IF MY HEART HAD WINGS – Book Excerpt #4 – Chapter 3 “I Don’t Want to Walk Without You”
“To call it a whirlwind wedding doesn’t begin to describe it,” Mom said giddily. As we sat hemming dresses for my fall wardrobe, just the thought of her wartime nuptials made her smile and shake her head in disbelief.
“I had two weeks to plan my wedding. There was no time to make a wedding dress, and even if there had been, you couldn’t find any nice fabrics during the war. So my cousin lent me her dress and my mother altered it.”
“And that’s the white wedding dress you were wearing in that picture I found?”
“Yes. Then, some of my friends gave me their sugar and butter coupons so I could get a cake made. And we bought some flowers. That was about all you needed for a wartime wedding.”
“What about the reception? Did you all guzzle buckets of champagne and dance up a storm to swing music?” I could just see it.
She looked at me like I was crazy.
“Are you kidding? We didn’t even serve lunch. We just went next door to the Raff’s house for cake and coffee.”
“Not even a little sip of champagne?” Then I remembered.
“Oh yeah, Mrs. Raff was anti-alcohol.”
“Yes. To say the least,” she said drily.
“So are there any pictures of the two of you on that day?”
The whole thing just wasn’t going to seem real to me until I could see them together.
She left the room abruptly and I could hear her rummaging around in the hall closet.
When she came back, she was holding a black and white photo taken on the big day. They must have been outside the church because she wore a short black cape over her white dress. In the picture, she smiled tenderly at the handsome young man in uniform standing beside her. But he looked straight at the camera with a big, wide grin. If he could have spoken, I imagined he would have said, “Finally, I got what I wanted!” They both looked very, very happy. I hoped that one day I would have a picture like that with me standing there in a white veil, smiling lovingly at my fantastic new husband.
And that wasn’t even the best part. Because she was Lyndon’s wife, Mom got to travel with him to his new assignment at Ft. Bragg army base in North Carolina, where they would be able to live together until he went overseas. Both of them were over the moon about it.
“Hey, but weren’t you still in college?”
“I dropped out,” she replied, without a hint of regret.
That was another little tidbit I’d never heard before!
“Jeez, Mom, weren’t Grandma and Grandpa furious?”
“Nope. Nobody said anything in those days if a girl left work or school to spend time with her man before he went overseas. That was considered A-OK.”
So just a few days after the wedding, she found herself happily ensconced in an overnight train compartment with her brand-new husband, headed for Ft. Bragg and a brand-new life.
She told me she was sitting there, trying to wrap her mind around all that had just happened to her, when Lyndon pulled a small box out of his pocket and handed it to her.
“What’s this?” she asked, genuinely surprised. He’d already given her a beautiful double strand of pearls as a wedding present. How could he top that?
“Promise me that you’ll wear this,” he said, “especially when I’m away.”
Inside the box, on a piece of white cotton, lay a silver pin with arching wings joined by a tiny shield in the center.
“Your pilot’s wings!” she cried.
He fastened the wings to her jacket and said, “Wear them right above your heart and I’ll always be with you.”
That’s when she pulled off her high school ring and put it on his little finger, the only one small enough to wear it. It was a little bit of herself that she could send with him.
“After that,” she told me, “I wore his wings all the time. I really believed that as long as I wore them, nothing bad would ever happen.”
If you enjoyed this excerpt, you’ll love If My Heart Had Wings: A World War II Love Story — the true story of the life and death of a WWII pilot and the tumultuous life of the young widow he left behind. Click below to buy it today!