42 years – and counting

Sherri Gardner HowellFarragut, Kitchen Table Talk

On Tuesday, my husband, Neville, and I celebrated the fact that 42 years ago, we got married. I am proud of our years as husband and wife and, the Good Lord Willing, we will just keep on counting up every Sept. 3rd.

I don’t know anyone who has been married for 40-plus years who won’t tell you that happily-ever-after doesn’t mean happily-every-day. Like anything worth having, marriage is a commitment that requires the people involved to work at it, to be committed to it and to grow with it. The reasons people don’t make it through the rough times are as different as people are. The reasons people do make it through the rough times boil down to love, respect and faith. If you have all three for each other and family, chances are great that anniversaries will keep on coming.

I dug out a picture of Neville and me on our wedding day that featured the entire wedding party to post on Facebook to commemorate the day. Looking at that photo, all the fun, tears, craziness and “bloopers” of that day 42 years ago came rolling back into what I am lately referring to as my “Swiss cheese memory.”

Sept. 3, 1977, at First Baptist Church in Lexington, Tenn.

What do you remember about your wedding day? From the day the question “Will you marry me?” is asked and answered, brides-to-be plan and orchestrate every minute of the big day, fully expecting to remember every moment and – as bridezillas prove – fully believing that the slightest deviation from plan will “ruin the whole day.”

I was not a bridezilla. I wasn’t even overbearing about what I wanted and didn’t want, except for two things: I wanted everyone to have a good time, and I wanted to be surrounded by family and friends.

(I also wanted tie-dyed bridesmaids’ dresses but loved my mother more than the idea.)

The irony is that what you really remember about your wedding – especially after 42 years – are all the things that you didn’t plan.

I remember my mother finding out that Neville, his parents and half the groomsmen were playing 9-holes of golf the morning of the wedding. She freaked out, convinced they would never make it to the church for the 5 p.m. ceremony.

I remember crying when my dad’s family arrived at the church from North Carolina, which sent me straight back to the make-up chair with very little time left, as I am not a pretty crier.

I remember my soon-to-be sister-in-law, Nancy, who was a bridesmaid, leaving her bra at the hotel, and we were dressing at the church. My Uncle Lanoice had to drive her back to get it. She ran into the church waving it over her head to let us know, as we watched from the upstairs church window, that she had found it.

I remember my cherished youngest Ward cousins all gathered around me, two handsome in their suits and three beautiful in their special dresses, telling me I looked just like “that bride on the top of cakes.”

I remember my brother, who was tasked with giving-away-the-bride, shaking so much as we stood at the back of the church that we had to sit down, sending the lady helping with the wedding into apoplexy as I wrinkled my dress and veil.

I remember that all six of my bridesmaids cried – some a little and some a lot.

I remember sneaking a peek through the door to see Neville and the groomsmen at the front of the church and thinking about his Uncle Randy, who died in April before our wedding.

I remember that my friend Lynne sang like an angel and made me cry, again, as my mother was escorted down the aisle.

I remember the sigh of relief from my brother as he put my hand into Neville’s and that Neville’s hand was now the one shaking.

And I remember thinking, as we turned to leave the church: “Now the fun starts…”

I was referring to the reception, but the truth of 42-years-and-counting was there.


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