There is a party down the street – she can’t hear the lively music, but she has seen flashes of white and lace. Balloons and white ribbons stream over the fence, telling her that a wedding reception is underway.
She looks down at her wedding ring, no longer able to come off her knotted fingers. She runs her thumb over it, and she can feel the rough calluses from years of hard work. Her forearms are roped with muscle and sun-toughened skin – they are hands that have carried, picked up, held, disciplined, kneaded, cooked, and soothed. Those same hands were held and led to the altar when she was 15. Waiting for her was a man of 22, a man she did not know very well.
He had courted her for a few months, coming to the house one evening each week. While her parents sat in the room and watched them, he spoke to her. He told her of his day at the farm, or of a hunt that he had been on. He spoke of his work, and he asked her how her day was. No love words were whispered in her ears, no touch was without a look of approval from her father. He did not hold her hand until after his seventh visit, and only after he had talked to her father about marriage.
Each time he visited, her mother helped her to cook a different meal. Each dish she prepared was a test – if he liked her food, he would come again. At least, that was what her mother believed.
After a while, only her mother sat in the room with them. Still, he was never bold, never untoward. He was respectful, kind to her mother, and kind to her. She was too young to understand the implications of marriage to him, but she knew that if she did not get married soon, she may never get married. It seemed that everyone her age already was married, or having their first child. He seemed kind, and she liked his eyes. His face was honest, and even when he was serious, or deep in thought, his face was kind. She thought that he would be a good father, and a good provider.
He was a farmer, and he was ready to get married. He lived at home with his parents, and for the first few months of marriage, his new bride would too. Until his home was built in the land that he would be given by his father. But always, as had happened to his brothers before him, the brides had to live with the husband’s parents for a while. It was always there that the true test was done.
Rosa was a very young girl, the last of the family. She was nice, very prone to smiling, and when she did, her dimples were very fetching. Ananias thought that she would make a very nice wife for him. He even liked her cooking, but to him, food was just sustenance. Food helped him get through the day under the hot sun, and through the cold, drenching rains as he worked the farm. He just wondered if his mother would approve of her, such a very young girl.
Her father’s fingers intertwined with hers as she took short steps down the church aisle, blurry underneath the thick double veil that covered her face, and most of her dress. Her mother had helped her sew the white veil on the crown of glittery plastic flowers that now sat on her head. Her dress, with long sleeves and itchy lace, was a simple gown that stopped at her ankles. For the first time in her life, her feed were shod in a full shoe, so her toes were cramped painfully in the unfamiliar binding material. Her march up to meet her groom started with pain, but underneath it all, there was excitement.
Her life would never be the same; her routines would change to fit his life. She would have children, and while she walked up in the holy house of God, she grew hot under her veil as she remembered what her mother told her the night before. “Be good, and do what he asks you to do. You must obey him. If he is happy, he will be nice to you.” Rosa couldn’t bear to listen, but she did, because she was an obedient daughter. She learned that babies were made in bed, when a man and a woman lay naked together. She was told explicitly how it would happen, and she hoped that it wouldn’t hurt as badly as her mother said it would. Although, to have her own babies, she would go through whatever it took.
Ahead of her, Ananias waited nervously. He saw his child-bride coming down to marry him, and he felt proud and afraid at the same time. For a few more months, he would continue to live his life, but then they would be alone. He hoped that they would be happy. He hoped they would have children, lots of children to fill their home with happiness. Children that would grow up and help their parents in their old age.
Rosa’s walk ended when her father put her hand in Ananias’ hands, then he walked away to sit with his wife. The pastor started the sermon, and in no time at all, they were husband and wife. The first kiss was fumbled – Rosa’s nerves made her tremble, so her first kiss landed on the corner of her mouth, closer to the chin. Everyone watching laughed softly, and the pastor said, “There will plenty of time to make up for it…” With a knowing look, he introduced the newly married couple to the family and friends in attendance. Afterwards, everyone gathered to eat a specially prepared meal at Rosa’s parents’ house.
Her mother had packed her clothes and her favorite things in crocus sacks and boxes. When it was time to go to her new house, her father loaded up the horse and took his daughter’s meager belongings where her new life would begin.
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