1981 – Shortly after The Captain gave me the ruby engagement ring, we moved from my little apartment in Thibodaux to a rent house in his home community of Dulac, meaning “of the lake” because it sits on the edge of Lake Boudreaux. Bayou Grand Caillou, which means “big rock”, runs through the community. It’s the same bayou we traveled to the Gulf when I worked with him on crew boats the year before. Actually, there was so much water around, that every house seemed to have at least one boat sitting in the yard or tied up at the edge of the bayou.
Dulac, largely populated by French-speaking Houma Indians, was a fishing community. The men typically either worked on seafood-harvesting boats or in the oil field. The women mostly worked in the shrimp factories and cared for their families at home. Jobs in the oil industry were plentiful, as offshore drilling and production were in their prime. It wasn’t a very big leap to go from running a fishing boat to running an oil field boat. For me, the jump went the other way, which I’ll talk about later.
Having left the work of a deckhand behind and my face turned back toward college, the fall semester began for me at the age of twenty-five. Since I was in a new field of study–elementary education–I had to start at the first level for many of the education classes, making me the oldest student in most of them. During the semester, The Captain and I made plans to marry during the Easter break of my spring semester.
The wedding was initially planned to take place back in my home town of Bossier City, but when my future mother-in-law balked at making such a long trip, I opted to get married closer to home. By this time, I had visited the Presbyterian Church in Houma a couple of times and felt welcome. The pastor there agreed to marry us, requiring us to meet with him once beforehand. I can’t remember why I made this decision, but in lieu of marrying at the church, I wanted to marry in the rent house we were living in at the time. Sometimes, I wonder who that young woman was back then with her unwavering ideas about how things should go. In hindsight, I guess I wanted to make attending the wedding as easy as possible for The Captain’s family.
So, the date was set and wedding plans got underway, starting with my idea of a wedding dress. Houma wasn’t as sprawling as it is now with shops and boutiques, but I managed to find a fabric shop where I chose a pattern for my dress and The Captain helped me pick a beautiful champagne-colored fabric and matching lace for the bodice and sleeves. There was a gifted Native American seamstress in Dulac who made the dress for me at a very reasonable price. I don’t remember who, but I found someone to make my bouquet from silk flowers I had chosen to match my dress and the flower garland for my hair.
My only attendant was the wife of one of The Captain’s best friends, who had become my friend over the past year or so. I picked a pattern and fabric for her dress as well. Peach was, I know not why, the color I chose. The house was decorated with silk flowers of the same peach color, and she helped me with the decorating. The cake would be made by a local woman who was known for her baking and cake decorating skills. The invitations were mailed, and we were all set for April 4, 1981 as our day to tie the knot.
The wedding came off without a hitch, but it seems strange to me now that I don’t recall having had any music. With both of us being so musical, that does seem strange, doesn’t it? The house was small, so maybe there was just no need to be so formal in such a homey space. I do remember Daddy walking me up the hall into the living room, with the Best Man and Matron of Honor standing with the pastor, waiting. As I looked around the small room, the closest of my family were there—Mom, Dad, Big Sis and her children; Lil Sis and her intended. There was The Captain’s father, his oldest sister, his niece, his first cousin, but someone was missing. His mother was not there. Turns out, she felt The Captain was too old to be in love at the ripe age of thirty-two. Besides, this girl he was marrying was from another world, and right she was.
But I didn’t let her absence upset me or spoil the evening. Her absence didn’t seem to bother her son, so why should I let it bother me? It was then I decided that I would always respect her decision not to be there, and that I would not let it come between us. I would be the best daughter-in-law I could be, whether she wanted to have me as hers or not. And now, some thirty-one years later, I have managed to live peacefully with the whole family. Considering The Captain had seven siblings, and all of them with spouses, children, and grand children, I think that is saying a mouthful.
While we were planning a wedding, my parents were planning their second trip to Hawaii, so we decided to go with them for our honeymoon. It was a great decision, and by booking a package deal through their travel agent, we got lots of perks we would not have enjoyed trying to wing it alone. We left for Hawaii one week after the wedding. The night we arrived, we drove up to the hotel, and not knowing where to enter, The Captain and my father got out of the car to inquire. As they rounded a corner, a big Hawaiian man addressed The Captain in his native Hawaiian tongue. With his dark skin and black hair, he was easily mistaken for an islander.
With free car rental as part of the package, we were able to travel the entire island of Oahu over the course of our stay. It was wonderful to get out of the big city of Honolulu and see the countryside and the seaside. We experienced miles of empty beaches and had our pick of spots to bask in the sun and explore. Of course, The Captain was the one wearing a white, long-sleeved shirt and a big straw hat—he didn’t need a tan anyway! We visited small villages, and bought unique souvenirs from little shops. We visited a pineapple farm, buying fresh fruit to take back home. We went snorkeling in Hanauma Bay, where I coined the new term “chorkel”, because I just could not get the hang of it and kept choking myself on sea water.
We ate fresh tropical fruit for breakfast every morning and drank deeply of the rich, Kona coffee. During the day, we sipped cool coconut milk through a straw, inserted right into the coconut. At night, we watched native dancers and enjoyed other live entertainment. We visited the historical remains of the U.S.S. Arizona and watched with mixed emotions as drops of oil floated up from the iron ship that served as last resting place for about 1200 navy men. The botanical gardens were some of the most beautiful I’ve ever seen.
The Captain loved Hawaii so much that he said to me several times during our stay that if he could get a job working on a boat over there, he would just send for his clothes. Even though the absence of mosquitoes and flies really impressed me; and even though it was a beautiful place to visit, I just had no desire to live there. The bayou, even with its abundance of mosquitoes, had become my new home, and I wasn’t ready to leave it when my new life there had really just begun.