We’ve been in the heat of the southwestern deserts; time to head for the frozen north. And we’ve read stories that ended in weddings; time for one that begins there:
From the Relief Society Magazine, 1960 –
Orchids in the Snow
By Rosa Lee Lloyd
Sharon Haskell opened her eyes, stretched her arms, and looked dreamily at her beloved bedroom.
Frothy white curtains criss-crossed her window where the early morning sun was a pinkish mist; a golden filigree tray with perfume bottles glistened on her ivory dressing table, and the long French mirror with the pink taffeta bow at the top, completed the room especially designed for an adored twenty-one-year-old daughter.
Suddenly her face crumpled and she covered it with her hands. Tears came achingly. She was going away. She was leaving all these precious things and the people she loved; her twinkling, witty mother, her big, generous-hearted dad, and Kenny, her fifteen-year-old brother who was a teasing rascal at times but adorable anyway, really adorable. And Aunt Jewel, too. Dear, thoughtful Aunt Jewel. She could not bear to leave them. And yet, she was overjoyed to go!
Today was her wedding day! Her dark eyes flew to the Dresden clock on her bed table. Six o’clock. In two hours she would be in the temple. In exactly twelve hours she would be standing beside her husband, Samuel David Wynter, in front of the rose-banked mantle downstairs in the living room. By this time tomorrow morning they would be on their way to Sun Valley for their honeymoon. A little sigh of joy whispered through her tears. Two weeks alone with Sam in beautiful Sun Valley before they flew to Alaska where they would make their home. Sam had accepted a position as instructor in the engineering school at the University of Alaska in Fairbanks.
A little tremor of apprehension went over Sharry. Aunt Jewel had warned her that there was a housing shortage in Fairbanks and that living conditions were very different from those in Salt Lake City. but she refused to worry about it. Aunt Jewel, she thought tenderly, didn’t have children of her own, so she had given Sharry and Kenny all her pent-up motherly affection. She was a professional nurse and had cared for her parents until they died last winter. Sharry’s engagement, her bridal parties, her temple marriage this morning, and her wedding reception tonight had given Aunt Jewel the joy of her lifetime to be a part of it all. She lived in Sharry’s romance and happiness.
Everyone in the ward loved Aunt Jewel, Sharon thought, and everyone hoped that she would marry some fine man now that she was free from the family burden she had carried since she was a young girl. Aunt Jewel was only forty-four, two years younger than Daddy, who was her brother. She was still slender and queenly fair, especially in her white cap and uniform. Sharry wished Aunt Jewel would go to ward parties and have fun instead of working so hard all day and staying home every night.
“You need a change, Jewel,” Mama had said one day last week. “You must reach out for happiness and love.”
“I know,” Aunt Jewel had answered. “I know I should go out more, Mary. But there is so much to do, so many sick people who need me. Then I’m too tired at night for parties.”
Mama had nodded, understandingly.
“You’ve been so loyal, Jewel. so self-sacrificing. but now – please go out more, meet new people. Have some of the things you deserve. You’ve earned a little happiness, dear.”
“But I am happy, Mary!” Aunt Jewel had protested. “I love my work – it is everything to me.”
Mama had smiled her knowing little smile.
“No woman can be completely happy who hasn’t known love, Jewel,” she said. “Give yourself a chance for that happiness.”
* * *
Now Sharon pressed her tear-wet eyes with the palms of her hands, then reached for Sam’s picture on her bed table.
Why did she love him so deeply? she asked herself, wonderingly. He wasn’t exactly handsome. His red hair was too bushy. Even last week when he was honor guest at the dinner his fellow engineers had given for him, he was very well-groomed in his new dark suit, but his hair was a red bush. She had never seen him in a hat.
Did engineers wear hats in Alaska? she wondered, or fur caps or ear muffs? And would Sam’s bounce off his head because of his hair?
Her finger lovingly traced the outline of his nose in the picture, still a little crooked where a baseball bat had struck him when he was ten. But his eyes are wonderful, Sharon thought, blue and honest and genuine. And she loved the wide, generous curve of his mouth.
“That boy will always be good to you,” Mama had told her when they became engaged in April. “He has good eyes and a kind mouth and a chin like the bow of the queen Elizabeth. But don’t push him too far, Sharry. Don’t pout and want your own way all the time. Men with brushed-up red hair and chins like that have a will of their own, even when they love as tenderly as Sam does.”
Yes, she thought, Mama is right. Sam has a will of his own. She had seen him angry only twice in the year they had gone together, and both times had been her fault. She had sulked because he had been gone so long on a consulting job with the Twin Mining Company in Colorado. She had been jealous because his work was so important to him. From now on she would take Mama’s advice and not argue with him about it.
She held the picture close to her heart, remembering what her chum Marge Barlow (who was to be her maid of honor tonight) had written on the card with her wedding present: “May your life together be a path of roses.”
Oh, Marge, she thought, as she placed the picture back on the bed table and put on her robe, our life will be a path of roses. How can it help being so when we love each other? Sam is the man who carries my world on his shoulders.
A knock on the door brought her head up sharply. That would be Mama, of course.
“Come in!” she called gaily. Mama must not know she had been crying. But it was Kenny, tanned and lean in his bathing trunks. His blond hair was a damp stubble.
“Hi, bride!” he called, impishly, tossing a big rubber tire wet from the pool toward her. She flopped back on the bed, struggling to hold the tire.
“Kenny!” she gasped.
“Just wanted to know if you’re in condition for Fairbanks, Alaska. It’s rugged up there. I’ve been reading about that little burg you’re going to live in. Or should I say ice-burg?”
Sharon pushed the tire to the floor and jumped to her feet.
“Take that thing out of here! Why can’t you act like a gentleman on my wedding day?”
Kenny sat down on her satin slipper chair and looked around the room.
“Think I’ll make this my workshop when you’re gone. I can repair television sets right in this room.”
“Kenny – please. Don’t be so mean,” she coaxed. “This will always be my room. You know that. This is my home, you are my brother, and I love you even though you are unbearable.”
“Your home will be Fairbanks, Alaska, after today,” he insisted. “Fairbanks, Alaska, where you can have a big gray wolf for a pet, while Sam is off on his snowshoes searching for gold mines in the white icy spaces.”
“Wait until I’m gone. You’ll wish you had said something nice to me,” Sharon insisted.
“Like what?” he teased.
“You might say I have been a sweet sister to you,” she answered patiently. “You might remember certain little favors I’ve done while you were growing up. I’ll remember every little thing about you, Kenny. The first day you went to school when you were six and I was thirteen, and you cried before Mama came in and I didn’t tell about it.”
He jumped to his feet.
“Kid stuff!” he scoffed. “Sisters always think, they’re so grown-up. Does Sam know what you cry when you’re alone in the dark or when your hands get cold? Does he know you’ve never been away from home without Mom or Dad or me?”
“Oh, you! Sam wants me just the way I am.”
His young eyes sobered.
“Sam is twenty-nine,” he said, as though he had been thinking it over. “He’s used to roughing it on long, hard engineering jobs. He’s used to living in a trailer or a tent. He’ll expect a real woman to keep house for him, and what’ll he get? A doll baby who doesn’t even iron her own blouses!”
“Why, Kenny Haskell! You get out of here right now or I’ll call Mama.”
“That’s right,” he teased again. “Call Mama. You always call for Mama. Who’ll you call for in Alaska?”
He lifted the tire and opened the door.
“You better wake up,” he added significantly. “This book I’m reading says that part of Alaska where engineers go is our last frontier. You might have to live on caribou meat or clean fish or shoot bears. And learn to can moose, because beefsteak is three dollars a pound up there!”
“Don’t be ridiculous!” she laughed, but her heart turned over and was suddenly very quiet. Somewhere deep inside of her she remembered that Sam had said how high the cost of living was in Alaska. “It won’t be an easy life, darling. And you may have to stay alone at times while I’m away on consulting trips. Alaska’s great mining and metalurgical resources are of great value to the country. Some of my work will be secret. But we’ll work it out, sweetheart. We’ll have each other and that’s what counts.”
Kenny closed the door with a little bang. She stood there listening as he bounced the tire down the hallway. Then she realized that Kenny was worried about her going to Alaska. His impishness was just an act to hide the real way he felt. He had even taken time to read books about the place where she and Sam would live. That was more than she had done, she thought with a guilty pang. She had been too happy and too busy preparing her trousseau, having her announcement party, and arranging for the wedding reception after their marriage which would be in the temple this morning.
Her eyes went quickly to the clock. Almost six-thirty. She didn’t have time to worry over what Kenny had said about wolves or snowshoes or caribou meat or cleaning fish.
She must bathe and dress and brush her hair until it shone like a black pony’s coat. That was how Sam described her hair and she loved the way he looked at her when he said it, as though he was marrying the most beautiful girl in the world and nothing else mattered.
* * *
At six o’clock that evening, Sharon walked down the stairway. Everything was crystal white and beautiful. She could hardly breathe for the lump in her throat. Fresh dewy flowers smiled at her from every nook and corner of the downstairs.
She met Sam’s eyes and took her place in the reception line by his side.
“My wife!” he whispered in his deep, tender voice. “I love you, darling.”
All the glory of love was in his eyes as they met hers.
“My husband,” she whispered back, “I love you, too.”
This was the moment she had dreamed of and planned for ever since the night in April when she had promised to be his wife. This was the dream come true.
Smiling, gracious guests streamed past the wedding party saying the chosen words of praise that every bride and groom love to hear and remember. Soft music from the string trio on the patio was a lullaby of enchantment. Sharry’s heart lifted and sang with the joy of it all. No night had ever been so beautiful, no bride had ever been so loved and loving. She closed her eyes in a wave of gratitude to her Heavenly Father. She would remember every moment of her wedding day forever and ever.
Sharon started in surprise. Kenny was standing before them. He looked very grown-up in his dark trousers and cream-colored coat. Even his black bow tie was perfectly straight.
“There’s a call from Alaska, Sam,” she heard him say. “Some man from the University wants to talk to you. He says it’s very important.”
Sam’s heavy brows drew together as he looked at Sharry.
“Sorry, darling. You’ll have to excuse me a minute.”
“But, Sam!” she touched his arm. “You can’t leave now. You can’t.”
“I have to,” he said simply. “No one would call me unless it was an emergency.”
Sharry’s eyes widened as she watched him walk away. How could he do such a thing at their wedding reception with dozens of people watching them! How could he leave her at a time like this?
Marge Barlow, her maid of honor, slipped her arm around her.
“Take it easy, hon,” she coaxed. “He’ll be back.”
“I could die, Marge,” she said, tightly, “just for an old telephone call.”
“But it must have been urgent,” Marge insisted. “You married a man who has a job to do, remember?”
Sharry felt her anger mounting in her. Sam always put his work and duty above everything. But now he had a wife and she must come first. She would insist that Sam not answer their telephone while they were on their honeymoon in Sun Valley.
She glanced at others in the line. Of course they were wondering why Sam had left her like this. Daddy and Mama were whispering together with Sam’s parents and there was a ripple among the bridesmaids.
Marge nudged her.
“Now be good,” she coaxed. “Here he comes.”
“That didn’t take long,” he said as he took his place in time to greet the Sherman Browns.
After they had moved on, Sam turned to Sharry. His blue eyes were serious.
“Listen, honey, I wish this could wait, but it can’t. There is a special meeting for all mining and metalurgical engineers scheduled for next Saturday. We’ll have to leave on the first plane out of here. The meeting is of national importance.”
Sharry felt the words beating against her heart. Sam was telling her they must give up their honeymoon in Sun Valley!
“No!” she heard herself saying in a strange, tense voice. “You promised, Sam. Two weeks alone in Sun Valley. You promised!”
“Look at me, darling,” he pleaded. “You know I want those two weeks as much as you do. Do you think this is easy for me?”
She could not answer. Her eyes flickered away from his, and her mouth drooped into a pout. Then she saw Mama looking at her, warningly. It was as though she was saying: “Don’t pout or want your own way all the time. Don’t push him too far, Sharry.”
She took a long, quivering breath as she turned her eyes back to Sam.
“It’s all right,” she said. “I – understand how it is.”
“That’s my sweetheart!” he sighed gratefully. “I knew you would be a real trooper, honey. I’ll make it up to you. You know I will!”
“I know, dear,” she said, trying to smile.
She swallowed hard. Sam must not see her cry, she thought bravely. She must live up to what he expected of his wife. She had to learn how to be a real wife now. He was her husband and she loved him with all her heart. But her hands trembled as she pressed her bouquet against her breast.
“I hope I catch your bouquet,” Marge whispered. “It’s almost time to throw it, Sharry.”
Sharry’s hands closed possessively around it. She wanted to keep it fresh and lovely like this forever. Some brides didn’t throw their bouquets any more, so why should she? It was an old-fashioned custom, and she didn’t want to do it.
A half hour later as she started up the stairway, she was still holding it closely.
The rooms were crowded with guests. She could feel the eyes of everyone on her, especially the yearning eyes of the bridesmaids and the unmarried women.
She turned slowly. She must share her happiness. Mama and Daddy had taught her that when she was a little girl. Maybe if she threw her bouquet it might make someone very happy, hoping to be the next bride.
Sharon lifted it high above her head, calling gaily as she threw it into the crowd below:
“Here it comes, lucky you!”
There was a gasp of wonder. Sharry stared down at the upturned faces. Pale, golden Aunt Jewel, her eyes like newborn stars, was holding Sharry’s bouquet in both hands as though she couldn’t believe anything so wonderful could happen to her!