It was a family celebration. So many had traveled a long distance to be there. This was a special occasion where everyone dressed in crisply pressed outfits, shined their shoes, and combed their hair so it was just perfect. Cowlicks were on their best behavior, or Aqua-netted into submission.
I wore a yellow and white dress with a embroidered bumblebees. On the peasant-styled top half a single bee sat as the rest of the bee colony scattered and buzzed along the bottom left corner of my ruffled skirt. I remember knee high dress socks and patent leather molly-brown-hush-puppy shoes on my fidgeting feet. The sense of energy in this day was overwhelming in my six or seven year old body. My mind and body was a beehive of anticipation waiting for the festivities to begin.
My Grandmother always dressed in modest, but stylish ensembles and her hair was coiffed to fluffy silver-white perfection. Grandma smelled of sweet powder and when she bent over to give me a kiss. I was happily taken off guard by her baby-soft skin, her precise rose--colored lipstick and impressed by her coordinated pearl necklace and earring set. On this day, because it was so special - she wore a lily corsage that I tried to be careful not to bump when she gave me a squeeze. Grandpap, who looked and smelled just as handsome as she, stood proudly as he gently pinned the flower and ribbon to her dress collar. She in turn pinned his matching, but not quite as frilly corsage, onto the lapel of his dapper pinstriped soft-grey suit. In their celebration attire, my grandparents looked like beautiful blue, grey and pink coordinated bookends. They fit so well together, it was hard to see where one ended and the other began.
The room was the largest I'd ever seen. It was bigger than my churches fellowship hall or school cafeteria and much fancier too. Tall long stemmed glasses, linen wrapped silverware, and single stemmed roses in crystal filled each table waiting for people to fill it. In the middle of the ceiling of the banquet room a candelabra shimmered in the dimmed light. Colors danced as the light filtered through the teardrops of cut glass.
There were place cards at each setting telling everyone to sit, and my Mom helped me find my spot with all my similar-aged cousins and sister. The boys sat with the boys and the girls sat with the girls as the adults mixed in at tables as marked. The servers dressed in black slacks and white tops and carried impressive amounts of breadbaskets, side salads and entrees to each table. Even the children's tables had their very own servers.
With each passing course, the sound level raised a notch or two. Silverware and glasses clinked, joined in and making their festive remarks on the occasion. We all happily ate our meals and our table in particular debated on if the rose-molded pats of butter should be eaten on the bread, or left as is because they were so pretty.
The party progressed from appetizers and salad to dinner, and as each plate was cleared away the moment we all were waiting for came one moment closer. A hush fell on the room as my Grandpap stood and gently took my Grandmas hand. "Today is the anniversary of our wedding Glady's, and I would like to sing the song I sang on our wedding to you as my gift."
My Grandpap's sweet tenor voice range pitch-perfect and strong...
I love you truly, truly dear. Life with it’s sorrow, life with it’s tear,
fades into dreams when I feel you are near.
For I love you truly,Truly dear!
A love ’tis something, to feel your kind hand.
Ah yes, ’tis something, by your side to stand.
Gone is the sorrow, gone doubt and fear,
for you love me truly, Truly dear!
In that moment, time stood still and my Grandparents became a ageless picture of two hearts and lives brought together by love. Over time, my Grandparents love became the bookends to house all of us: parents, Uncles, Aunts, what seemed to be a thousand cousins, my siblings and even a yellow and white bumble-bee dress wearing me.
My Grandpap's gift to my Grandmother is one that still rings in my ears. I can't hear that Perry Como song or see or smell a lily corsage without being swept away by the overwhelming memory of that day. But more than the linen, china, dress clothes and parties, I know that singing and living love was an everyday occurrence for my Grandparents. On any given day, Grandpap would stop what he was doing, take Grandma's hand and sing… "I love you truly, truly dear…" She would smile knowing that what they shared was greater than anything one day could hold. Their love was true.
Corsages and songs have a way of reminding me of love's presence in all circumstances. Having witnessed my Grandparent's love, I not only learned a wonderful song but the importance of living love everyday; and for that gift Grandpap and Grandma -
"I love you truly, truly dears."