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Wedding season, with excerpts of memoirs by Charles Heckman and Gloria O’Neil.
6 minutes


A lot of couples planned their weddings before and during the Covid pandemic and rushed to save the date and grab a venue before others did. Now prices are rising, and supplies are dwindling, complicating their plans. But the weddings go on no matter what, as does love and romance.

Passager intern Dina Sokal said that back in the hippie days when she got married, proposals weren’t a big deal: no elaborate locations, no rings hidden in boxes of popcorn at the movies. She said her proposal was much simpler.

He said, “Let’s have children together.”
She said, “Shouldn’t we get married first?”
“Yes, we should,” he said.
“Well then when?” she said.

On this episode of Burning Bright, a couple pieces in honor of wedding season.

Charles Heckman said that the fathers in his Illinois German family educated their daughters to maintain their stations in life. That theme plays a part in his story “The Marriage of Aunt Agnes.”

. . . Mark Renard, a longtime suitor, had asked Agnes to marry him. She had agreed, but dutifully told him he would have to ask her father’s permission. This ceremony, now going on behind us in the living room, lent drama to the moment. Mark was a handsome young man, in college training to be a school teacher; but a childhood attack of polio had left him with a withered leg and a bad limp. He could get around without crutches, but many strenuous activities were beyond him . . . At last, Mark came out the front door.

“Well,” Agnes asked, “what did he say?”

“He said ‘no,’” Mark responded, crestfallen. “He said that he didn’t want his daughter dependent on a cripple for her livelihood.”

Carol had expected Agnes to say, “Well, we’ll just have to elope, then,” which Carol would have heartily seconded. Carol was only 15, but everyone knew already she would never discuss her own marriage with anyone in anything but declarative sentences, so her mouth stayed open in surprise as Agnes said, “Well, then, I can’t marry you,” and Mark, perhaps expecting the same response as Carol, limped silently down the steps to the street . . .

An excerpt from Charles Heckman’s story “The Marriage of Aunt Agnes” from Passager Issue 60. The author said that in addition to his various degrees, he has a strong belief in the Oxford comma.

Gloria O’Neil said that one day she was thinking about all of her sister’s marriages and decided it would make a good story. Here are some excerpts.

Dee Dee joined the Civil Air Patrol which is where she met her first husband, Floyd. When they married she was 16 and he was 22. He was attending Trinity University where he planned to become a nuclear physicist. He was extremely smart but didn’t have much personality. He was a full-blooded Indian and had been adopted. His father owned a large part of Coca-Cola and his parents were wealthy. They lived in Oklahoma City. My mama was impressed with their money and wanted to “put on the dog,” so to speak, around them. She took a big chunk of the insurance money Daddy had left and put on a nice wedding for Dee Dee and Floyd. They were married at Blessed Sacrament Catholic Church. My aunt and uncle hosted the reception at their house. The marriage lasted less than six months . . .

Lupe became husband #3. Husband #4 was also named Lupe; he didn’t last as long as a snowball . . . We called them Lupe #1 and Lupe #2 . . .

Husband #5 was a guy named Andre. I’m sure he had a last name but I don’t remember what it was. He worked for a carnival. She ran off with him and joined the carnival. What young person doesn’t dream of joining a carnival or the circus at some point? I never met him either but I heard a lot about him from Dee Dee . . .

Husband #6 was Ben Franklin. He was from coal country . . . one of the “good old boys.” She brought him to meet the family one Christmas. He was painfully shy . . . rather stocky and wore the biggest shiny belt buckle I’d ever seen. He went to bed fairly early. When he got into bed, it fell down. It made a horrible racket and I’m sure it embarrassed him. Uncle Billy went upstairs and helped him put it back together . . .

Husband #7 was Bobby. Dee Dee always swore he was the love of her life. They met at an AA meeting. When they first got together, their mutual weakness turned into a mutual strength. They were happily married for several years before Bobby died at the age of 42 from a bad burn he got when he fell onto a heater in the basement . . .

Husband #9 was Ronnie. She had gone to school with him and his twin brother when we were all in elementary school . . .

Dee Dee was 52 when she died. I don’t know if all those husbands contributed to her death or not.

Excerpts from “The Wedding Queen” by Gloria O’Neil from Passager Issue 64.

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For Kendra, Mary, Christine, Rosanne, and the rest of the Passager staff, I’m Jon Shorr.