On July 3, 1976, I went on a date with this man:
His name is Graham Stokes. We'd been friends in high school for years. The picture doesn't really show it, but Graham is huge. 6'5, 250 pounds. He was a professional football player. But inside he's the stereotypical marshmallow. He'd returned from Toronto for our high school graduation ceremony and we'd met up after not seeing each other for months. Anyway, we went on a date the following Saturday, as friends, and while on that date he introduced me to another man. This man:
You know him as Gizmo Guy. I hate to admit this, but I barely remembered him a week later. Why? Because Graham had taken me to his 'best buddy's house' where we met to go to a party at a local campsite. His best buddy? A guy who I'd dated a couple times who was thoroughly horrible to me when we dated. So I had no intention of being nice to anyone in that house. I ignored them all. And stewed and snipped at Graham the whole evening. But Gizmo Guy was intrigued enough apparently that the next weekend when Graham returned home, he asked Graham about me. Graham and GG kidded around and the request for my phone number became an auction.
"I'll give you everything I've got in my pockets for her phone number," said Gizmo Guy. Graham took the offer. Gizmo Guy had a penny. Yup, he bought me for a penny. And not only did Graham give him my phone number, he actually phoned me up and brought Gizmo Guy down to my house to meet me the next Saturday, July 10th. And then took us, as a chaperone on our first date. He said later it was because he didn't want me to feel pressured and if I didn't like Gizmo Guy then he'd drop GG off and take me home himself.
Well, Gizmo Guy and I ended up making a date for July 17th when we went to the stock car races in Peterborough. We dated a few times:
And on May 6th, 1978 - twenty-nine years ago at about this time of day, too - in George St. United Church in Peterborough, Ontario, I became Mrs. Gizmo Guy.
The day before the wedding had gone horribly. The best man's mother had made our wedding cake. While we were transporting it to the restaurant where we were having our reception, something shot off Gizmo Guy's dashboard and just about decapitated the top layer. Thankfully it was saved, and it looks pretty good, doesn't it? (By the way, I've still got the little basket of flowers - it's on my bedroom dresser.)
The tuxes that Gizmo Guy and his groomsmen had rented arrived and none of them fit well - in fact the Best Man's was completely wrong - I guess they couldn't believe that the measurements that had been sent in were correct. And the usher's pants were at least a foot too long. So I was already starting to panic when my bridesmaid (who had been working in Algonquin Park several hours to the north) phoned me to say she'd missed her bus home, so she wouldn't be there in time. Luckily we got ahold of her father who rushed north to fetch her. During the rehearsal, the usher's wife, another friend of ours, stood in for the missing bridesmaid. When the minister said everyone would have to stand through the entire service, she suggested that, since Jim's grandmother was there, and was quite frail and unable to stand for that long, that perhaps, at the bride's request, the minister could ask everyone to be seated once we started our vows. The minister had a conniption and spent an hour - yes, an hour - telling her how people in Russia are proud to stand for three hours or more to prove their faith. The usher was trying to placate both the minister and his wife, I was in tears, the organist who was there was apologizing to everyone for the minister's behaviour, and the best man's mother, who was an elder at the church was letting everyone know how she didn't appreciate the minister's rant - at full volume.
So I was extremely happy that the wedding day went well. Except for one small glitch. My sister, mother and I had appointments to have our hair done the morning of the wedding at the local hair dressers in Pontypool (a tiny village and closest form of civilization - population 250 at the time). She did mine first, then I got sent home while she worked on my mother and sister's hair. Except my father was hanging around to drive them home. And I found myself home alone, trying to dress myself and answer the door as the visitors started arriving. And the photographer arrived early and decided to start taking pictures of me.
Take a look at the above picture. The one of me looking down on the service? Notice anything strange about it? Yup, those are curlers in my hair. Because it was raining that morning, the hairdresser had decided to leave the curlers in the ringlets by my ears. And I'd forgotten them. And no one actually looked at the bride until I was ready to go to the church and by then half the pictures had been taken and we were now in a time crunch. So a lot of my pictures have those lovely white plastic doohickeys holding the curlers in place.
We had our reception, then headed out to Toronto where we stayed the first night in the Prince Hotel. They gave us the Penthouse Suite - and since Jim worked for IBM he got a company discount and it cost us a whole $28!!!
When we left the following morning the poor maid was on her knees trying to pick the confetti out of the carpet. At some point before the wedding, probably while I was at the hairdressers, my father had broken into my luggage and stuffed everything in it with confetti - socks, nightgown, sleeves of my shirts, even my bra! So when I pulled our my carefully packed nightgown that night, there was this huge shower of confetti filling the air.
We spent the next few days in Niagara Falls.
We stayed at a small hotel called "Michaels' Inn" and again, were given the best suite in the house - king sized bed, a sitting room, two bathrooms, two balconies, and did all the touristy things - saw the floral clock, went through Madam Tussaud's Wax Museum, wandered up and down Clifton Hill (a very circus-like environment - and that was pre-casino days.) We drove to Niagara-on-the-Lake, and went to a couple of other museums in the area. And had a thoroughly wonderful honeymoon.
Oh, and Graham? Well, he tried dating my sister for a while, then just before Jim and I announced we were going to marry, Graham approached me privately and said he'd made a mistake and chosen the wrong sister. That I didn't have to keep going with Gizmo Guy just because he'd set us up, he wouldn't be offended if I didn't want to go out with Gizmo Guy anymore, and would I consider going on a date with him. Um, no, Graham, that ain't gonna happen. But he was Gizmo Guy's Best Man. As a thank-you for introducing us, I gave Graham a present before we married. A small tube of pennies with a note that said 'Paid in Full'. Whenever we talk, he always tells me that he still has that tube of pennies. He's never has married though I always thought he'd probably bend over backward for his wife when he decided upon one. He's come close a few times but never managed to talk a girl into standing at the altar beside him. He's now living up on a reserve by North Bay, and has come close to death a few times because of diabetes. We talk every now and then, but not often enough.
And Gizmo Guy and I? Life's thrown us some crap that's been tough to deal with, but thankfully our marriage is strong and that bond has allowed us to overcome those obstacles. And yes, even after 29 years of marriage, we still hold hands and drive our kids nuts by kissing when we're making dinner. Oh, and on our anniversary 14 years ago today? We renewed our vows when I converted to Gizmo Guy's faith and the priest insisted we marry in the Catholic church.
Yup, two anniversaries for the price of one.
My present from Gizmo Guy this year is a trip to the RWA's annual convention in Dallas so I can pursue my dream of writing. What a hubby! Especially since I leave on July 10th - the 31st anniversary of our first date.