Redneck Teddy

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I attended a good friend’s bridal shower this weekend. It was pleasingly familiar: light, fluffy cake served on stacks of clear plates, pink punch in a glass bowl, elegantly wrapped packages concealing all the Pyrex and pillows, finery and furbelows an about-to-be-married couple could want to launch a brand new household. As we sat around in a circle, asking Jenny probing questions about Carl and ooh-ing and ahh-ing over each successive vase and towel, I was reminded sharply of my own wedding showers, and the excitement of that magical twilight hour between singleness and marriage.

I had three bridal showers. Excessive, I know, but there it is. One was thrown by the lovely ladies of my church family in Arkansas, where I lived at the time. Another was hosted by friends and family back in my hometown of Snellville, Georgia (town motto: “Where Everybody’s Somebody”.) It was a couples shower, where Paul proved his manly mettle by showing an unprecedented amount of interest in things like silver candlesticks and non-stick frying pans. His performance was impeccable, and made up for the infuriating noncommittal shrug he gave me every time I asked him for his opinion while we were registering for said items. It took him a while to get into the whole gift registry thing. He plodded up and down the bed and bath aisles at my side, scanned whatever I told him to with the bar code gun, and only perked up when we got to the hardware department, where he gleefully registered for a Craftsman cordless drill and a barbecue set. That must have set the wheels turning, though. By the time we left the store, our registry was filled with unique wedding gift ideas, including athletic socks, a video camera, and matched sleeping bags. The highlight of the second shower, for Paul, was the unwrapping of a big black tool box filled with nails, a hammer, screwdrivers, wood glue, and a staple gun. (God bless the thoughtful soul who brought that!) I think he was just happy to have something to carry out to the car that wasn’t covered in flowered tissue paper.

My favorite shower, though, was the third, a girls-only event arranged by a handful of close college friends and held in the second floor common room of my dorm. You see, Paul and I met and married while attending Harding University, a Christian college in Searcy, Arkansas, and some of the school’s most unique and beloved traditions revolved around engagements and marriage. For example, when a couple got engaged, they often kept it a secret for a day or two until the girl’s social club (something like a sorority) could arrange a Ring Ceremony. That night, all the girls would gather around the Lily Pool, trying to deduce who the new fiancée could be. Encircling the pool, they would sing songs while a lit taper candle with the engagement ring on it was passed around and admired. The second time around the circle, as it passed by the girl whose engagement was being announced, she would take it and blow the candle out, a revelation usually followed by a big cheer and an official re-telling of the proposal story.

My third bridal shower was the embodiment of another Harding tradition, the Lingerie Shower. Knowing that all the couple’s domestic needs were being met by hometown family and friends, college buddies took this opportunity to make sure that the new bride and groom were supplied with everything they needed to enjoy marital bliss in…errr…other spheres. Maybe you can imagine the giggling and blushing as the guest of honor unwrapped each carefully selected gift, holding it aloft to a chorus of laughter or admiration. Some gifts were beautifully sweet: an ivory satin nightgown, a lacy chemise, a collection of bubble baths. Some gifts were so unusual as to require explanation, an endeavor that always brought down the house. A few gifts were there just for laughs, like the infamous Redneck Teddy that kept showing up at party after party, emerging from a beautiful gift bag or a fancy, wrapped box to elicit a hearty round of jeers and guffaws. (It’s hard to do justice to the Redneck Teddy in words, but essentially, it’s a man’s white t-shirt that has been…um…altered with scissors and a Sharpie.)

What I remember most about lingerie showers, though, and mine especially, is the sense of wonder and mystery we all felt as we peered ahead into an unknown world of sweetness and intimacy soon to be entered by one of our own. Alive with curiosity, we speculated, we asked questions, and we shared guesses. As conversation buzzed around the room, the few married girls among us usually sat back with quiet, enigmatic smiles playing across their faces, offering little information, but fueling the fire of conjecture all the same. I think we understood, even then, underneath all the laughter and joking, that some momentous threshold was about to be crossed, and we gave it due ceremony.

It’s been over ten years since the day I unwrapped the Redneck Teddy at my own shower. Ten years of stumbling—and flying. Ten years of education. Ten years of exploration. Being married is not unlike unwrapping a gift, actually. As time goes by, more and more of the person you love is revealed; each successive tear of the paper is accompanied by the thrill of discovery and the hope for more.

Ten years multiplies the joy in more ways than one. Just as some emotions are too piercing to be put into words, some mysteries, like two people becoming one, are too deep to be expounded.

Sometimes the best you can do is an enigmatic smile.

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21 responses »

  1. 10 Years! *gasp* It can’t have been that long! I remember it like it was yesterday … you proudly showing me your “new” Pylkas apartment in the more “modern” part of that development, the uneven floor, the port-a-shower you weren’t sure Paul would fit into, the non-existent kitchen, and your great find of that dining room table and the innumberable matching chairs.
    *sigh* Happy memories. 🙂

  2. This is a great post. I especially liked the last 3 paragraphs looking back on 10 years. It’s amazing how they can fly by and how much better you can know and love someone you already thought you knew and loved.

  3. I think you once mentioned peering into my world, a path not taken. Similarly, your site is a window into the unknown for me — and it’s unbelievably sweet, with your characteristic good humor and beautiful outlook to sweeten it all the more.

    Sharing a life so completely with someone and starting it together before ideas and routines are cast solid. . . it leaves room for a relationship to breath, maybe. In my world, there are lines and walls and boundaries — ones I value, ones I think ultimately are important given the path I’m on — but I’ve often said, there’s something advantageous to marrying young. Before.

    Congrats on ten years and to decades more of growth, love, joy and discovery!

  4. romantic and sweetness and ten years of loving it! Happiness be yours again and again!
    What a creative sweet tradition passing the ring around the candle!

  5. This may come off as creepy since we have never officialy met: Your wedding holds special signifigance to me. Harvey and I were just begining to flirt with a romance and I remember sending him off to your wedding on a greyhound bus. I was so sad to see my new cuteiepie friend leave. He came back of course (toting jason tracey – thats a separate coment one day) But you and Paul were some of the first people I learned about while getting to know my husband. And of course the whole Swaim family and the basement and all that happened there ( good things people, good things) Anyway.. I had 3 showers too – One was thrown by the entire Gerard family of women – many of whom I had just met! It was so sweet but alot of pressure!

  6. I loved the reflection on life before & after marriage! Michael & I will be celebrating 11 years of marriage this weekend – 13 years of being together if you include the year of dating and year-long engagement. I’m still amazed by him daily…and how far we’ve come. I love to look back at photos taken during our wedding showers, remembering how I thought marriage would be (and, yes, laughing at a few of the hairstyles back then – so 90’s!). I’m amazed that we’ve survived so many little disasters along the way – and grown stronger in our love for each other and for the Lord! I know that it’s only by His grace that we’ve made it this far.

    As for the Redneck Teddy, you had me laughing. I got the full mental picture…did you keep it or pass it along?

    BTW, I’ve finally posted something…

  7. Bee-utiful writing. I never had a wedding shower, but I did have a baby shower for my second child. I loved it and will cherish that memory, even though I hate to be in the spotlight. I’m planning on giving my daughter a huge shower whenever she decides to get married. Maybe I should think about a redneck teddy. Heh!

  8. Now don’t throw things at me, but I’d rather have dental surgery than go to a shower. But sometimes you have to (especially if it’s your own…)and when I do, I won’t put a bow on the gift so as not to contribute to the painful practice of making a hat out of the paper plate and bows and forcing some poor soul to pose with it. Bridal and baby showers and the existence of those anorexic-looking waif-thing dolls are why God didn’t give me girls.

    All in all, I just wanted to be married, but I didn’t want to get married.

  9. Ok…it is the middle of the afternoon and you have me in sweet tears! I love the “ring party”…how mysterious and wonderous. Marriage is such an amazing journey…it’s a God thing!

    BTW, the next time I run to Snellville Fabric Mart (LOVE THEM and their terrific prices!) I will think of ya!

    (((hugs)))

  10. I believe I too saw the redneck teddy. It was on my bed waiting for me when we returned from our honeymoon. I was more than happy to pass THAT along!:)

  11. I’m a jealous cow when it comes to bridal showers. And I get the biggest messiest bow on the planet to go on my presents – because someone once told me an old wives’ tale that said the ribbons and bows make the practice bouquet for the rehearsal, and the number of ribbons that drop at the rehearsal is the number of kids that will come from the marriage, too. >:)

    If I get invited to a shower, I’m going to make sure the bride is “blessed” with lots and lots of kids.

    *cackles*

    *ties her ribbons loosely*

    *jealous*

    I’m sure my girlfriends will return the favor one day. 😉

  12. What a sweet tradition! University is such a great time for things like that.

    Thanks for sharing your memories and your thoughts on marriage. It’s a beautiful post.

  13. Shell–Yes, time is so elastic, isn’t it? Heehee…I was so excited about that shabby little apartment; all our brand new wedding gifts tucked proudly away in the repainted, falling-apart cabinets. I made a scrapbook page about that place (I *had* to memorialize the Port-O-Shower, of course!) If you want another peek down memory lane, here’s the link: http://www.scrapjazz.com/gallery/showphoto.php?photo=25393

    Jill–Thank you, my friend. I always soak up your encouragement, and draw inspiration from watching you navigate waters unknown. You’re right, I think. Marrying young, in some ways, is like splicing two saplings together. Young, pliable plants can be directed and intertwined more easily, eventually growing in the same direction when they might just as easily have grown apart. Marrying too young, on the other hand, is like throwing a couple of acorns on the ground and running out to buy a hammock. (That may have only made sense in my head.)

    Natalie–Not creepy at all! That’s really sweet, and what a great memory of the early days of your romance. I, too, have been steeped in the lore of Swaim Basement; makes me wish I’d been here then! As for the Gerard women, I’m sure they loved you on sight; I know for certain Marci did!

    Jennifer–Congrats on your eleventh anniversary! I did NOT keep the Redneck Teddy (even a packrat scrapbooker has standards!) but dutifully passed it on to the next unsuspecting bride-to-be.

    Hick–If you need a sketch to aid you in reproducting the R.T., just ask. I have the image burned into my brain.

    Sisiggy–You are not alone in your dislike of the whole shower phenomenon. Though I get all nostalgic and excited about them, I have friends who inevitably charge me with bringing their gifts to the shower for them so they don’t have to attend. Making a wedding dress out of toilet paper is not for everyone, alas.

    Belle–It’s definitely a God-thing! And mine wouldn’t work without God in the middle of it. 🙂 So are you from Snellville? I’m so glad someone else has heard of it! In college, I’m pretty sure most people thought I was making up the town motto.

    Jules–Heehee! As one of the happy party who…um…decorated your apartment for your return, I’m glad you enjoyed it.

    Cuppy–Duly noted, you mischievous imp. I am going to start saving bows now in anticipation of your big event. 😀

  14. Now that’s funny — a hammock. I agree, too, too young is no good. Though at this point, given my place at the OTHER end of the spectrum, I think I’ll be needing a zip line and a crash helmet!

  15. What a wonderful story katrina – you are a fabulous teller as well. I am so happy that you and Paul have had so many wonderful years together and I am sure many many more to come in the future. you are an inspiration.

  16. So sweet. I can remember in University dorms how amazed we were by ‘the all-knowing married girl’, how we would grill her with questions and dream and wonder what her life was like.

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