by Debi Hall

It’s 1982. You see I have been asking God for a sign. But, since this Oklahoma morning brings sunshine and fair temperatures, just like any other July day, I feel certain that my second wedding has divine blessings. Upon awakening, I ask Jesus to give me a signal if getting married to Gary is a bad idea. I have my doubts about this matrimonial union. We argue a lot. Drinking is our acceptable form of communication. Instead of starting meaningful conversations with “Honey, I need to share my feelings with you,” I kick off the session with “get me a drink and make it a double…hell, just bring me the whole bottle.” Oh, we are a pair to draw to all right.

Fearing that this might not be a match made in heaven, I have already consulted everyone from astrologers to palm readers to Cosmopolitan magazine to see if, in fact, he is the one. All signs point to…no, not even close, bad idea, certain disaster. Even the Ouiji board pointer darted back and forth from No to DANGER. Once the Ouiji pointer even spelled out Death. Could these be warning signs, I wondered?

And now the day is here…wedding day…July something. I get up and look at my hair. It doesn’t look blonde enough against my ruby red freshly sunburned skin. Out come the bleach pots. I put on the peroxide and get busy with my nails and pedicure. Oops I forgot to check the clock. No matter, I’ve done this a million times. Perhaps a mild alcoholic beverage. Yes, of course, just to steady the nerves. Oops. Maybe I should wash out the bleach. My hair is now fried albino straw. Oops. I don’t feel well. Bl!@#$ Okay, that’s over with. I’ll know better than to put in too much tomato juice next time.

My mother and I have planned a lovely back yard wedding. At noon the arch arrives. The men mount it in the back yard. Expensive roses are attached in garlands over the arch. As the crew leave, the wind bellows, and down goes the arch. My mother and I stand with hands over mouths. She is more horrified by my platinum frizz hair cut than the collapsed arch and scattered flowers. My Dad props the arch up with sand bags.

At 2:30 the cake people arrive. We have ordered a beautiful four tiered Italian Cream Cake with a champagne fountain in the middle. At 3:00 my Aunt Fannie, who has come up from Electra to help says “Nita, did you notice that the cake is beginning to lean?” Cousin Judy adds ‘Yes, and I believe the champagne is overflowing.” My mother excuses herself and goes to take a bath. I grab a cup and salvage the spilt champagne. The cake is reconstructed by Aunt Fannie; the champagne fountain is removed by Judy; and I drink the contents. The men with the back yard chairs arrive. Oops. They brought chairs from Rest Haven funeral parlor. What could this mean?I am startled by the first bolt of deafening thunder. What in the name of God? And speaking of God…was that Him trying to tell me something? Naw, it’s probably my imagination…until the house shakes with the next bolt, and lightning splits the arch in half. Okay, seriously God, if you don’t think this is a good idea, let me know. As if on cue, a torrential downpour soaks the back yard. No, seriously, God, don’t hold back. Tell me if this isn’t meant to be.

I take my hair down. Because of the humidity, it sticks flat against my scalp with a few electrified ends clumping at the bottom. Maybe hair mousse. Ooops. Glue. Okay, some hairspray…ooops sticky glue. Oh, I’m pretty! I put on extra makeup to compensate for the bad hair. Now I look like a hooker from Mulligan flats. I put on the pretty floral chiffon dress I made for the occasion. The waist band comes loose. This is great. Aunt Fannie comes in to see the fiasco that is me. “Why Debi, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a bride look so…interesting.”

5:20 Gary arrives. He’s been drinking all day. Mind you, Gary can’t handle two beers, let alone a day of debauchery. He is also soaked to the bone. We strip him down to his underwear and sit him outside in the rain to sober him up. After 10 minutes, Aunt Fannie says “You know, Nita, we might ought to bring Gary in out of the storm. Cousin Maude lost three turkeys before they were plump enough to eat because they forgot to come in out of the rain.” My father goes out to check on my fiancé, closes Gary’s mouth so he won’t gag on the rain waterand reports that Gary is almost ready to stand on his own two feet. Meanwhile, Judy steams his tuxedo and I fix myself a vodka tonic.

The city’s storm sirens blow at 5:45, and we prudently decided to postpone the wedding to 7:00 p.m. By then the storm is sure to pass , guests will have time to make it through the flooded detoured streets, and all will be well. I put a hairpiece in my hair which gives it some lift and hides part of the frizz. I sit in my bedroom, tempted to talk to the reverend and ask him if he thinks these events are a signal that this wedding is doomed. But I decide against it and put on more mascara.

By 6:50, 45 people have arrived. We invited 200. These seem good odds considering the fact that level three tornado warnings are permeating the airwaves. Oops. Somebody forgot to bring Gary in out of the rain. I throw on a bathrobe and run outside in a panic and find him laying fetal position on the ground in his underwear singing “God Bless America”. As my hairpiece floats into the rose bushes, I look up to the hurricane heavens and say “God, what does this mean?”

My mother sends two men to smuggle Gary through the side door and dress him. I go inside and survey the damage that is my hair, sop up the black mascara from the sides of my face, blow dry the frizz and plug in a curling iron. Herman Caldwell comes in the patio door, holding my hairpiece and says “y’all I think there’s a dead rat under the rose bush.” Women begin to screech. My mother, with all the charm she can muster, gets the hairpiece from Herman and delivers it to me.

We wash it, blow dry it and stick it in my hair. I now look like I am nesting rodents. It’s 6:58. I curse God for not making his “will” clearly known to me.At 7:00 we begin the ceremony. “If anyone has any cause why this”… I swear to you a bolt of thunder that could scare the hair off a roadhog blasts through the air.” And we say I do.

The remainder of my days with Gary were as tumultuous as the wedding itself, and I spent many nights wondering how it had all started out as such a normal day. If only God had given me a clue, I might have been able to miss this chapter of my life.