Journey to the Deep South
I went on a cruise in 1986 and met some of the funniest people in the world: Jennifer, Cynthia and Kathy. We had the best week of our lives, but afterwards we all went our seperate ways: Jennifer to Pennsylvania, Cynthia to Kentucky, Kathy to Mississippi, and I to Atlanta. We kept in touch for a while and one day, we all received wedding invitations from Kathy. I got in touch with the rest of the gang and we all made plans to meet in Jackson, Mississippi for the wedding.
Out of the trio, Jennifer was always my favorite. We met on the dance floor of one of the bars the first night of the cruise. It's amazing how much I remember of that night! They were playing Katrina & the Waves "Walking on Sunshine". It just so happened that I had recently learned a line dance to that song and I gathered several strangers, including Jennifer, and taught them the dance that night. Later on, after several pitchers of Long Island Teas, Jennifer and I got married. It wasn't a legally binding wedding, but something we decided would be fun. We quickly threw a wedding party together- including bridesmaids and groomsmen. We didn't have a preacher and it was too late to disturb the captain, so we found a girl that had several earrings in the shape of crusifixes and decided that she could perform the ceremony. For the ring, I fashioned a cocktail stirrer into a circle and slipped it on her finger at the appropriate time during the ceremony. Years later, when I met her fiance, Jennifer introduced me to him as her first husband!
Cynthia was the makeup queen of Bowling Green, Kentucky. She loved her makeup and at any time of the day or night, she would put Tammy Faye Baker to shame! She loved to wear the brightest blue over her eyes-- not just her eyelids, but all the way up to her eyebrows. She traveled with several makeup bags and a trifold mirror, complete with those big round lightbulbs that surrounded the frame. She brought all of that crap with her on the cruise, and to the wedding in Mississippi. Cynthia was a former beauty queen- she had won the "Little Miss Bowling Green" pageant at age 6, but her success was never repeated in future pageants. Twenty years later, she could still feel that tiara on her head, like an amputee might experience during a "ghost arm" episode. She still referred to herself as the former Miss Bowling Green (she learned to leave the "Litle" part out of the esteemed title).
I didn't know Kathy all that well. If it weren't for the others going to the wedding, I probably would've stayed home- but I was looking forward to the reunion-- it had been months since we had seen each other! So, I made the long drive from Atlanta to Jackson and picked up the girls at the airport. We stayed in a hotel in Jackson, but the wedding was in Hazelhurst, about an hour away.
The day of the wedding, Cynthia got up at about 5am to start getting ready-- of course that meant that we all had to get up-- who could sleep with all of those bright lights reflecting off of the trifold mirrors? Jennifer and I were dressed and ready to go within the hour, but Cynthia was only on her first coat of facepaint. We decided to go have breakfast, while Cynthia put her finishing touches on her work of art. We came back an hour later, just as Cynthia was finishing up-- she had already put down the spatula and was applying false eyelashes at the time.
We got to Hazelhurst a couple of hours early and decided to kill some time at a little roadside diner named "Evelyn's Cafe". We enjoyed a great meal and still had about an hour til we were due at the church, so we decided to order dessert. We each got a slice of pie, but I was informed that the cherry pie was in the freezer, so it'd have to defrost a little while. No problem, we waited. It was worth the wait- probably the best cherry pie I ever had.
On to the church. The service wasn't that memorable, but Kathy was beautiful, as all brides are. Sometime during the service, I noticed that Jennifer was wearing the cocktail stirrer wedding ring that I had placed on her finger the night of our shotgun wedding! I couldn't believe that she had kept it!
After the wedding, we went to the reception in the home of a Ms. Montrose Mitchell. The house was incredible and it just screamed antibellum. The driveway was lined with live oaks dripping with spanish moss. There were also the obligatory azaleas, magnolias and dogwoods covering the rest of the yard. I expected that at sunset we would be able to witness Miss Scarlett crouching on the ground by an oak tree reciting her monologue from Gone with the Wind: "If I have to lie, cheat, steal or kill, I'll never be hungry again!".
As the only people that came from out of town, we were the hit of the wedding. Everyone at the reception wanted to meet us-- most of them had seen us at Evelyn's Cafe earlier and wanted to know which one of us had ordered the cherry pie that Evelyn (herself) had to defrost. I love small towns- I love the way that every person in a small town knows every detail of everyone else's lives. There are no secrets in a small town, especially one like Hazelhurst.