88: The Wrinkled One

88: The Wrinkled One

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Here Comes the Bride

The Wrinkled One

A happy marriage is a new beginning of life, a new starting point for happiness…

~Dean Stanley

Thirty years after my last date, I re-entered the dating scene. I nervously joined a matchmaker service, but expected to meet few, if any, wonderful men. I was wrong.

“Hi, are you Patt?” The question was posed by a man waiting near the reservation podium wearing the striped tan polo shirt and glasses I was told to expect. His easy smile relieved the usual awkwardness of a first date.

Our conversation was lively and nonstop. When I ordered ostrich, he did not freak out at my weirdness. After dinner in the parking lot, we sealed our deal with the still unforgettable kiss he planted on me. I discovered my soul mate and so did he.

Over the next several months, I renewed my acquaintance with internal butterflies and that special tingle. Life was again a glorious mystery worth exploring. We jointly proposed and planned a party to celebrate our mid-life love — at the dog museum.

Although I had “been there,” I had not “done THIS.” Mid-life love was new! Even shopping for a traditional wedding dress with my daughters was different and proved hilarious. Automatically, well-intended sales clerks steered me in the direction of “mother’s dresses” and riddled my daughters with bride-type questions.

“Hello and welcome… When is your big day…? Wow, that’s great… How many bridesmaids…? Where is your wedding…? What type of gown do you have in mind?”

We conspired and tag teamed in a comedy routine.

“Talk to the wrinkled bride,” my daughters would reply sternly with an open hand and palm forward.

I continued the merriment by grinning broadly with raised arm and pointing a finger downward to the top of my head. Not intending rudeness or embarrassment, we invited them to laugh with us — and they did.

I was fifty-one. Numerous excursions and try-ons yielded zero possibilities until finally my daughters heartily endorsed a sequined halter-top number and a long, slick white satin skirt with a train. The dress was perfect. The ensemble subtracted years and pounds while highlighting my “assets.”

Each of our combined five children agreed to be in our wedding party — tuxes, fancy dresses, and flowers — the works. Time zoomed forward to our big day and the typical tizzy of mini-disasters. That day brought the unexpected repair of an overnight flat tire, which was soon upstaged by a wardrobe malfunction.

My younger daughter’s last-minute snacking splattered stains on the top of her shimmery two-piece chartreuse gown. Unrattled, we spot cleaned it. She hung the semi-wet garment by hand out the van window. Fortunately, she did not lose her grip as it flapped dry in the wind while we sped to the dog museum.

When we made our late entrance, the nearly 100 guests were milling about the museum, fascinated by dog memorabilia. Our canine enthusiast guests commended us for our “dogtastic” location.

Although the minister performed a lackluster service, I delighted in the warm support family and friends showered on our celebration of love. Soon the glorious scent of cheese-filled mushrooms, beef tenderloin, hot rolls, and assorted goodies swirled in waves around us.

After dinner, the karaoke DJ was a resounding hit, highlighted by our newlywed dance. Joined by an eight-year-old nephew wearing a plastic monkey mask, my husband and I donned dog masks — Dalmatians because our ages totaled a bit over 101. Of course, the theme song was, “Who Let the Dogs Out.” Guests cheered and barked to the music.

Although we requested “the gift of your presence only,” my husband’s poker-hunting-fishing crowd (whom he has known for decades) cooked up delightfully bizarre surprise gifts. After our honeymoon, we gathered family and a few friends for the opening.

As we unwrapped the first gift from the group, my husband and I exchanged quizzical looks because it was a… toaster? Mmmmm, yes — not just something else packed in a toaster box. As I grabbed the second package from the men and their wives, my husband and I locked eyes and telepathed a shared observation, “These packages are exactly the same size.”

In fact, not only were they the same size packages — they were seven identical toasters with UPC codes conscientiously cut away! So much for cashing in on returns. Amidst uncontrollable laughter, we posed for the friendly paparazzi with seven toasters stacked vertically between us.

Remarkably, we found greeting cards featuring toasters and sent them as notes of thanks. One month later, the same pranksters bestowed seven individually gift-wrapped loaves of bread on my husband as birthday gifts. (I was slow to catch the extended joke.) Our tale of seven toasters and loaves lasted for years as we discovered a series of creative ways to re-gift the toasters — even some back to the group itself.

We plan to grow older together and will not let things grow old between us — with our wedding as the benchmark for surprises, laughter, and spice. Our mid-life marriage extends beyond a simple approach to the sunset years or a boring rerun of past mistakes or pleasures. As Dean Stanley wrote, “A happy marriage is a new beginning of life, a new starting point for happiness…” — at any age.

~Patt Hollinger Pickett, Ph.D.

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