Thursday, July 29, 2010

The Bride Wore Black

Actually, it wasn't a black wedding dress, but a dressy, black tweed winter dress with pearls and black pumps. It was the only dressy outfit I had.  I didn't have a bouquet or even a corsage. My former husband and I stood, a couple of shaky 20-year-olds, in front of the Hart County, GA Ordinary, a colorful old fella named A. E. Ertzberger. His home office was in a house  behind a railroad track and a junkyard. There was a hydrangea bush with white blooms on it, next to the porch. The side to the porch bore brownish blooms, dyed with the tobacco juice this guy would spit while sitting in his rocker. But, if he married you, it was definitely official and legal.

This was definitely not the wedding of my dreams. I was no different from any other girl who wanted the white, flowing dress and veil, music, flowers everywhere, a troop of attendants and a young man waiting at the altar who would be the love of my life. But I was told, when I became engaged, that a church wedding in white was "unseemly" considering my recent past. It was suggested that there be a "nice, little" gathering at the parsonage with just family and that I should wear a nice, ice blue in recognition of the fact that I could not presume to the exalted state of virginity. My mother later told me that some of our family had stated that they would be too embarrassed to attend my wedding if it were held in a church and if I wore a white gown.

So, what I got was a sleazy elopement with a nice guy who was willing to overlook my scandalous past. I liked him well enough but he was not the love of my life and that would make the next 24 years very hard ones for us and our children. And that was what I wanted from him..respectability and children I could keep and raise. After all, the social worker had told me that I would forget my two oldest children, lost to adoption, once I had "children of my own." Now I wonder...what made my two oldest NOT children of my own?

In any event, though my two raised children have brought me so much joy, the formula didn't work. You cannot replace people with people. Mother's Day was bittersweet because I gloried in the sweet attention of my two youngest and silently grieved for the two who were not with me.

I would have dreams where I was getting married in a white dress to the father of my oldest child. I would get halfway down the aisle only to see everyone looking at me in horror. The music would morph into the sound of an infant's wail and when I looked down, the beautiful, beaded white lace of my gown would have turned black as pitch. When I looked up towards the altar, my groom would be gone and there would be the social worker from the SC Children's Bureau waiting for me with a blanket-lined basket.

That dream turned nightmare stayed with me for a few years. When I finally gave up, after 24 years, on a marriage that had been torture for both of us, I think all of us breathed a sigh of relief. I had already met the man who would replace my former boyfriend and then tower above him in every way as the love of my life. We were married in 1989 and I wore white and carried flowers. It wasn't a full-blown church wedding, but is was sweet, pretty and appropriate without looking like a "settled for" wedding. The music was the Pachelbel Canon.

I had worked hard for the few years prior to my second marriage, to regain the self-esteem that was stripped from me by the treatment I received from all who were responsible for the loss of my two oldest children. I had obsessed, for years, over the father of my oldest who really didn't deserve a single one of the tears I had shed over him. I had felt I didn't deserve all the things that were part of a young woman's life. I didn't even graduate with my friends, or the few I had retained, because I was forced to withdraw from school before they could expel me when I became pregnant. Expulsion from school was routine at that time.

I had taken the test for my GED and even taken a few college courses, but the course of my life was forever changed by the loss of my children. I entered into rape crisis counseling to deal with the assault that resulted in the conception of my second child and I started realizing that, maybe, just maybe, I did deserve better. No cap and gown, maybe, but self-respect would be wonderful. The self-loathing I had carried with me for years became limestone and hope was a river running through it, eroding and cutting away at it until it collapsed.

With the reunions, in 1993, with my two adult children surrendered in 1962 and 1963, and acknowledgement of the grief I had carried with me for over 33 years, the learning and growing process accelerated. To help with the mourning process, I wrote reams and reams of poetry and prose that were all about loss, rediscovery, hope and, finally, anger. I had a couple of good friends with whom I was able to share my grieving process and then I discovered the Internet and struck gold in the form of online, natural mothers' forums.

Now I sit here at age 65 and wonder at the years I lost to self-hatred, to the grandiosity of seeing myself as the lowest of the low. I have a solid, wonderful marriage and I am grateful. I have four children who are alive, fairly well, and fighting their own way through this jungle we call life. I have grandchildren and even great-grandchildren and family I love. I have made friends online, a fact which makes me smile, and some enemies, a fact that doesn't bother me near as much as it used to. I also have a fantastic little dog and laughter. And I have the ability to take that intimidated, coerced, insecure young mother and hold her in my arms and reassure her that she deserved better.

She deserved to keep her babies. She deserved to wear white.

8 comments:

Sandy Young said...

I hope I make you smile! You certainly do me...

This is such a sad post, Robin. I am so sorry. I married the first one who came along that I could tolerate, too and I wore "off-white" because I was "off-virgin". But, it was the prettiest dress I ever had! I knew my husband for 2 weeks and married him because he was going to Hawaii, and I had never been there...at least that is what I told myself. I actually married him because he was going to be thousands of miles from where I was, he was NOT the father of my child, and he wanted me.

Just Me said...

You give me hope that someday by own birth mother will stop punishing herself for her past. Although we are estranged, I wish that for her.

I am the only child she lost to adoption; the product of rape. And sadly, she's never received help for that terrible event. Her family is still unaware that this was the circumstance of my conception; they still harbor animosity toward her and I because they believe she was just loose. Then again, I think her mother was projecting since she got pregnant with my bmom out of wedlock with the soldier she was dating in 1958. (Bmom was born in 59.) They married before bmom was born but the marriage didn't last. For some reason, she seems to have blamed my bmom for everything wrong in her life after that.

Even if bmom and I can't put the pieces back together and have a relationship - I don't want her to suffer. You are an inspiration and you give me so much hope for her. Maybe one day, she'll wake up too.

KimKim said...

Yes you did deserve to have your children and to wear white. You are such a good writer too. I'm glad you have realized you worth now. I'm realizing mine too.

Von said...

She sure did!

Superwoman Spirit said...

Hi I am a new follower but so look forward to reading. This post is something I can relate to on so many levels. I never thought I would have a proper wedding let alone deserve one.
My situation was in the 80's and it was so crazy complicated. I cannot even imagine what you had to go through in your teens.
Hugs and so glad you found your husband and had a beautiful wedding!

Carlynne said...

Well, that brought back memories. I had the wedding but couldn't wear white either. It was only proper that I wear "ivory" instead, a stained white like my virtue - amazing to look back at those attitudes. Thankfully I married a good guy and soon to celebrate our 29th anniv. Sometimes I think I dodged a bullet. With the frame of mind I was in after losing my daughter, who knows what could've happened if someone else had come along.

Chris said...

I wore black & white the day I got married...

I have often thought if I won the lottery today I would GIVE myself a full-fledged wedding with all the trappings...which would include the fully white long flowing wedding gown, Maid of Honor and Bridesmaids, big reception, the whole shabang! Of course there would be no groom...just me! Why? Just cuz I could.

I have attended a few weddings in my adulthood where the Bride was pg, wore a beautiful white wedding gown, but she wasn't showing...and everyone knew it too! Have also attended or knew of weddings where the bride and groom had been co-habiting for a few years and still she wore white, marrying in church. Of course no one could be that dense to not believe the Happy Couple had not known each other in the biblical sense before marriage. My how times have changed. And I was always happy for any of these couples...

Thinking on that now...what was the difference with these brides in white who were either pg or were intimately involved with their grooms prior to marriage (and so many others knowing) and the unmarried mothers who lost their babies to adoption? These young women were not shamed and guilted for having sex prior to marriage, for becoming pg before marriage and their husbands-to-be had not abandoned them and their gestating children either. MRS still makes a whole lot of difference. Thousands upon thousands of young unmarried mothers and their newborns would have been SAVED from surrender and adoption with just those 3 little letters..MRS, that pack so much importance in our society.

Too bad so many fathers-to-be ran for the hills, as soon as they heard the word "pregnant"...and were given their own family's blessing as they 'ran for the hills'. Too bad so many grandparents stood in the way in our time. They would rather give away their grandchildren, pay for a maternity home...rather than insisting on marriage and paying for a wedding. Rather the parents of their pregnant unmarried daughters Chose to pay for a stay at a maternity home, insuring no marriage and no baby, 'as if' their own grandchild never existed and thus subjecting their own daughters to a life of torment and the same for some adoptees (the grandchildren) that acknowledge their own torment.
How sad, how cruel..some fathers and some families can be.

Anonymous said...

Reminded me of this song:

Billy Idol » White Wedding Lyrics

Hey little sister what have you done
Hey little sister who's the only one
Hey little sister who's your superman
Hey little sister who's the one you want
Hey little sister shot gun!

It's a nice day to start again
It's a nice day for a white wedding
It's a nice day to start again.

Hey little sister what have you done
Hey little sister who's the only one
I've been away for so long (so long)
I've been away for so long (so long)
I let you go for so long

It's a nice day to start again (come on)
It's a nice day for a white wedding
It's a nice day to start again.

(Pick it up)

Take me back home
There is nothin' fair in this world
There is nothin' safe in this world
And there's nothin' sure in this world
And there's nothin' pure in this world
Look for something left in this world
Start again
Come on

It's a nice day for a white wedding
It's a nice day to start again.
It's a nice day for a white wedding
It's a nice day to start again