We were caught up in the social whirlwind of planning, measuring, fitting, remeasuring, and all that went with preparation for a wedding. My grandmother even showed up from the States for the event. She took an immediate shine to Virginia and between her, my mother, and my father crested every wave of bureaucratic procedure that was thrown against us.
First, we were required to have counseling. This was from a Chaplain at the base church. He wasn't married so I began to wonder just what he could offer in the way of advice to young kids about to be married. We both decided he was giving a pro-forma talk just so he could check off the box marked 'counseled'. We already knew commitment, and told him so. We already knew the roadblocks, hassles, and red tape they would throw at us. There wasn't a single thing he said that helped us at all.
Next on the list was facing the housing office. This bureaucratic domain was run by a dour-faced elderly German that, when pressed, would revert into pretending to not understand or misinterpret what you were saying. I bypassed that by responding in German to his questions. Virginia did also. This considerably softened him and by the time we were finished, he had stamped his approval, in quadruplicate, for Virginia to move out of her parent's quarters and into my dad's quarters with me.
Fitting Virginia's wedding gown took a lot out of me. Every time I saw my beautiful bride-to-be in the gown I was struck dumb. She was beautiful, radiant, and glowed from within. The workers in the little downtown shop where she bought it all chipped in together to buy us a wedding gift. A huge feather comforter.
The wedding rehearsal went slowly, with each of us trying to remember what we had to go, and were we had to do when we got there. Finally, we were through and headed for the O-club for a rehearsal dinner. It was a very festive occasion and we even had a band. A large bunch of our friends showed up as guests and we all had fun; the girls over in one corner fussing over Virginia and the guys with me kidding a joshing about how we had managed it. I never once mentioned the real reason. That would have been poor form.
The music stopped and my dad went to the microphone and made a little speech. It was the most human I'd ever seen him. Usually he was pretty rigid and didn't show emotion very much, but tonight he was awash in emotion. He congratulated us on our upcoming wedding and called Virginia's dad up to the stage.
Her father did pretty much the same thing, but when he finished, a rolling table was pushed out from the kitchen loaded down with champagne glasses. We were invited to take one for a toast. Once we were all with glasses, he made the toast.
Bear, his nickname due to his size, spoke: "At first, I was somewhat opposed to this wedding. But in the past month, I've come to respect my son-in-law to be. He's a level headed young man that is certain to go far in this world. With my daughter at his side, how could he fail? Now, I want you all to join me in a toast: to Tom and Virginia."
"To Tom and Virginia," everyone repeated and drank their glasses down.
I gave a sign to Bernie and he nodded. The lights dimmed, and the opening bars of a wonderful Platters song began. I stood and offered my hand to Virginia. I told her it was a tradition for us to have a solo dance. She took it, flushed colorfully under her chin, and we went to center floor where I enfolded her in my arms.
(My Prayer, by the Platters)
When the twilight is gone and no songbirds are singing
When the twilight is gone you come into my heart
And here in my heart you will stay while I pray
My prayer is to linger with you
At the end of the day in a dream that's divine
My prayer is a rapture in blue
With the world far away and your lips close to mine
Tonight while our hearts are aglow
Oh tell me the words that I'm longing to know
My prayer and the answer you give
May they still be the same for as long as we live
That you'll always be there at the end of my prayer
At the end of the song, I twirled her outward, caught her by cupped fingertips, and pulled her back into my arms; then I lowered her backwards and bent to kiss her as the last notes faded. It was perfect timing.
My mom told me later that it was a classy thing to do and there wasn't a dry eye at the entire table and most of Virginia's girlfriends were snuffling into napkins.
* * *
The school term eventually came to a close, which meant our wedding day was very close. As it approached, she and I got very nervous. She would grow silent as we sat in her living room, or became somber when out with friends. When I asked her what was troubling her, she would smile brightly and change the subject. When I mentioned this to her mom, she told me that Virginia had a touch of morning sickness and was uneasy at times. I was learning a whole new way of life and a vocabulary to boot.
She overcame her morning sickness and we began making the rounds of the places downtown we'd visited while this whole wonderful thing built up. Hans, the engineer and Gerd his fireman, our two friends from the train yard, were overjoyed by the news. I asked them if they would come to the wedding and they accepted. Franz and Angelina took the news in stride. They knew all along we weren't married but both of them weren't about to tell on us when we met and stayed at their Inn. Franz told me to name a date where they could host a small gathering of our families in their dining room. I told him I'd get back with a date. Angelina hugged both of us and wished us all the luck for the future.