Family road trips when I was growing up began with the frying of chicken the night before. The idea was to carry enough food for the ride so that stopping wouldn’t be necessary. My mom could toss a drumstick into the backseat to stop our whining, and the car didn’t have to slow down.
Saving time was important because we usually got rolling later than we intended and had to take the express route to whatever family event we were off to attend.
My cousin Sharon’s wedding was in Maryland, and that meant a drive of several hours on a Saturday morning. My mother and I rode with our hair up in brown rubber curlers, waiting until the last possible moment to yank them out for maximum curl and volume.
We were coming into town very close to the time listed on the wedding invitation, and didn’t have detailed directions. We knew we were on the right road. All we had to do was find the church.
When we saw a likely looking house of worship with a full parking lot, my dad swung into the driveway. “There’s Robert's car,” my dad said, spotting a white Impala. We pointed out other cars that looked familiar in the Baptist church’s parking lot. “Must be the place. And look at that—we’re right on time.”
Curlers were removed, hair brushed into frizzy clouds, fried chicken grease wiped onto paper napkins, lipstick applied (Mom wouldn’t let me have any), and we were out of the car and into the church.
I plopped our present next to the others on the gift table in the foyer. “Best wishes to Sharon and Paul” was written on the tag in my mother’s careful script. I slid into a pew toward the back next to my brother as the organ began “The Wedding March,” and we had to stand up again.
“Sharon’s cut her hair!” my mother whispered. “And I’m surprised she’d wear that big picture hat. It does make her look taller.”
The pastor warned us not to enter into marriage lightly but soberly in the sight of God.
“Sharon looks so different,” my mother murmured. “I wouldn’t have recognized her.”
The pastor began the vows. “Do you, Angela, take Phillip to be your lawful husband?”
Our gasps made the people in front of us turn around with their eyebrows in the full upright position.
“Wrong church,” my brother gleefully explained, and he and I collapsed into suppressed giggles and snorts.
My mother smacked my leg. “Hush, and go get the present.”
The folks in front of us whispered to the folks near them, and several people turned to smile at us. We waved, shrugged, and tried to sidle out before the couple was presented as man and wife.
The usher in the foyer glared at me as I eased our gift off the table. “Wrong wedding! Oops!” I offered helpfully as I scooted out to the parking lot where Dad was already revving the engine.
We made Sharon’s ceremony just as she walked down the aisle. My brother filled out a visitor's card requesting a visit from the pastor in our Norfolk home four hours away, and my mother kept smacking my leg to make us pipe down and stop giggling. She wouldn’t let us tell Sharon.