurricane Elena. (We are still looking for a photo of Stanley. Stay tuned.)

Wedding gifts proved the only point of contention between The Mother of the Bride and The Mother of the Groom. My mother believed gifts should be mailed to the bride’s parents home prior to the wedding. At some point later, the happy couple opens them. (My mother also insisted that if we didn’t marry when the clock hands were going up, the marriage was doomed. The ceremony started at four-thirty.)

Husband’s mother followed the Hoosier rural tradition of Bride and Groom opening gifts at the reception so everyone could see the bounty.

We compromised, which backfired. (Compromises sometimes just tick everyone off, and nobody is happy.)

Since we lived in Florida, we didn’t see friends and family often. We didn’t want to be Sitting Ducks in front of everyone. We wanted to use our limited time to talk with guests. We asked our cake-servers to open the gifts. We gave them a Sharpie, a notebook, and asked them to carefully mark and record each gift. This is unconventional, and breaks every rule of etiquette. Who cares?

The girls were diligent except for one exception. One box was not opened. That became important later.

Husband and I packed up as many gifts as we could –including Stanley – and had to leave many behind for the next trip. We left about half of our presents at my parent’s house, as the trunk had limited capacity. We left behind some of the 12 sets of wine glasses and five picnic baskets. (What must people have thought of us? “A loaf of bread, a jug of wine, and thou….”)

A year later, we took the balance of the gifts back to Florida. One box had pictures and labels of “Country Memo Board” on the outside, in the era of the country goose. The picture showed a memo board that featured country geese and cork. One might hang this on a refrigerator or next to the phone.

Oops. When we opened the box in Florida a year later, there was a frying pan.

So, Anna and Brad, if you are reading this 25 years later, we are sorry. We are sorry that we thanked you for the wrong gift. We loved the frying pan. And we are idiots. Quoth the raven.