My mother-in-law persisted with her knocking and asked through the door "are you sleeping? I brought your gift!"
Perhaps this is the origin of the "sleeping" euphuism for sex - not wanting to alert the in-laws that any hanky-panky might be happening on the wedding day!!
I wanted to ignore her. I felt like a teenager caught doing something bad . . . well, at least one of us was still a teenager so there was something to that. But Mitch pulled his shirt back on and shut the bedroom door and walked the two paces across the living room/kitchen/dining room to open the front door as I frantically pulled on the clothes that had been flung to various parts of the small room. After checking myself for guilty signs in the bathroom mirror, I de-muffled the voices by opening the bedroom door.
My mother-in-law who less than an hour ago could barely look at the two of us, let alone think of a single thing to say to us, was babbling on and on about when we needed to be at the church for the open house, something about the food and who knows what else. Mitch was holding a box. It wasn't wrapped. It was a VCR. Mitch was excited about this gift and enthusiastically pointed it out to me and with that purchased affection he forgot the sting of silence following his mother's "you'll have to come back to me, I can't think of anything."
At some point not much later he stung me with that material gift by holding it out as superior to whatever it was my parents gave us . . . which may have been nothing in terms of wedding gifts. But considering the wedding they scraped together, the car they gave us, the bed they would later donate to our sad cause (and the effort they exerted in transporting it to us), the bail money they would later pay to get him out of jail, the countless meals, gas money, moving labor and groceries they donated, not to mention the tremendous emotional support and advice they freely offered, I believe their gift tally to the marriage came out miles ahead of a lone VCR.
At some point my mother-in-law left but the mood was ruined and I think I ultimately ended up going to my parent's hotel - possibly alone - to have my mom fix my hair and makeup. There I found a large gathering of my very bored relatives just waiting for the open house to start.
There is very little to say about the open house. It was as I described it earlier - held in one of the very large basketball courts that are a staple in Mormon churches with round folding tables covered with the worst shade of lavender tablecloths with loud scraping metal folding chairs and my groom and me standing in front of an incomplete-looking white lattice-work backdrop propped up against the wall under the basketball hoop - which was an improvement over the temple backdrop I almost had. All under the unflattering glare of fluorescent lights.
But really, these aren't the things that matter at a wedding, right? What really matters is the connection between the bride and groom and with their guests. Which is why this slopped together excuse for an open house did not improve.
No one came.
Although I went to school in Cedar City, I really didn't have a lot of friends there at this point. And the few I did have were still enjoying the last few days of summer vacation before school started and had not yet moved back to Cedar on September 16th. Besides, my family was hosting the "real" reception in Salt Lake - this was not our gig.
And yet, the bulk of the people who came were invited by me and my family - including my mom's family and a smattering of other relatives and four or five of my high school friends. Most of Mitch's immediate family didn't even bother showing up let alone his relatives, neighbors and ward members. He had lived in that same house and ward since he was 4 or 5 years old and over the course of two or three hours I would guess we barely had twenty, maybe thirty people come in to greet us.
Have you ever thrown a party and had no one show up? How about a wedding?
One of my biggest fears at that point in life and perhaps one of my biggest motivators for getting married so young was my fear of ending up alone. I had been hurt too often by friends who seemingly abandoned me without any stated reason, which left me paranoid. I was not comfortable with myself and felt solitude was a punishment inflicted on the outcasts. I did not want to be an outcast - so I got married thinking I would never be alone again not realizing how lonely a marriage could get.
Despite the fact I did not invite many people to this open house, I took the poor turnout very personally. It soured the day to the point that when I did have friends show up I was embarrassed. I wanted to apologize for the large empty room to the few who entered.
Among Mitch's dad's side-jobs (such as lawn mowing business and wedding slide shows), he also had DJ equipment for some reason. I think one or two of Mitch's brothers would DJ church dances and the occasional wedding, including ours. I have always enjoyed dancing and I was lucky enough to stumble into a group of girl friends in high school who shared my passion and taught me to dance with abandon by frequenting nearly every church youth dance offered in the Salt Lake valley over the last two or three years. Not to speak to anyone else's dance skills, but as a whole, we weren't necessarily good dancers. But what we lacked in skill we made up for with heart.
So having our very own DJ with an entire gym to ourselves should have been an exciting prospect. Instead, given the bright lights and the palpable discomfort that permeated the large space, all we could manage was one half-hearted dance. I don't remember what song it was but seeing us do one of our "routines" in my photos warms my heart thinking there was something I enjoyed at that night.
There was also a daddy-daughter dance and most likely the other traditional first dances . . . for the family members to watch I guess. That was the first and only time I have ever danced with my father. Despite it all, he looked in my eyes and wore this proud, emotional face he gets when he grows especially maudlin about his family. I tried rolling my eyes to shake his sentimentality but then he pulled me closer and whispered loving words in my ear that made it difficult for me to hold back the tears. He could see how hurt I was that day and he wanted to take it away and show that he supported me and he sincerely did. My parents supported me in every decision I made and when I was fighting for my marriage, they fought by my side offering succor as needed, even when they were praying for me to find a way out.
There isn't much more to say about the open house. There wasn't a cake, I didn't throw my bouquet. I don't think anyone decorated our car and I don't remember anyone really wishing us off although I'm guessing they did, at least my family. By the end of the night (only 9 pm or so) I don't think anyone other than Mitch's mom was still there from his family. Most of his eight siblings (many with spouses) made limited appearances and slipped out early - some using children as an excuse, others just leaving.
I collapsed in the car in near-exhaustion as Mitch drove up the winding switchbacks of the canyon we knew so well to a cabin someone had kindly donated for the night to two poor students who couldn't afford a honeymoon. I could no longer hold back the tears so I let down my guard and cried. I cried when I realized I was leaving my family behind, I cried for the miserable turn-out, I cried for the lack of support we were receiving from Mitch's family and took it all upon myself and viewed the day - and me - as a failure.