And Gutenberg Lived Here: Life Changes Part Three: Marriage? Where’s The Dowry?

Some time ago,

a fellow blogger

mentioned her wedding, and the place a dowry holds in Northern Ireland.

That got me thinking about my family.

Generations of hardworking Irish-Americans.

Puritan preachers,


mill owners,

And horse trainers.

Lots of love,

but not much need for a dowry.

Until, one day,

the good fairy of the bizarre, decided that since there was a war brewing anyway,

and people were distracted,

she might as well have a bit of fun.

And made a few plans.

My father, a brotherhood member

(a religious community roughly akin to Menonite and Amish)

Who, by the way, believe in tolerance,

and worrying only about your own relationship to God,

not anyone else’s life,

was drafted.

And since he was from a very small town where everyone knew everyone else,

he was given a camera,

instead of a gun,

and sent to Cheyenne Wyoming,

to fight fires,

run the local radio station,

and write speeches for the camp commander.

Including some of the first announcements of world war II.

And it was Cheyenne where he

and his new soon-to-be-bride

had a bid in to live in base housing,

which turned out to be,

with 23 other couples,

a large portion of the governor’s mansion.

My parents got the converted bathroom,

meaning the dining table was placed over top of the huge low bathtub when not in use,

and they put the mattress and bedding on top of that to sleep.

But first they had to marry.

Which was where the good fairy of the totally absurd,

ugly sister to the good fairy of the bizarre,

only worse,

decided she had to have something to do with her time that day,

after getting a new dress and hairdo and all,

and decided she would follow them to the town hall

-to help them marry.

Meaning that:

My parents,

not knowing about the famous fairy sisters

who spend their time chasing down Irish descendants in America,

so they don’t forget about the luck of the Irish,

went to town,

on the day that had been scheduled for them,

not knowing, of course, that it was the highpoint of the Cheyenne round-up days,

one of the biggest cattle markets in the west.

And thus it was that they discovered,

upon meeting the town clerk,

that the town had, at the moment, no marriage licenses available.

At which point they were offered, instead,

a “temporary license”

Heading: Bill of Sale



Plus my father’s name.

Second line:

name of cow.

With my mother’s name.

Of course.

And here, I’m sure I don’t need to mention

that I have the original in my footlocker of important,

and embarrasing,

family documents,

since the “Permanent and legal wedding certificate” they were promised

somehow never arrived.

And thus the scene was set for Act II of:

The great Dowry Caper,

Which, of course, has to do with,

twenty-somthing years later,

the groom, a German scientist,

his Irish-American language teacher wife,

and the two ugly sisters.

Out for a little fun.

Which went like this…

“When shall we three meet again…”



That’s a Scottish play.

Ok, so

what happened is this…

My fiance had to have an operation to remove a steel pin after suffering a bad accident.

And since no one but wives are allowed in the room,

as I discovered as I had to sneak in after the first operation,

we decided to get married first.

Unfortunately telling his mother,

but adding that she would have plenty of time to get a dress etc.

At which point she set the wedding,

without asking us,

for in three weeks,

Meaning that,

since she had survived the Russian invasion,

and wasn’t about to back down on something as simple as this,

I had to get my birth certificate translated.

Enter comic sisters.

Lauging hysterically.

For, unfortunately,

the same two who had put my mother’s name on a cow bill of sale,

also just “happened” to put a footprint of the baby on my birth certificate.

A fact that the official government translators for such cases,

had not only never seen,

they also spent a rather large amount  of time,

judging from the amount of coffee stains on the original,


drinking coffee,

and laughing themselves sick,

before deciding to send us,

two days before the wedding,

a tranlation,

with a miniature version of a baby’s footprint,

something between a pavian

and a raccoon.

And, of course, the official translation

“Certificate of Birth- (with baby’s footprint)”

And it only cost my husband,

who was required by the German government to pay for the translation,

plus other necessary documents,

one full month’s salary,

to buy me free from all objections that might arise,

payable to the state of the Rhineland-Palatinate’s high court.

Since Americans have no residence registry office.

And thus, I might actually be married.

Which, I of course could not be

if the state government issued a certificate that I had raised my hand and sworn

my batchelorhood,

and also to a lot of other rather odd things I had to prove,

at the state registry office.

At which point, we decided to have our church wedding in the states.

And the fairy sisters weren’t half amused.

And we all lived happily ever after.

The End


copyright 2016  All rights reserved.

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