How’s Bayou? Full-body Scanner, Here I come!
Early on in our marriage, Millie and I decided if we were to wed again in a parallel universe, we wouldn't do it the day before her mother's birthday.
On the surface, it was a great idea. Our wedding would be like a great family reunion at Madewood. People from around the country -- and globe -- would be there to rejoice that we had finally, in our mid-thirties, found a mate. We thought it was a good thing, too, as we'd ultimately decided that no one else would have either of us.
What we hadn’t counted on was that we’d never be able to slip away for a romantic anniversary halfway around the world, unless we could make it back to town the next day, at least for a late dinner with Mildred, who’d be crushed if we weren’t at home to celebrate her birthday.
We were able, however, to slip in a trip before the wedding. Several weeks before exchanging vows, we flew down to West Palm Beach to spend the weekend with Millie's rich Uncle Douglas. Mildred had decided that her brother should give her precious Millie the fancy silver flatware that had sat in a cabinet since his wife's death, and had basically sent us on a search and destroy mission. Don't come back without the silver was the unspoken message.
Never mind that, because of our advancing ages, each of our mothers had outfitted us with silver, crystal and china; and we were certain that the wedding registry at Adler's would produce additional goods. By the time all was said and done, we could put silver spoons in at least 48 of our closest friends' mouths at a single sitting.
But Uncle Douglas's silver would look great at Madewood -- an antique rose pattern that would fit in with the decor.
We were uneasy when we woke up Sunday morning at his house and realized that the silverware hadn't been mentioned. Panicked, we surreptitiously called Mildred, cupped our hands over the telephone receiver and spoke in low, conspiratorial tones. Several minutes later, she had her brother on the phone asking him how the kids liked the flatware.
Mahogany silver chest in hand, along with a 24-inch-tall Art Nouveau silver vase and a slew of long-gone-Aunt-Harriet's costume jewelry, we hurriedly piled into Douglas's showy white Rolls-Royce and headed to the airport.
Not once had it occurred to us that even prior to 9/11 we might have trouble taking 12 knives onto the plane -- or that two casually-dressed thirty-somethings toting antique silver and jewelry might arouse suspicion.
The ticket agent was firm, but sympathetic, as we dialed the number for Douglas's house so he could describe the items he'd given Millie and confirm that he hadn't been robbed. Of course, that was the day he decided to take the picturesque, winding route home. Finally, moments before departure time, he answered the phone; and we hopped on the flight, still under a lingering cloud of suspicion.
Back in New Orleans, Millie went about the usual soon-to-be-bride things. She quickly realized that if she told someone she was getting married in two weeks, appointments would miraculously open up. She vowed to tell receptionists this for the rest of her life.
The wedding was a grand affair, with our friend Meda nearly stealing the show by showing up dressed as Joan Crawford. Never mind: Millie got everything she wanted, including The New Leviathan Oriental Foxtrot Orchestra and a gospel choir by torchlight in the old family cemetery on the grounds as the final highlight of the day. We swiftly removed a guest who’d slipped into the cemetery and begun playing and raucously singing “Dixie” on the piano, to the amazement of choir and bride alike. Years later, the dramatically-inclined lady was a flashy “Big Mama” in a rip-roaring production of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.
Someone forgot Millie’s Aunt Myrtle at the motel in Thibodaux and had to rush back after the ceremony to retrieve her, and Millie will go to her grave convinced that my mother deliberately broke her ankle the week before the wedding so that she could make a sympathy-grabbing entrance in a wheelchair.
But, most important, the birthday brunch Sunday morning was everything that my mother-in-law could have wanted: Her second daughter married, and family and friends there to wish her well.
A friend drove us to the airport that evening, and we were surprised and delighted to see my longtime assistant, an excellent photographer who had chronicled the lighter moments of the wedding, waiting for us with an envelope in hand. Typically sweet: it must be a photo from the day before, I thought.
“I’ve come to hand in my resignation,” she calmly informed me as she slipped the envelope into my hand. “The photos will be on your desk when you return.”
Was I going to have bad luck at airports for the rest of my life? Should I plan to travel only by bus, car or train in the future?
Such worries faded as we stepped onto the plane in our new role as newlyweds.
Monday, October 17th, our thirtieth wedding anniversary, I’ll be boarding a plane to North Carolina, where Millie has spent the summer; and the next day we may drive by the house – now owned by others – that her mother built in the early 1980s on a nearby lake with the $70,000 Uncle Douglas gave her on her 70th birthday after reducing her to tears several weeks before. We’ll at least drink a toast to her memory.
That is, if I make it through airport security.
How's Bayou? the secrets of remaining sane while running an upscale B&B on Bayou Lafourche, is written weekly by Keith Marshall, a former Rhodes Scholar and graduate of Yale and Oxford universities who now juggles his time between Dixie Art Supplies in New Orleans and Madewood Plantation House in Napoleonville.
How’s Bayou? the secrets of remaining sane while running an upscale B&B on Bayou Lafourche, is written weekly for NolaVie by Keith Marshall, a former Rhodes Scholar and graduate of Yale and Oxford universities who now runs Madewood Plantation House in Napoleonville.