Wishes and Weddings

“There have been many exciting times in my life, but two of the most exciting were the weddings of Cathy and Mary Carol. They were a lot of work, but I enjoyed every minute of it. It was fun making all the refreshments, seeing all the beautiful girls, making Cathy’s wedding dress as well as the bridesmaid’s dresses for Mary Carol and Beth [Roberson], and all the other exciting things that went on. When Mary Carol was accepted for medical school and when Cathy got a job with Southern Living magazine we felt that all our highest hopes for them were falling into place. We have not measured our success in life in terms of money but in having such wonderful children and grandchildren.”

I know much of Sara’s memoirs were written with her rose-colored glassed perched firmly on her nose. That’s the prerogative of the autobiographer and it often makes for a more interesting narrative. But I have to draw the line of blind acceptance at her statement that “the weddings…..were a lot work, but I enjoyed every minute of it.” Mine and Cathy’s weddings were like the famous Evans family Christmas Eve Party on steroids. Those December 24th parties (which we will eventually cover in a blog, don’t worry) were high octane, labor intensive celebrations that we all loved, but every year I feared for the stability of my parents’ marriage and wondered which of them was going after the other with a turkey carving knife first.

So, the weddings. Sara may have “enjoyed every minute” of the runup to those joyous occasions, but she had a funny way of showing it. Cathy and Tom Adams announced their engagement in the fall of 1972, planning for a January 1973 wedding. Sara hurtled into overdrive: Planning each detail, cooking all the reception foods, making the wedding dress (think about that pressure, folks) and two bridesmaid dresses, dealing with the First Presbyterian Church hierarchy, practically moving in with Coleman Craig for flower discussions, etc. etc. etc. I don’t remember coming home from college at all that fall and Russell came down to Jackson at every opportunity, ostensibly to go to Ole Miss games with me but more likely to escape the escalating tension at 409 East Adams. By Christmas, the train was rocking along the rails at a frightening clip and we were all scrambling for cover.

Sara and Russell knew that January weddings were a dodgy bet. Their own had been a soggy challenge up in Minter City, but Cathy’s Saturday dawned winter bleak but dry. A couple of days before, with each and every detail seemingly covered,  all of Sara’s careful plans hit an unanticipated and uncontrollable bump: A prominent local citizen committed suicide and his funeral was planned for a downtown church at the same time as the wedding. Sara took this as a personal affront and went ballistic, venting her wrath (not publicly, of course) on all members of that tragedy-stricken family, their denomination and the sheer insensitivity of a man who would exit this life without consulting the social calendar. I don’t know if Valium was available in the early ’70s, but we could have used a large bottle of it.

Cathy’s wedding went off without a hitch. My fondest memory of that day involves a confluence of weather and history. The Vietnam Peace Treaty had just been signed and President Nixon decreed that at 11am on January 27th (the time and date of the wedding), all the church bells in America were to ring. The day had started out very overcast and dull, but just as Cathy started down the aisle on Russell’s arm, the sun broke through the clouds, flooding the Presbyterian Church with sunshine. Almost simultaneously, the bells of the Episcopal, Methodist, Baptist and every other church in town began to peal, along with the courthouse chimes, almost as if the whole town and heaven itself were putting their imprint of approval on what was occurring there on Main Street. It was a magical moment and one that even Sara couldn’t have orchestrated.

Ed. note: There are no pictures here because that was the Worst Bad Hair Day anyone ever had for me. And it’s my blog, so I rule. No pictures.

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About sec040121

Hello....I'm in possession of a priceless collection of memoirs and memorabilia left by my mother, Sara Evans Criss. She was a native and lifelong (88 years!) devotee of our small town, who covered this peculiar and volatile corner of the world for 30 years as the Memphis Commercial Appeal's Greenwood bureau chief, a job that started out with debutantes and high school football and wound up spang in the midst of one of the twentieth century's most enduring social upheavals. This blog is dedicated to her memory and the legacy she left behind, both for her family and her community.
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