Marrying the Girl Next Door
(Tokoni, 05/24/2009)

When I was six or so, I got married. My bride was the little girl next door; the youngest of three sisters – a rather nondescript little girl whom the older kids decided I should get married to. Her and I were friends, a bit sweet on each other, but we kept our distance – the usual distance kept by little boys who have other boys as friends and little girls with other girls to play with. But this time was different. “You and her are getting married!” the older girls and teenage boy next door proudly announced. The wedding would be held in their back yard; the honeymoon to take place in the barn.

Well, as I’ve said before, us boys pretty much just ran around in cutoffs, and the girls in plain print dresses – and looking down at myself, I thought “This will not DO!” So I scuttle off – running around the fence which separated our yard from theirs – and burst inside, yelling for my mom.

“Mom! Mom! I gotta get a shirt to wear! I’m getting married!” I yelled. My mom was surprised for a moment, then she recalls going to get me a tee-shirt – a nice clean one, I insisted – and drawing it on, I went back for my wedding.

Quite a number of kids had shown up by the old barrel-bull bronco swing that the teenager had set up next door, and all the older girls had gone and picked some flowers – not a lot, just a few flowering weeds held in their hands. They all gathered round, forming a rough-shaped “U”, with me and the little girl in the middle. The teenager came forward – a book in his hands (I assume it was a bible), and bare-chested and with great pride, solemnly intoned our wedding vows. I’ll never forget that end moment, when he looked at me and said, “And now Mike, do you take this girl to be your bride?” – and looking at the girl, I said yes; then she did the same for me.

“Now you may kiss the bride!” he finally announced, snapping the book closed, and as I leaned forward and pecked my bride (the only kind of kiss I knew), the girls threw their flowers in the air and everyone rushed forward, congratulating us. Already the littler kids were drifting away (sensing the excitement was gone, I guess) when the teenager and his brother, my best friend, came up and grabbing us by the elbows, announced in excited voices that “now you must go on your honeymoon!”

Well, I didn’t much know what a ‘honeymoon’ was, but that was no problem. “It’s where you kiss and smooch!” they explained to us as they hustled us towards the barn. So we allowed ourselves to be led out of the summer sun to the northwest corner of the barn, where there was a pile of old straw piled on the dusty dirt floor. They had us lay down on the hay, and then throwing a dusty woolen blanket over us – completely over us – they left.

We stayed in that darkness, me and her, though it was hot and stuffy. We could hear the other kids leaving; the older ones telling the younger ones to “leave them alone. They are on their honeymoon.” So I turned to her and she to me and we did what was natural for two kids our age who’d just gotten married. We cuddled in each others arms and kissed. And that is all.

But I’ll never forget that – our marriage, and all the kids celebrating – and that long hot time we spent under the blanket. We kissed; her lips soft on mine, her arms barely reaching around me; me embracing her. We held each other, feeling the humidity grow as our breath collected beneath the blanket. I recall us whispering, but I don’t think many words were said. For me it has remained one of the most tender, precious moments of my childhood, me and her cuddled beneath the warm blanket. Holding her, feeling her breath on my skin, and those soft lips kissing mine.

Later I would find out that other things had happened to her, but that – that’s another story. And sad in some ways, looking back at the refreshing innocence of my love at that time. If only I had known; what would I have done – or would I have done anything different?

I don’t know, but knowing now what I didn’t know then, I can tell you this: I think I would of held her a whole lot tighter, and loved her a whole lot more with the heart and soul of this child of mine.  And yes: in my heart she was my ‘wife’ – meaning a person I have loved forever …. now lost in the annuals of time.

I got tired of losing people I loved . . . but I’ve made some peace with myself on that.

But it is a sad peace, at best.

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