Friday marks the first day of autumn, but I said my goodbye to summer in the shimmering light of early September at a vineyard in southern West Virginia.
That late summer weekend christened the beginning for a new bride and groom. My friend Carolyn and I drove to Beckley Thursday to decorate for the bridal bowling brunch we, along with a second Carolyn, hosted the next day.
Wait. What? You’ve never heard of a bridal bowling brunch?
Think red and white checked tables and sunflower-filled vases overlooking bowling lanes. Think hamburgers, hot dogs, sweet potato fries and homemade apple pie.
Picture a bride feasting, then rolling strikes with her bridesmaids and guests. All brides should bowl the day before their nuptials.
I’d like to say Friday’s bowling brunch inspired the festivities to come. But a cozy dinner Thursday evening at the home of the bride’s grandparents out-shined our bowling shoes.
A few family members, the honored couple, and the Carolyns and I took chairs on each side of the long dining table.
At one end sat the king of the house—I call him Debonaire Dick. His lovely queen—Beautiful Barbara—sat opposite her husband.
The room buzzed with conversation and laughter until a fork tapped a wine glass, tinkling us silent as we gave the grandfather our full attention.
Debonaire Dick smiled upon his granddaughter. Then, his eyes found and rested upon his own bride.
In preamble to priceless tales of their courtship and early marriage, Dick said, “Barbara and I recently celebrated 65 years of marriage.”
His stories were laced with adulation for the girl of his dreams. So much so that, at one point, Barbara said, “Wow, this must be my night!”
Indeed, it was.
Dick told us he met the love of his life at a fraternity-sorority mixer at West Virginia University.
“I hadn’t planned to go,” he said. “I had a big chemistry test the next morning. Now, mind you, I liked chem. I did. But chem didn’t like me.”
“You know there was hazing back in those days,” said the one-time frat pledge. “When I told the pledge chair I wouldn’t be at the mixer, he said, ‘But I’ve got you paired with Beautiful Barbara.'”
Dick had never met Beautiful Barbara and, with a chemistry test looming, didn’t care to meet her or any other gal that night.
“Listen, man, you know I’m pre-med. Now, I’ve got to study. I just can’t make it,” he said.
“OK,” said the pledge chair. “Bend over.”
Dick touched his toes and endured a fierce whack from a thick wooden paddle.
“I won’t be there,” he said.
“Ok,” the pledge chair repeated. “Bend over.”
Dick absorbed two additional body-racking whacks.
“Ummm….,” said the pledge, “maybe I can stop by for a little while.”
The bride’s grandfather paused and gazed upon her grandmother—captivated. His soft eyes must have radiated that same glow at the mixer—when they beheld her for the first time.
He didn’t know then that Beautiful Barbara had a boyfriend. He didn’t know that, at evening’s end, she thought to herself, “This was so much fun! Why do I have a steady boyfriend?”
By the time Dick became privy to this information, it mattered not. Nor did it matter to him that—for a good while—Beautiful Barbara’s ex-boyfriend followed them every time they went out on the town in Morgantown.
None of it mattered because Debonaire Dick knew—paddling be damned and Chemistry test failed—that he had won.
Magic filled the room that night and lingered over each event thereafter, gifting the bride-to-be and her groom with a perfect start.