My room was pleasantly dark when I heard my Mother call my sister. Within the layers of blankets I was warm and comfortable, whereas my room and the rest of the upstairs was unheated, in the old farmhouse. The winter outside was quiet, but for the last few days snow continually fell making it a winter wonderland and then temperatures plummeted well below zero degrees Fahrenheit. I snuggled down into my covers even further. I didn’t have to be up for at least an hour. It was five a.m. and Momma and Sherry were off to the beauty parlor. It was my sister’s wedding day and I promised Momma I would be up by six to get breakfast for my grandmother and aunts. I knew my father was already outside checking if the lane to the main road was open.
Momma and I prepared the food for the luncheon buffet prior to her family arriving for the wedding. I arranged the buffet table and set chairs up in all the rooms. There wouldn’t be much time to do anything after we arrived from church and the wedding mass. Even the bar was set up on the kitchen counter, waiting for Uncle Felix, to tend after he arrived at the brunch.
The day before the wedding was a flurry of activity. Momma and her Mother made sandwiches and other goodies for the evening reception in town. I was in town decorating the hall for an evening reception, covering tables and transforming the dull room to a cherry place for a wedding reception. The deep cranberry red and silver wedding colors helped the room immensely and the very tall, almost too large wedding cake gave a good focal point. When we were nearly done I went home to get Momma to check if everything was done and to bring all the food and store it in the refrigerators. We were all ready, unless of course some disaster came along.
As I forced myself out of bed, I feared the worst that could happen was that the weather would bring new snow to block the lane in the next few hours. It did not take long for that to happen. We were used to it, but then again on a wedding day it would not be good. As the first light of day broke over the horizon and I smiled and said thanks to a good day. Within the hour the sun’s rays fell upon the blanket of white snow causing it to twinkle and shine. The temperature was twenty-five below. Everything was rock hard and without any wind. On a day like that in Iowa, without the wind and with a strong sun you can go out side without a winter coat and not worry you will freeze. My sister had lucked out on her special day!!
Just as soon as I finished helping my Grandmother, I ran to change my clothes. Shortly after Momma and Sherry arrived back home. As I walked into the kitchen, Momma’s deep, brunette hair, as always, stunningly framed her face. Sis stood before the mirror tugging on a hair or group of hairs that she felt should have been put some place else, yet we all thought her hair and style were just right. Nope, don’t say that to my sister!!
Time was running out and my sister needed to get dressed. Once again her room was filled with huffs and puffs and groans and cries. Most people would have thought a disaster occurred, but Momma, Dad and I knew Sis was Sis. Soon on you learned that Momma tried her best to help when trouble sounded, sometimes she won and sometimes nothing could help! Momma hurried to finish dressing and quickly climbed the stairs looking striking in her Jacqueline Kennedy style navy blue wool suit. She always looked good in clothes, particularly because she varied in size and always slipped into a size five or six easily. After a short time, Momma and Sis were able to get her dressed. As she walked down the stairs, once again I said how much she looked like like Elizabeth Taylor, although on this day I wondered if Elizabeth Taylor could have ever worn white velvet dress to any of her weddings on a cold winter day.
Daddy drove my sister to the little country, church ten miles away for the ten am mass, in a big car he had loaned from the Ford dealer. Momma and I went to the church separately so that we could sneak out and get back to the farm and get the luncheon ready.
Before long, my cousin and I were at the altar along with the other attendants. My cousin and one of the male attendants already irritated my sister. Margaret Ann, my cousin wore black nylons. She was told many times flesh-toned nylons. The male attendant was asked to only wear a navy blue or black suit. As we stood there I thought, “Yes, he does stick out in his pale gray, slightly, ill-fitted suit!
I am to the right of Mr. Gray Suit!
Yet, brothers are brothers and smugly, I thought to myself—“see you needed me to be in the party because Margaret Ann and I are the only Catholics.” In those days, God forbid, if there wasn’t a Catholic in the wedding party.
It was time for my sister to come down the aisle so I put my childish thoughts in my pocket. The organist was playing an Interlude, stopped and began playing the processional when–(just after a few notes–)
No music……….just a church filled with silent, waiting people, silent without a whisper or the sound of organ music.
One second thirty seconds
A minute and a half a lot more seconds………………………….
I looked at my sister and father. Sherry’s lip was bit as usual, and I saw my father give her a tug. She balked, another tug—he looked determined. She looked steadfast. Then a father-daughter passed between then and with another minor tug my sister started down the aisle with out music. She desperately tried to smile, but it’s difficult to do that when you want to kill someone. Next the priest gave a little clap, a moment passes and the organ is heard. My father smiled, my sister still had murder written across her face, the priest looked as if he were praying thanks and my Mother, well that’s Momma sitting there only looking at my sister with love in her eyes.
As the mass ended and my sister and brother-in-law headed down the aisle, the wedding party followed them to the church’s entrance. At the door I quickly exited the church to get the car for Momma. As I returned my sister and husband just emerged from the church and as they came down the steps the guests threw rice and those little, glazed Italian Almonds, which seemed like little, deadly rocks when they hit you in the head. To this day I cannot imagine why they are at every Italian wedding. Now I stay away when someone throws them.
The luncheon was well received; in fact there were so many guests, uninvited guests. Every one who knew my new brother-in-law came even though they were not invited to the luncheon. Then, the attendant in the light gray, ill-fitting suit had a few more drinks than he should. My Uncle had to cut him off at the bar and I had to get my brother-in-law to get him out of the house. Funny, it was my sister who got him out of the house. She grabbed his tie and just kept walking until he was in the car so that someone could drive him to a motel. She was always good at taking care of things—throughout my grade school and high school Sherry always took over when a bully came by!!
Happily, the evening reception was uneventful and fun. My Father took my sister and new husband back to the farm, as well as, my Aunt to help my sister change for her honeymoon. Shortly after their arrival, my Aunt who was on the first floor, heard one of my sister’s very, very upset shreeks. Aunty also knew Sherry and instead of smiling and then going, she took off at break neck speed to find out why my sister called with such a tone. One step, five steps, almost where she could see my sisters room. The door was open and my sister was tearing her suitcase apart. As Aunty arrived at step 20 and rounded the bannister she raced to the room. Sherry looked up and screamed,
“Someone stole my lace panties.”
My Father arrived next and he and my Aunt tried to persuade my sister not to let it bother her, that it was more important to change and they would figure out everything later. Finally, Sherry was ready and were on their way to their honeymoon, while my Aunt and Father continued to question where the lace panties went.
Momma and I arrived afterward. My Father told my Mother what happened. Momma looked upset yet needed to check with everyone that was arriving and make sure they had all they needed to go to bed. Eventually, Momma went in to check on her Mother and sister. While chatting she went to the bureau drawer, reached in, paused and exclaimed–“Panties and my fifty dollars-that is just too much to take tonight.” Immediately she had the culprit in her mind.
She turned and explained what she meant and even though she did not accuse anyone her family did not take the news well and wild, Italian, Fortino bicker session began. In record time, my father was in my Mother’s bedroom and told everyone to go to sleep and if they could act like this, then in the morning they could say good bye.
The next morning early, Momma’s family was packed and leaving. Kisses at the door were less warm. As the last relative left, Momma closed the kitchen door, leaned back on the door and said to my Father, “Well, I hope the crook never sleeps–I will get to the end of this!!”
The caper of the panties and the money never was solved and Momma never forgot.