• Suzanne Hudson

Fat Tuesday Fete

Updated: Feb 16, 2021

by Suzanne Hudson

The extent of our prenuptial agreement: I will NEVER ask Joe to do yard work; he will NOT catch the bus before I do. I know, I know, death does not always behave as planned or hoped for, but . . .

Photo (by Kevin D'Amico), above: Joe Formichella, the late Rev. Thomas L. Butts, and me, reciting vows at our Mardi Gras wedding

We got married on the Fat Tuesday of 2012, a year after my younger brother Wilson's death. Not because we were ever too keen on the need for marriage, but because we wanted to give my aging parents something to be happy about on THIS Fat Tuesday. One of the items on Wilson's short bucket list was to ride on a float in a Mardi Gras parade, which some dear friends, along with Mobile's Condi Explorers, made happen. "It was the best night of my life," Wilson said, drunk on beer and exhilaration; just days later, at a remote hunting camp in Lowndes County, in the early hours of Fat Tuesday, he lit up the stars.

And so it HAD to be a Fat Tuesday Mardi Gras wedding, with the wedding party all decked out in thrift shop sequins--purple, green, gold. I even spray-painted a pair of old boots gold to match my gown, yet another thrift shop number. Beads, of course, for everyone. New Orleans bluesy music from Grayson Capps and Corky Hughes. Groomswomen and bridesmen, all rocking the Gras-glam or its alternative, cammo. My childhood minister, of the Methodist variety, Dr. Tom Butts, officiating, offering a rather bawdy toast with the very fine scotch we gave him.

I love our life together--the nine years of marriage and the seven years before that. Drama-free. No need for chit-chat. No fear of silence, golden like the wedding gown. Two introverts who have found this pandemic isolation to be a piece of cake. (And speaking of, my former office mate Brenda came bearing a beautiful wedding cake she had created.) Our life: two writers who take care to stay the hell out of the way when one of us is in the zone. A couple of aging baby boomers who find abundant humor in the degradation of our bodies (but who exercise them to keep the oil can away) and in the general absurdity that is life. We're having a damn good time.

Oh, and the icing on the wedding cake? Our "Flower Child," Joe Galloway, a new friend and ever since, a solid one, who brought along HIS new fiancé, Gracie, along with Jacques TWD (The White Dog). Between Tom and Joe, two American treasures and heroes, we had plenty of gravitas to counterbalance the grit and the revelry.

And this year, just a year shy of a decade since that Mardi Gras wedding, one of the guests, a fellow scribbler of tales, sent me some impressions she wrote down on that day, post-nuptials. She thought I might enjoy reading them, now, nine years later, that I might like having a little stroll down Memory Lane. I DID enjoy them, so I asked her if I could share them here with you.

And so:

Reflections on a Wedding

Well what a grand day. The weather cooperated wonderfully for an outside event. Not too cold, not too hot. Cloudy in the beginning, then the sun broke through the clouds; a sparkling day for a new journey.

The trees stood tall and proud throughout the property. Moss draped the branches, like ornaments in a tree, ornaments that resembled old, grey, snarly beards. The property rests along a quiet body of water. River, maybe--but to me, that conjures up movement, energy. This water was quiet, laid back. Reflective; in itself it lent itself to you for reflection. And speaking of reflection, the whiskey bottle fence was not to be overshadowed, as the sun bounced off of the shiny glass.

The bride sat in the front yard, quietly catching a breath. Much work had been done to get to this day, readying for the occasion. Chairs, decorations, food and drink, set up, waited impatiently for someone to partake of them. The bride was dressed in a golden dress, gold lame’ boots, one sporting a garter belt around the ankle. A Mardi Gras jacket and gold belt. A light colored Joe Cain widow’s hat sat on her head, purple netting surrounding her face. A golden scarf braid that ran down her back. A bright smile on her red lips; a smile of happiness mixed with a sense of purpose to get this thing done.

A table set up with her three granddaughters, manning a sign in book and where Mardi Gras beads were dispensed.

Joe was a vision himself. Budweiser jammie pants, Crown Royal slippers (made special for him by a friend). Purple t-shirt, white vest and sequined bow tie, in Mardi Gras colors of course, and black tails to cover this ensemble.; hair in half a tail, the other half framing his face. A gleeful look completed this picture, happiness radiated from him. One might think this event was not taken seriously, but one would be wrong. As folks came to the site, Suzanne took care of details, busy, causing Joe to mutter to no one in particular, “Isn’t there suppose to be a wedding?” anxious to make Suzanne his bride. Giddy with happiness.

Family and friends everywhere mingled with the cats and dog. Suzanne’s Mom, Booda, don'cha just love that name… and her Dad, her son; her two granddaughters and her niece, dressed in Mardi Gras shifts, happy to be involved. Sam, Joe’s son, donned a gold glitter hat as he stood next to his dad for the ceremony. Did I mention that Sam walks just like his dad…looks like him, too.

The minister, an elderly gentleman was from Suzanne’s childhood in Brewton. Much history with her and her family, he took no offense when being introduced as a “badass." Indeed, a story was told by Joe of how the minister, back in the 60’s in a church in Mobile, was visited by some Klansmen. The badass did indeed fit the man who believed in equality and peace, and didn’t tolerate otherwise in his church. A man before his time?

The preacher began by reading some passages from Kahlil Gibran; thoughts on love and marriage, followed by a passage from Corinthians, then the marriage ceremony, traditional in its way.

There’s a pier that leads from the house to the water. Perched on the pier was Grayson Capps and Corky Hughes, another amazing guitar player who also plays with the Lost Cause Minstrals. They strummed and banged their way from one song to another, telling their stories. They entertained everyone before the wedding and some after before heading out for another gig. This was after coming in from playing Chickie Wah Wah in New Orleans Monday night.

The Mayor of the Waterhole Branch spoke before the wedding. He voiced the opinion that it should be newly adopted that couples should live together for seven years. By then most usually want to split, but there are a few, such as Joe and Suzanne, who want to marry. Everett Capps also explained the expected behavior from everyone on the grounds. While on the property, there was no government. He’s a gentle being, espousing peace and friendship, harmony among human beings. Nothing else would be accepted on these grounds. Everett is a creative soul. Sculptures were placed everywhere, usually made out of everyday things. Art, in all manner, was displayed. A picture just forms in my mind, him wandering the yard, a cup of, well, use your imagination (all those whiskey bottles came from somewhere; did I mention they were EMPTY?) as he ponders a piece of drift wood, a bent car hub cap, whatever, wondering what to make with it.

A toast was made by Roger Bull. He recited a poem, a beautiful tribute to the bride and groom, written special for the occasion. Sonny Brewer also made a toast, letting you know of the close friendship, should I say “family” relationship with the happy couple.

It was a lovely day, a lovely memory. I doubt that I’ll ever experience another wedding quite like this. But the feeling of love and friendship that enveloped this setting was indeed a celebration in itself.

Karen Bonvillain Bull 2012

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