Cathy and I have been blessed to witness and experience the weddings of our three children to wonderful spouses. From the time we were saved and filled with God’s Spirit, we began praying God would lead our children at the proper time, to strong and loving believers to whom they could join their lives in holy marriage. We purposed to not only teach our children about a Christ-centered home but to live that teaching in front of them. There were periods when we fell far short of the ideal and certainly would have changed some of our attitudes and actions then, but God’s grace overshadowed our failures. Within a 5 year period from 1990 through 1995 John, Mary Kay and Ginny were married to their life partners to begin their own journeys. Great memories were made during that span which involved the full range of emotions from heartaches to laughter, from doubts to confidence and from anxiety to peace. When we are all together now for special events and holidays, stories from that time are re-told that our grandchildren can better understand their heritage.
In 1990 when John announced his intentions to marry Gina Ratcliff from Texarkana, Texas, we came to love her and believe she was the perfect one for John. We wanted to do all we could to help make their wedding day as special as we could for them. Gina bought her wedding dress from Low’s Bridal Shop in Brinkley, Arkansas of which we were unaware. Many brides from Arkansas and probably Tennessee and Mississippi travel to this small town in eastern Arkansas, half-way between Little Rock and Memphis, to buy their elegant gowns at very reasonable prices. Cathy, Mary Kay and Ginny made note of how beautiful was Gina’s gown, knowing they might also be shopping at Low’s one day.
The following year when Mary Kay and David Janke announced their plans to marry, both Cathy and Mary Kay made the trip to Low’s Bridal in Brinkley, where Mary Kay found that very special dress for her big day. It was a beautiful dress, and we were all so pleased with Low’s that in 1995 when Ginny and John Luther planned their wedding, another trip to Brinkley was in order.
Ginny and John planned an early June wedding, so Cathy and Ginny visited Low’s several months in advance. On their return home they told me they had found the perfect gown, and because of alterations that needed to be made, the gown could be picked up in several weeks. As time for the return trip to Brinkley neared, Cathy suggested that I drive Ginny so just the two of us could have some special father-daughter time. Despite the fact I knew I would be far out of my comfort zone at Low’s Bridal Shop, the thought of spending 6 or 7 hours alone with Ginny driving there and back was exciting for me. We scheduled a 11 AM appointment at Low’s on a Saturday morning.
The 3 1/2 hour drive to Brinkley passed quickly as we had no complications or undue delay because of Little Rock traffic. I admit to having some anxiety concerning Low’s because I was fairly certain there would be no men there with whom I could have conversation. I prepared myself emotionally to accept the environment and make Ginny know I was so glad to share this moment with her, even if it meant a bridal store.
I was very surprised to find such an elegant store in a small farming town that was better known to guys as a duck hunting mecca. My suspicions concerning the clientele in the store were entirely correct. There were at least 20-30 people in the store that morning and not one man. It was fairly easy to identify the brides because of their young age, and they were all accompanied by middle-aged women and a few much older women, presumably their mothers and grandmothers. I had nothing in common with anyone in the store, so conversations with them was not an option. As Ginny disappeared into the dressing room to try on her new dress for final inspection by the sales personnel, I faded into a far corner of the store to just make observations. There is a television show about wedding dresses I have briefly watched when Cathy had it on called “Say Yes To The Dress”, and I thought I was getting a live version of that show.
The place I was standing was near a checkout counter and a very nicely dressed lady much older than I was standing behind the counter. I presumed she might have been the owner of the store, but did not think it proper to ask her that question. We simply exchanged initial greetings. I had my eyes on the dressing room Ginny had entered and after about 10 minutes she exited the room in her new dress. I believe the following is a traditional thing at this store and possibly all bridal stores. When Ginny exited the dressing room, everyone in the store stopped what they were doing, turned and focused on her in her new dress and almost with one gasping voice said, “Oh what a gorgeous bride and beautiful dress!” I agreed completely in my mind, but just didn’t join the chorus. She was beautiful!
The older lady behind the counter was one of the chorus of voices when she turned to me and said, “Isn’t she just beautiful?” to which I responded, “She certainly is!” Then she asked, “Is she your granddaughter?” I have to admit that Ginny looked several years younger than her 22 years, and it could have been possible age-wise for her to be my granddaughter. But before thinking I said quickly back to the store owner, “No ma’ am. She is my fiance. I am a very rich man.” She put her hand to her mouth and said, “Oh, I’m so very sorry. I just didn’t know.” I let her stay like that for a few more moments, and broke into laughter telling her Ginny was really my daughter not my fiance, and I wasn’t a rich man after all. (I inwardly feared the price of the dress might have gone up!)
I didn’t tell Ginny about my check-out story until we were on our way back home. I sure didn’t want her to feel embarrassed around those ladies and in particular, the store owner. It did liven up my one and only experience in a bridal store. The cost for the owner was a little embarrassment, but for me the time alone with Ginny was priceless. It is possible I could have another opportunity for a bridal store experience with a real granddaughter, but have an idea that Cathy won’t be sending me there without her!