In August of 2002, six months pregnant with our second child, I was finally ready to marry Scott. After four months on the road he had vacation coming up and planned to be home just in time for my birthday. Only a few days prior to his arrival he called to let me know when he’d home and I told him I was ready for the ring.
He got home late on Friday evening looking very much like a mountain man down from the Appalachians with a big bushy beard and shaggy hair. I didn’t realize how much I had missed him until he wiped the tears from my cheeks. With Ashleigh swung up high in his arms we walked into the house. Tired, smelly and with mounds of laundry he managed a quick bite to eat and a shower before falling into bed.
The next night, the eve before my birthday, we celebrated his birthday that we missed while he was on the road. I made a rich chocolate fudge cake with a thick ganache glaze. It was the first time I had every tried to make a cake from scratch. I stuck five candles in the cake and Ashleigh and I sang a very off-key rendition of Happy Birthday. Normal sized servings had to be quartered it was so sweet.
I was going to school full time so I wasn’t working and we had very little money to spare, so the next day for my birthday, we stuck the same five candles back in the cake, turned it slightly and used it for my birthday cake as well. Three more very small slices later and we still had a half of the cake left over.
On Monday, Scott and I rose early and went to the courthouse to apply for a marriage license. I fidgeted almost more than Ashleigh while we waited in line. I squirmed while answering the clerk’s questions. Scott held my hand tightly and told me be still.
Afterward, I called my mom. Then called my dad and told him we were getting married on the 15th if he’d like to come down. They were both disappointed that we were doing it so quickly and shouldn’t we wait and plan a “proper wedding?”
I didn’t want a proper wedding – whatever that was. I didn’t want a fuss.
I sent an email to extended family and friends letting them know what was going on. And for the most part, everyone understood. Scott had to leave by the afternoon of the 15th in order to get back to work and we didn’t want to wait anymore. Especially Scott. Once I had said I would, he wanted to get that ring on my finger as swiftly as possible. I wasn’t going to change my mind, of course, but after nearly six years of agreeing to marry him and never setting an actual date, I understood his nervousness.
The night before we got married, I found out a friend I had hoped would be able to come was not going to make it. Scott held me, pulled back tight against his chest, while I cried into my pillow. He brushed my hair out of my face, wiped my tears dry and whispered how much he loved me.
“We don’t have to do this tomorrow,” he said.
“What?” My eyes hurt and nose was stuffy and red and it took me a moment to process his words.
“We can wait until you’re ready.”
“I shook my head. “I am ready,” I insisted.
“Really?” he asked. “All this and you say you’re ready?”
“It’s just…I wanted a friend there too.” Scott’s closest friend was coming and maybe I was jealous. Maybe I was still nervous about getting married. “I am ready, Scott. I want to get married. We are getting married tomorrow.”
“I don’t mind if you want to wait until we can plan an actual party with all your family and friends to come.”
He understood. I might not want to fuss, the big wedding with glitz and glam, but I did want my family there. And my friends.
“No.” I told him. “My mom and dad will be there. Your dad, too. That’s enough.”
The next morning, tears started anew when I realized I hadn’t any flowers. I had always thought when I got married I would have a bouquet of white daisies or a small sprig of lily of the valley or maybe just a bunch of lilacs. Simple flowers that I loved. After a few minutes of tears, Scott managed to work out why I was crying and headed out to the car. We always kept change in the ashtray and he managed to dig out enough to run to the grocery store and buy me a very small bouquet of white carnations with a bit of baby’s breath. My mom worked the flowers into two small bouquets, one for me and a smaller one for Ashleigh.
And they were perfect.
I wore this dress. Scott even put on a tie. And we drove ourselves to courthouse. As we parked the car, Scott held my hand.
I shook my head.
I nodded again.
The ceremony was very much a blur. It was hot and sticky, the humidity already nearing 90 percent even that early in the morning. Sweat trickled down my back and Scott looked about to melt in his shirt and tie. Cyra tumbled across my abdomen. Ashleigh became fascinated with tiny snails that inched across the sidewalk and kept crouching down to watch them. She picked a few up and held them up for me to see. I said vows, but I don’t remember what they were. If I promised to obey…well, that hasn’t really been kept. But I’m pretty sure all the other ones I’ve done okay with.
When all was said and done the court official asked if I’d like to go inside and request a name change.
I looked at Scott. This was something we hadn’t really ever discussed. Sure, Ashleigh bore his name and the new baby would as well, that seemed right and appropriate, but me?
There must have been something on my face that he could read…or maybe (as much as I hate to admit it) he just knows me all too well.
“No,” he said, “That’s okay. I think she’ll keep her name.”
“Oh.” The court official said. “Well, if you change your mind-“
I smiled and nodded. “I won’t.”
Scott chuckled and we walked away to join our parents. My dad treated us to a wedding breakfast at Shoney’s which was perfect because I was starving by then having been too nervous earlier to eat.
We drove home holding hands, fiddling with the rings now on our fingers. Mine, too big, looped around my thumb.
“You know,” I told him, “I’ve never really been a fan of jewelry…”
“It stays on,” he warned. “We’ll get it sized, but it stays put!”
At home, Scott packed up his duffel bag as I watched.
“Hey!” I said, “We need to have wedding cake!”
“Hon, we don’t really have the time to get or make one.”
I paused for a second. “We have the birthday cake. I’ll just turn it around.”
We both laughed and went to the kitchen. I took the cake out from the refrigerator and unwrapped the tinfoil. I called for Ashleigh and my parents to join us. We stood around the half a cake with forks and dug in. Scott and I exchanged bites – but did not smear cake in each other’s face.
I giggle about it now, a recycled wedding cake, but it is one of my favorite stories from back then.
As the years passed, Scott and I often celebrated our anniversary with a small dinner out or a quiet evening at home. One year, in the midst of work and school, we each forgot our anniversary altogether and didn’t realize it until nearly a week had passed. One year, after hearing the story of the recycled cake, one of our gamer friends bought us a large cake to celebrate our anniversary.
Today, ten years after the recycled cake and once again short on cash, I will once again make the cake that served as birthday and wedding cake.
It seems appropriate this year to remember the humble beginnings to our marriage.