The Proposal

The other day, my husband showed me this cute video of a choreographed dance wedding proposal. I couldn’t see the entire thing due to an interruption concerning a three-foot person, a Tennessee Volunteers tumbler, flying water, and a couch, but from what I saw, I was quite impressed. For those not worried about Toddler Interruptus, you can view the video here. Pretty cute, huh? Dude went all out to show how much he wanted to spend forever with his girlfriend.

When I wrote Destination Wedding, I neglected to put in the story how Clay actually proposed to Marissa. Maybe it was an oversight or maybe I wanted the reader to use his/her imagination. Even though I didn’t include the proposal in Destination Wedding, I am remembering mine and perhaps I did not include the popped question because perhaps I figured that no proposal would ever top mine ;). I think of myself as a simple person, meaning that I don’t tend to go for the elaborate things. I didn’t know what my wedding dress would look like at the age of five. I didn’t think about bridesmaids when I was young. For me, rings just got in the way, so I didn’t need the biggest one. And I didn’t really dream about my dream proposal. But I had a dream proposal. I was blessed enough to meet someone who didn’t go for the elaborate either, but the meaningful.

My proposal took place in New Orleans, interestingly enough. I say that it is interesting because I always remember Angela Lewis, which was Halle Berry’s character in the movie, Boomerang describing New Orleans as a place where you take someone you love and just… chill.

...and just chill.

and just… chill.

Well I never really got a chance to “chill” with someone I loved while living in New Orleans. I was there for a different purpose. I went to school to study urban planning in New Orleans. I had a lot fun with my good girlfriends in New Orleans. Did some internships there. Learned a lot about the city and her culture. But no chillin’. Even still, Angela’s words stayed with me. Two years later after graduation, I returned to New Orleans with that person I loved. Aside from attending the sessions (We were there for the American Planning Association Conference), we rode the street car through the garden district. We strolled along the riverfront. We ate the best food. We partied at the House of Blues and the Rock and Bowl. And we chilled… Then I got proposed to on that last day, in the rain in front of Saint Louis Cathedral. Right there in the city made for chillin’ with the one you love. No bells. No whistles. No dancing. No Honda CRV. No barge-sinking ring. Just my man and me, along with 50 strangers, and a dozen pigeons. For me, that was the best proposal I could have gotten.

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The Guest List

War has been waged over the wedding guest list. Trust the voice of experience here. There are so many people to invite, but if you are like my husband and me, you are operating on a budget that’s kind of small. The more people you invite, the more you have to pay because you’re usually paying the restaurant or catering service per guest. So considering that you have to invite the friends and family of the groom and his parents, and friends and family of the bride and her parents, not to mention the workplace folk who hold your collective professional futures in the palm of their hands, the number of gold embossed invites needing to be mailed out gets pretty hefty. Who gets to attend? Who do you cut? Well one bride came up with her own solution to the problem. She created the following criteria for the reasons an invitation to her wedding will not be in your mailbox:

Wedding invite criteria

See problem solved, right? Uh… no. It’s not. There are so many wrongs about this status update, it’s hard to know where to start.
First of all, where is her class? Even if she had a point, was this necessary to say? I’m going to need people to think before they hit the “post” button. Before posting, they need to ask themselves a couple of questions: 1. Why am I really posting this? Do I want a lot of “likes?” or do I want to rub it in people’s faces that I’m getting married? 2. How does this make me look, like I’m the woman or I’m the fool? Also, I’m thinking about my mother again. If there was social media back when I was getting married and I posted this, my mother would have snatched me. Then she would have made me snatch back that status. She would have refused to let me embarrass her or myself in that manner because as she would say, “I raised you better than that!” Where was her mother and why wasn’t she snatching? What about the groom? Why didn’t he pull her to the side and say, “Baby, I don’t think this is a good look for you. I get it, but you might not want to post that.” So basically, this bride didn’t check herself. She wasn’t checked by her mama or her groom. But she was indeed checked. Like others, who use social media to weigh in on their private lives, she got checked by the public, hence this article. This brings me to the second point.

So when I posted this list to my own pages, the biggest response was the fact that the bride thought so much of herself that she thought the slighted guests actually cared that they were cut from her festivities. Someone even stated that it was just one less gift to buy. Also people, including professionals, are witnessing the fact that some brides just do not need to jump the broom because for them, it is more about the wedding than it is about the marriage. This is also a point that I have made here.

I cannot help wonder about the comments made to her posts? Were people in support of this or did they call her out on her lack of etiquette? Did people comment at all? How many “likes” did this get? Did she get “unfriended?” Personally, when I see statuses that try to bait or throw shade to particular “friends,” I just scroll on by. It’s just not worth debating. The thing is, when you send something like this for social media to judge, you may not like what you get back (That was another point made). Weddings are stressful enough to plan without getting into online shade-throwing. But this bride opened up that can of worms by pushing the “post” button.

This goes back to a post I wrote about the dignity being taken out of weddings. Even these were justified cuts to this particular guest list, was it really necessary for the bride to make a public statement? I guess that’s the thing about being behind a computer. That politeness filter is gone. Anyway, I just know Emily Post is rolling over in her grave behind this foolishness.

And if Uncle Junior is on his fifth glass of champagne and doing the worm across the dance floor, you may just have to grin, bare it, and dance around him. The important thing is that you are married and that is just another story to laugh about later. There are just some people you can’t cut anyway, as much as you want to.

So who’s on Clay and Marissa’s guest list? Find out in Destination Wedding available on Amazon and B&N!

Destination_Wedding_Cover_for_Kindle

Destination Wedding is on BN.com!

Another Low Country Fiction novel added to the shelf! Read all about a wedding weekend in the South Carolina Low Country gone completely wrong. Order Destination Wedding from the Barnes and Noble Website!

http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/destination-wedding-sheryse-noelle-dubose/1120043938?ean=9781500474614

Excerpt from Destination Wedding

Destination_Wedding_Cover_for_Kindle

Chapter 9: Rockin’ the Boat

Maia was sitting with David on the other end of the top deck. When she envisioned this ride with David to Daufuskie Island, never in her wildest dreams did she imagine that she would see what she was now seeing with her own two eyes. Maia was just happy that her parents were below deck catching up with the Robinsons rather than witnessing this spectacle.
“Come on, seven!”
A clatter could be heard as the objects rolled across the wooden deck and strike the metal wall. Then the ruckus laughter followed.
“Pay up, dude!” laughed the one with the funny shaped head.
“Double or nothin’, man!” said the short wiry one.
There were a group of guys, a couple of them who Maia was sure were Clay’s brothers, in a corner shooting dice.
Loud slurps and moans drew Maia and David’s attention to a pair not too far from the dice rollers. They looked to be seconds away from getting their groove on right there on the top deck. The tall woman with the big breasts was straddling the pretty boy with the silky hair and the gold jewelry.
The rough waves rocked the boat causing them repeatedly slap their bodies together.
“Are they giving each other mouth-to-mouth?” Maia whispered to David in disgust.
“I don’t know, but she could make good money as a lap dancer,” David whispered back. “If she grinds him any faster, the captain could turn off the boat and we could just sail to the island using their momentum.”
David laughed as Maia poked him, knowing he hated that.
“Sorry baby,” he said still laughing, rubbing his side where she’d poked him.
Then there were the girls hanging off the back of the boat feeding extra cheesy Doritos from a super-sized bag to the dolphins swimming nearby. To Maia’s horror, Patrice decided to join them.
“It looks like Patrice has made some new friends,” David commented.
“I’m happy for her,” was Maia’s sarcastic response.
Suddenly, the kissing and grinding couple sprang from their seats and rushed past the girls, bumping them before clunking down the stairs to the lower deck.
“T-Pretty, see what you made me do?!” One of them called after them.
Maia shot David a look that said, ‘What did she just call him?!’
“ ‘T-Pretty?’ ” David’s body just shook with silent laughter.
The girls watched with dismay as a half a bag of extra cheesy Doritos floated into the ocean.
“Great. Giving the poor dolphin high cholesterol isn’t enough so they decided to pollute the waters also,” Maia commented dryly.
“Hey, I’ve got Pringles,” Patrice offered to Maia’s shock and horror.
“Cool, let’s get ‘em,” said the girl.
“Half-Dead! Are you up there shootin’ dice, losin’ our hard earned money?!” shrieked a voice.
Maia and David exchanged horrified glances and then looked towards the dice rolling crowd to see which one of them would answer to the name, “Half-Dead.”
Up walked a lady with a horrible red curly weave, yelling at the top of her lungs. She held herself steady against the rocking boat.
“I knew you was up here,” she yelled at a sleepy looking man who wasn’t saying too much of anything. “Which bag did you put that Imodium in? This damn boat ride makin’ me sick to my stomach!”
The group of men snickered.
“What the hell y’all laughin’ at?!” She demanded to know.
Then she turned on Maia and David. “What the hell you starin’ at?! You don’t know me like that!”
Maia shook her head and stared at the water. As much as she wanted to say something back to this female Bozo-the-Clown, like telling her that eyebrows are not supposed to meet the hairline, Maia refused to combat ignorance with ignorance.
David said shaking his head also, “Nothing, ma’am. Go on and handle that.”
“Phyllis,” admonished the one with the funny shaped head. “You don’t know them people like that!”
“So! They don’t need to be starin’ at people all up in their eye!” Then she turned on Half-Dead, her curly weave quivering angrily on her head. “Get down them stairs!” she snapped punching Half-Dead in the arm.
He climbed down the stairs with a fussing Phyllis behind him.
“Hey y’all we sorry ‘bout Phyllis,” The man with the funny shaped head said. “Sometimes she don’t know how to act.”
“Hey no problem, bruh,” David said good-naturedly.
“Hey man, I’m Lightbulb,” the man introduced himself. “Clay brother.”
“Oh hey, man,” David piped up. “We just met Clay but he seems like cool people. I’m David and this is my wife, Maia. She’s Marissa’s sister.”
Lightbulb looked from the built man to the pretty woman sitting next to him.
“You’re Maia?” Lightbulb asked her.
“That’s right,” Maia said wondering how a man by the name of ‘Lightbulb’ could possibly know her. “It’s nice to meet you.”
“Hey gurl, it’s a good thang you married to this dude ‘cause I was sure ‘nough askin’ Clay ‘bout how to get next to you!”
“You don’t even know me,” Maia said to him trying to keep the pretentiousness out of her voice.
“Don’t matter. As fine as Marissa is, I knew any sister of hers had to be fine too!” Lightbulb quickly told David, “No offense, bruh. You jus’ lucky that’s all I’m sayin’.”
“I know that,” David said giving Maia a kiss on her cheek.
“Oh this Book, Clay’s other brother, our cousins Damon and Webb. Half-Dead, our other brother just left with his loud mouth wife, Phyllis.”
“But Phyllis was right ‘bout one thing,” said the small wiry one called Book. “This water rough! What up with that?”
“It’s got to be the storm coming,” Maia said. “It makes the waters a bit choppy.”
“We gotta go down, yo,” said Damon. “I’m gettin’ sick up here.”
“It’s nice to meet you two, see you around,” said Lightbulb following his cousins and brother down the stairs.
“How are you feeling?” Maia asked David.
“I’m a little off, but I think I’ll be alright.”
“Let’s go on downstairs. You don’t feel the boat’s movement quite as much.”
They passed Clay and Marissa who were oblivious to all of the activity. The both of them were cuddled together on the seat cushions fast asleep.
“Aw David look,” Maia said softly. “They’re so tired.”
“They’d better get their rest now because it’s going to be another busy day tomorrow,” said David guiding Maia down to the lower deck.
It was pandemonium. The rough seas had made almost everyone a little green around the gills. Poor Marisol was laying her head in José’s lap trying to keep the walls of the boat from spinning. Both bathrooms were occupied. One of them had been unavailable almost since the beginning of the trip.
Lightbulb, Book, and the two cousins had their heads hanging over the railing. Obviously, the wait for the bathrooms had been a little too long. Sarah and Lily nearby witnessing the spectacle, broke into giggles at their discomfort.
“For the last time, Cloretta, we cannot pull the boat over to get food,” Maia heard Big Mama say. “And I don’t ‘wanna hear no mo’ ‘bout Pete’s hypoglycemia!”
David and Maia weaved their way between two children playing with Pokémon cards on the floor. Cousins Xavier and Tony practically knocked Maia over as they ran from the rear of the boat to the front. Apparently the rough waters did not faze them in the least.
When the couple passed Aunt Jennifer, she patted Maia’s stomach and Colin said, “Congratulations.”
Maia and David were going to have to worry about that later.
“I’m going to kill Marissa,” Maia overheard Leah, a thin attractive woman with silky shoulder-length hair, say to Beth, the short thick woman with the athletic build. “First she sweats me for money and now she’s making me sea-sick.”
“It’ll all be over with soon,” said May, an average-height cinnamon-brown woman. In fact, everything about her was average except for her long muscular legs.
“Why did we agree to stay with her?”
Maia didn’t want to hear the rest of this conversation. David gave her a sympathetic glance before passing more friends and family in search of James and Paris. They finally found them with the Robinsons. Poor Mrs. Robinson had her head between her knees.
“Mom, Dad, are you guys okay?” Maia asked.
“We’re fine for now,” said Paris as she rubbed Mrs. Robinson’s back. “Where’s Marissa?”
“She and Clay are upstairs napping.”
“Good because she doesn’t need to know about this!”
“Maia, why don’t you see if the captain has anything for motion sickness,” James suggested before resuming his conversation with Mr. Robinson, who was feeling a little queasy himself, but was determined to tough it out.
“Sure.” Maia got up and headed towards the front of the boat and knocked on the crew door.
“Do you have anything for motion sickness?” Maia asked once the captain opened the door.
“How many?” he asked.
“Everyone,” Maia responded crossing her arms.
“I only have five tablets left,” the captain said. “We used most of them on the earlier runs. That Hurricane Anissa is making the waters rough.”
“Then what do you suggest we do?” Maia asked impatiently.
“We’re going to dock in 15 minutes. You’ll be able to get something from the General Store on the island.”
“Fine,” said Maia and began to make her way back to where her parents were sitting.
She had to pass the bathroom where she thought she heard a groan of satisfaction. A second later, the door opened and the kissing and grinding couple from the top deck came spilling out laughing.
Aunt Theresa pushing them aside and ran in. Maia didn’t even bother to hide the disgust on her face. The big boobed woman looked at Maia with a satisfied expression of someone who had gotten to eat the cherry from the top of the hot fudged sundae.
Maia stormed back to her parents and to David, who had witnessed the whole thing.
“Take it easy, baby!” he soothed, trying to slow the tirade he knew his wife was about to let loose.
“This is my sister’s wedding, not a brothel!” Maia fumed. “I wish they would not carry on like that—um hold that thought.”
Maia, seeing that one of the bathrooms was free, made a mad dash to it, slammed the door shut behind her and clicked the lock in place.

Don’t Be That Couple

Have you ever wanted to say to someone, “It must be nice being right all of the time”? You know that person. Everything must be done their way. In the way that they say to do it. To be completed immediately. Like right now. If there are any questions as to how said something must be done, you must confirm with that person to make sure that you are on their the same page. None of your thoughts or interpretations are acceptable or you will pay for it, and pay for it dearly. Now imagine being married to that person. You can handle them in several ways. You can go along with it. Hey, you knew what you married before the rings were exchanged and the ink dried on the marriage license and you accept that. Or you can resent it silently, while going along with it, but every once in a while you do things your way, knowing the crap storm that is sure to be hurled in your direction because you deviated from the provided instructions. Or you are that one who always argues back because you have your own mind too. If you are that person who always argues back, then you and your spouse have officially become that couple. You know that couple. The couple that argues about everything, makes no compromises, and falls a mighty long way because they can’t get past their pride. Yes, that couple. And as that couple, you snipe over the smallest things. You both have to have the last word so perpetual shade is thrown. You sit next to each other with stoney expressions and arms crossed. You each mumble under your breath about how stupid the other is. So… perpetual mumble. The worst thing is that everyone knows you are that couple because the shade throwing, backbiting, and sniping isn’t even confined to the privacy of your own home. Oh no. That couple shows out in front of everybody. And they have no shame. But the people around that couple however, are totally embarrassed. And after witnessing that couple going at it, the people around them just want to do that bent-over-one-finger-in-the-air-walk-out-of-the-church type of leaving.
Homer Simpson in Bushes

When you become that couple, people stop inviting you out with them because they know that they are about two outings away from having to give witness statements to the police because neither of you know how to pull up when the back and forth starts getting a bit too real. If you are that couple, people don’t want to come to your house either. And be trapped when things get really uncomfortable, like when the fur (and glassware) start flying.

But this is what happens when you have a wedding and not a marriage. I know people get tired of hearing this, but marriage is truly about compromise. It’s thinking about your partner before yourself. It’s not about winning every argument, but acknowledging each other’s hurts. Sometimes, it’s okay to let your spouse have the last word. Sometimes, it’s okay to try it their way too. If their way works, great! If not, the world won’t come to a screeching halt. And for the love of your mate, don’t continuously beat your partner over the head with their error in judgment or miscalculation. Chances are, everything was done with the best of intentions. Being right does not automatically mean that you win. What does the “loser” think about always losing? That they can never be heard by the one person who is supposed to be on their side? You can be right all of the time and lose everything that you hold dear. Simply put: Do you want to be married or do you want to be right? If marriage is your choice, then don’t be that couple.

Look for that couple in Destination Wedding, coming out this summer.

My Wedding! It’s Ruined!

Wedding Program

My Wedding! It’s Ruined! Wow, how many times have we heard those words being said? Who has actually said those words? Raise your hand. Don’t be shy. Ah weddings. That’s the event every girl dreams about since they were old enough to pronounce the words, “Vera Wang.” The image of the perfect timeline of wedding events is cemented firmly into a young girl’s head. Cemented like the glue used to affix tulle to well…everything. We girls all know that it starts with the perfect proposal. Let’s go through the perfect proposal, shall we? It happens at the exotic spot or fancy restaurant. Man down on one knee with two karat, pear-shaped, G or H clarity, flawless diamond ring. The bonus is all of the friends and family nearby to have their faces rubbed in witness this blessed event. So if all of these things occur, it’s the perfect proposal, right? I must be weird because I actually cherish mine that humbly occurred in front of the Saint Louis Cathedral in Jackson Square, but I digress. So after the “Yes!” it is time to move onto the next step of telling family and friends, who are either really happy for you or they hate you, with phone calls, Facebook, and save-the-date cards. And what is the perfect date? Depends on whether you want to be a spring, summer, fall, or winter bride. You ask yourself the important questions of whether you are competing with holidays, milestone birthdays, or worse, another wedding. Because if you and Cousin Mitzy are walking down the aisle on the same day, your wedding will be ruined! Where will the ceremony and reception be held? A backyard? a church? a tropical destination? This is important to establish early because if any of these venues fall through, the wedding is ruined!

Wedding Coordinator or no? In other words, can you relinquish enough control to let someone else put everything together or do you want to do it all yourself? Flowers, cake (chocolate, vanilla, raspberry ganache? Three tiers? Four Tiers? Groom’s cake?), Food, Linens, Centerpieces, must all be perfect. If not, the wedding will be ruined! If the tulle is stuck in the wrong spot, the wedding will be ruined! Keep in mind that the careless selection of themes and colors will also bring about the ruination of your blessed event. I’m not kidding.

Where the wedding will be held depends on the how many guest you want to witness your event. Oh the guest list. Whoo! This has been the cause of many conflicts. One wrong guest and the wedding is ruined! If you have fighting relatives, who do you invite and who do you tell to keep their drama at the house? If your folks are divorced and have been remarried, how do you orchestrate that? And if this is marriage number two, how do you negotiate the attendance of the children with the ex? If the split was amicable, then problems are limited. Now if a big flat-screened television set and shade were thrown during the divorce, then getting your child to your happy day will take an Act of Congress (or the act of a good lawyer). What about that fresh uncle who grabs everything wearing a skirt? How about that aunt who prays for the words, “Open Bar”? What about that friend who lets you know that she will wear the same outfit she wore to your fiancée’s first wedding? Does she get an invite? Anyhow, once this list has been established, what’s the seating arrangement? Can’t sit feuding relatives next to one another. So figuring out who sits next to whom is as complicated as putting together a Survivor puzzle. Get it wrong, and the wedding is ruined!

Speaking of people, who are the groomsmen? Who are the bridesmaids? Who gets the coveted spots of Best Man and Maid of Honor? If the wrong selections are made, the wedding is ruined! I don’t know about men, but with women, the selection of bridesmaids is a complicated process. Who they will be has been established in the Kindergarten sandbox. The list evolves depending on circumstances. They can be removed if the person moves away, never to be heard from again or if there is a feud like stolen Barbies or boyfriends. The list grows as the bride grows up, where she is adding people from high school, college, and work. The wedding processional can be fifteen people long! Personally, I have witnessed a few occasions where bridesmaids selections have come back to bite the bride in the backside. It is important to select people who are truly happy for you and will support you. Also, while some there are some bridesmaids from you-know-where, sometimes, the brides have unrealistic expectations of their bridesmaids. You are friends for a reason and they should be treated as such. I absolutely loved my bridesmaids. Sure, they gave me what I needed, but in turn, I hope I was able to do the same for them.

So now that we’ve gotten the people all sorted out, what are they going to wear? Some brides get this notion in their heads that in order to have all the attention, their bridesmaids should be put into the ugliest dresses possible. Because if the bridesmaids look better than them, the wedding is ruined! This is crazy talk because the selection of dresses isn’t a reflection of how ugly the bridesmaids are, but of the bride’s poor taste. And insecurities. On the other end of the spectrum, there are brides who expect for their bridesmaids to get mani/pedis, hair (weave) done, facial, tanning, and diet. Yes some require diets. So basically, after dropping money for the dress, shoes, accessories, and travel, they need to empty their purses some more for the luxuries that they cannot afford on a regular basis, let alone a once (hopefully) in a lifetime event. Because in the bride’s mind, if their women walking down the aisle aren’t hooked all the way up – according to their specifications – the wedding is ruined!

Finally, most importantly, what are you, the bride going to look like when you walk down the aisle? Got to pick the perfect dress. Some brides have been known to cry when they find the dress. Personally, I didn’t. I was happy to find something that looked great (not really a ruffles and bows kind of girl), fit, and was good priced. Long veil or short veil? Tiara or simple clip? And what shoes? It’s all got to come together with the hair (a particular challenge for me), makeup (One of my bridesmaids hooked me up with that because bleech!), nails, and other grooming. Then brides are on that mission to find something old, new, borrowed, and blue. And if the bride isn’t perfect, like if groom wedding guests don’t cry and marvel over her beauty, the wedding is ruined!

So tell me, in recalling your own wedding, how many things have actually gone off without a hitch? Did you think your difficulties ruined the wedding? Do you look back on them fondly or are you still stewing over them years later? Were you stuck in your feelings about these mishaps to the point where you overlooked the spontaneous wonderful things that occurred? The things that your guest remember? Like I still cannot get the image of my 80-something-year-old grandmother getting her groove on at my sister’s wedding. That memory still makes me smile.

I have questions for those brides who believed that the wrong linens being used or the cake toppling over were truly devastating: Did your groom show up and say, “I do” with love in his eyes? Did everyone arrive safely? Return home safely? If so, then I personally believe that issues like people who show up without an RSVP can be laughed about later. With your groom. Oh remember him? I think that brings me to my second point of this post. People fall into the trap of wanting a wedding. Read back though this post about the process concerning what happens in a wedding. How many times did I mention, “the groom”? In what context was he mentioned? Did he play an important role in your event at all or was he just an accessory?

Brides need to remember two things: There would be no need for a wedding if he didn’t ask you to marry him in the first place. After all, the wedding lasts only one day. A marriage though, should last a lifetime. As hard as you work to put together the perfect wedding, you work even harder to maintain the perfect marriage. Even then, it does not stay perfect as committed people grow and change. Learning to live with someone else with their own thoughts, beliefs, desires, dreams, opinions, and feelings takes work. If you don’t do that, the marriage is ruined! Honestly, I believe that is more devastating than a perceived ruined wedding.

So if the reception didn’t go exactly how you pictured it a million times over in your head, but you are doing the first dance as husband and wife, then your wedding was not ruined. Most importantly, if you’re still dancing lovingly in each other’s arms ten, twenty, fifty years later, then you have had the perfect marriage. And that trumps a perfect wedding any day.

Be sure to check out my new novel, Destination Wedding Coming Soon!

Daufuskie Wedding Coming this Fall!

BookCoverPreview

The EBook version of Daufauskie Wedding will be coming out this fall, with the paperback to soon follow in the spring! Also don’t forget about The Promise of Palmettos and Marshland, still available online for purchase!

In the meantime, please enjoy an except of Daufuskie Wedding.

Instead of having the cab take him to his condo in Buckhead, Clay gave the driver Big Mama’s address off of Old National Highway. He could have headed to the house he and Marissa bought in Fayetteville, but it didn’t feel right without her in it and Clay wanted company tonight. The cab stopped in front of the small brick rancher and Clay paid the driver before making his way (not before tripping over one Big Mama’s ceramic garden gnomes) to the front door.
“Damn!” Clay shouted as he noted the grass stain on the knee of his new trousers. He’d wanted to pack them to wear on Daufuskie Island. Now he would have to put them in the cleaners tomorrow and pay for 24-service.
“Clay is that you?” called Big Mama from inside the house. Clay knew his grandmother would be up. She had always been a night owl, never going to sleep before seeing her late night shows.
Florine Hightower or Big Mama as everyone called her, raised her five grandsons after their mother, Mary disappeared two days after giving birth to Clay. She had not even given the tiny baby a name when she packed everything she owned and left in the middle of the night. Big Mama had the difficult task of raising five small children, four of which had already shown to be almost impossible to handle even at an early age. But with her youngest grandson only days old, Big Mama looked into his tiny face, saw promise and gave him the name “Clay”. She saw him as a work of art in progress that could be molded into someone worthwhile.
Growing up, Clay had known he was different as well. Big Mama loved all of her grandsons but she was always interested in what Clay was doing and he always made her proud. While his brothers were in the streets, Clay held down a job while maintaining good grades in school. With his academic achievement, Clay was able to get a partial scholarship to Morehouse College where he had recieved his business degree. With the help of Big Mama, his Aunt Lisa (Big Mama’s youngest daughter), and an anonymous benefactor, Clay was able to cover the rest of his expenses without having to work and he had been able to totally concentrate on his studies. He interned at a prominent African American firm, HJ Russell his junior and senior year where he was eventually hired. The downtown firm paid for his MBA which, he’d obtained from Emory University.
Clay pulled open the screen door and answered his grandmother. “Hey Big Mama, I just took a spill out there.” Clay went over to Big Mama and kissed her smooth cheek. She wrapped her thick arms around his neck taking in the smoke mixed in with his cologne.
At seventy-one, Big Mama was still a vibrant woman and had not one wrinkle. She was sitting in her favorite, worn, green chair, listening to a Shirley Caesar CD. Clay, feeling the makings of a small hangover, lowered the volume just a bit before collapsing onto the flowered sofa. The plastic crinkled under his weight.
“Where you comin’ from?” Big Mama asked him.
“Uh, the guys and I decided to hang out,” Clay skirted the truth.
“Hang out, my foot. Ya’ll were watchin’ ass shakin’, that’s where you was.”
Clay opened his mouth in horror. Not for his grandmother’s language, for she had cussed them all out growing up while at the same time being Born Again more times than Clay could count. What had shocked him was the fact hat he’d been busted by Big Mama, no less. If she knew, there was no way in hell he could keep tonight’s whereabouts a secret from Marissa.
“Oh relax yo’ mind boy. You smellin’ like a still and smoke and knowin’ how yo’ brothers like to send folks off, the only place you could be is the booty club. It don’t take no genius to figure that out.”
Clay laughed. “You’re right, Big Mama.”
“So how you feelin’ Clay, ‘sides horny?”
“Big Mama…” Clay groaned with embarrassment.
“Alright, I’ll be good. But seriously, how you doin’?”
“Happy, excited…nervous…”
“Son, it means so much to me that you made your brothers groomsmen. It means so much to them too.”
“Yeah, I just hope…” Clay trailed off.
“What son? What do you hope?”
Clay did not want to finish that sentence, which ended with “they don’t embarrass me.”
“Nothing, Big Mama,” Clay answered instead. “It’s going to be fine.”
“Of course it will. Ain’t nothin’ gonna go wrong ‘long as you let God into it. You was blessed to find a woman as special as Marissa.
Clay knew he was blessed. Big Mama had wrapped her arms around Marissa as soon as she had met her. With all of the trifling women his brothers had brought up into the house, he knew that Big Mama knew the real deal when she saw it and Marissa was the real deal. Clay could see that even his brothers knew that Marissa was a catch. The day Clay found Marissa he did not know that his life was about to be completed.
It was two years ago when Clay had just finished working on a major project for an important client and needed to unwind. He decided to get a drink and listen to some jazz at the Crow’s Nest Club. A peaceful night was not to be had that Thursday evening with the club being as crowded as it was. However, Clay didn’t want to leave without having at least one drink so he found the last empty booth. He was enjoying the group, It’s All Jazz when he was approached by a tall, very attractive, woman with a carefully made-up face holding a large pink drink with an umbrella sticking out of the glass. She boldly asked if she could sit down because there weren’t any more seats.
“I heard about It’s All Jazz and I just had to come see them,” she had said to him. “I guess everyone else did too.”
“Slide on in here, girl,” he had invited. “You’re an awfully brave girl to take a chance and sit next to me.”
“Why do you bite?” The smile never left her face. In fact her smile was the first thing Clay fell in love with. It was so bright and it lit up her entire face.
“As a matter of fact I don’t,” he answered with a grin but he thought, “But I could really sink my teeth into you. Hmph, hmph, humph!” Then suddenly Clay recognized her.
“Hey I know you, you’re Marissa Gardiner. You were a Lady Vol for the University of Tennessee and now you do play-by-play commentary for the Lady Panthers.” Clay was describing her job in addition to the position she held at CNN.
“A fan, I see. I’m flattered.” And Marissa was flattered. She was used to being recognized. What she was not used to, was the totally enthralled expressions this man was wearing.
“Fan is an understatement. You practically brought the Lady Vols to the 1996 Championship single handedly!”
“I was totally in love with you!” Clay blushed after that last part slipped out but Marissa wouldn’t let Clay be embarrassed.
“Well you know my name, what’s yours?” She asked looking at him with large bright eyes.
“I’m Clay Hightower.”
“Clay…is that short for anything?”
“Nope it’s just ‘Clay’.”
“A work of art,” said Marissa flashing another smile.
From that moment on, the two were inseparable.