Wedding Reception at Great-Auntie Irene’s ©
Pamela Carvajal Drapala
January 28, 2001
November 2000 I attended a cozy wedding reception for my nephew at Great-Auntie Irene’s home in Yuma around 5:30 p.m. on a Saturday evening. The bride and groom were visiting from Phoenix for their wedding reception. They eloped in Las Vegas over the summer and this was the first time we saw them as husband and wife.
I originally had planned to attend the Hot Air Balloon Festival at the Yuma Convention Center that evening. Tonight, a variety of music would accompany the hot air balloon festivities. Later a firework show would follow, and it was an event, I didn’t want to miss. However, I attended the reception. I knew how important it was to my sister that I attend her son’s and new daughter’s wedding reception.
As I entered Auntie’s spacious brick and stucco home built around the early 1960s, I felt as if I was going back in time to the 1940’s. The Andrew Sisters song, Chattanooga Choo Choo, played on my Auntie Irene’s stereo as we greeted each other lovingly with hugs and kisses. At that moment, I couldn’t help but remember seeing my petite Mom dancing the Jitter Bug with her Auntie Irene at my Uncle Leland and Aunt Gena’s Fiftieth Wedding Anniversary a few of years ago in San Diego County. My Mom and Great-Auntie’s generation experienced rough times in the Depression and World War II; however, they were stronger because of it. They enjoyed every moment of their lives and didn’t take life for granted. During that time, when a young girl danced with her soldier boyfriend or husband, it might be their last dance, because many of the boys didn’t come home after the war, and when they did some were disabled. I then remembered my Mom writing my daughter, Laura, who was now twenty, a letter a few years ago explaining how thing were when she was a teenager in the 1940s living in Yuma. Mom’s life was different from the times today . . .
“It was Sunday, December 7, 1941. My Grandmother Lola, Mother Sally, and a few relatives were in the kitchen, which was rather large, and one of the aunts was pressing something on the ironing board. My cousin walked in saying that Pearl Harbor had been bombed. I didn’t realize how serious this was. I was in my early teens. The only way we received news was from the radio that we listened to everyday, and we would get the newspaper. That’s where we got most of our news. My family and I would go to the movies on Saturday and Sunday. The world news was projected on the screen before the show started. We would go to the Yuma Theater, where it was nice and cool because it was air-conditioned.
Back then, very few homes were refrigerated during the summer months. Only the very well off had that luxury. My family had a wooden stove on one end of the kitchen and the other stove on the other end of the kitchen was kerosene. The only warm place in the house was the kitchen where we would get dressed in front of the stove before we went to school in the winter. A pot of hot coffee and warm oatmeal was on the stove and of course, Grandmother Lola would have a little pan of prunes on top of the stove cooking. We did not have hot running water; we had to heat the water in a kettle for the dishes. “ Things were different, and I would never understand how different, I thought.
Soft lights illuminated Auntie Irene’s rooms in her home as if the candles were the only source of lighting. I engaged in a brief conversation with the bride’s family who resided in the Midwest, Iowa. We talked about the Yuma heat, and how the devil loved to spend his summer vacation in Yuma. I continued to chat with other guests at the party and the music continued to play other tunes, this time a Glenn Miller song, Moonlight Serenade.
A beautiful wedding cake with white and blue icing, assorted foods, and relish dishes embellished the dining room table. After my sister, Elizabeth, brewed the tea on the gas stove, I watched, as she removed ice cubes from the ice tray and placed them in the pitcher. My niece, Lisa Marie, helped place the final dish of crispy fresh vegetables of carrots, celery sticks, and broccoli on an oval wooden tray with a small bowl of ranch dressing on the table draped with a white linen tablecloth. I admired the antique crystal bowls, silverware, and glasses in my aunt’s kitchen knowing that one-day, they would be bestowed to a relative in our Higuera Family.
A while back, Elizabeth told me of the simple, rose colored, cut glass, pair of candlesticks that were once Great-Grandma Lola’s. Great-Grandma Lola was born long ago in Yuma in 1881. Great-Grandma’s candlesticks disappeared after the death of her daughter, Amalia. Elizabeth told me that they were to be hers, however, in the shuffle after Great-Auntie Amalia’s death, they simply vanished from Auntie home. Elizabeth yearned to hold the candlesticks once more in her hands to admire their beauty. However, because of circumstances, she wouldn’t get to use them or pass them down to her daughter, Lisa Marie, as Great-Grandma Lola had intended.
After we ate a traditional Mexican buffet of burritos, rolled tacos, beans, rice, and tossed salad for dinner, the glowing bride and groom opened a gift package. It was a brass candleholder and candle set for their new home that was almost new. I could see that the couple was deeply in love with each other, and then I remembered my own groom, Rick, who was out-of-town, that weekend. That’s when I asked Auntie Irene if I could please borrow her telephone in her quiet master bedroom. I wanted to phone my husband who was at North Island teaching a course in microprocessors for Southern Illinois University. Little did I know Auntie’s telephone was a rotary.
I became frustrated, when I couldn’t punch the buttons on the keypad as I did on a Touch Tone® Telephone. I manually dialed the telephone number and didn’t do a good job. I never got though. I realized how spoiled I had become with my brightly lit home, ice maker, portable telephone, and instant ice tea. I wondered if my grand nieces and nephews would soon look at my life and think I was stuck in a time long forgotten. Although the rotary telephone might be ancient in my eyes, it still serves a purpose.
After I said my good-byes around 9:00 p.m., I heard one last song playing in the background, and the family escorted me outside to my 1999 white Nissan Quest so I could go home. I would try again to phone my husband, this time on my phone. As all of us walked out the front door and down the sidewalk to the front yard, the sky lit up like a Christmas tree. The bright assortment of colorful fire works of blue, red, and green exploded from the Hot Air Balloon Festival at the Yuma Convention Center located on Avenue “A”. The display of the fireworks left me with a warm feeling within my being as I drove my van down Highway 80 to my 1980’s home, although it was a very cold November evening. (end)