The Saturday morning sunlight broke through the wall of windows in Lacey’s house, literally waking me at the crack of dawn. I’d stayed the night with Lacey, and Oliver had stayed up at the main house with Ali and Kai. We’d been instructed not to stay up too late, because someone was saying, I do, the next day and was being photographed, so.”she doesn’t need to have shopping bags under her eyes.” Aunt Katy B had given her instructions and that was that. We were off to bed! A knock on the door dragged me from the fog of a lingering dream and I opened it to find Ms. Tess and Oliver standing at the door carrying trays and baskets of food and a coffee carafe. “Good morning, dear.” Ms. Tess cheerfully greeted me with a kiss on the cheek, followed by Oliver. “It’s your big day, Boss Lady.” He said as he breezed by me. They went about their business, setting up baskets of breakfast pastries, stacking plates in neat piles and lining up coffee cups and juice glasses. Lacey walked out of her bedroom tying the belt of her navy blue silk robe, and stopped in her tracks at the sight of Oliver in her kitchen. She ran her hands over her hair and dabbed at the corners of her eyes. “Good morning.” Oliver returned her greeting with a warm smile, “Good morning, Lacey.” Ms. Tess wagged her finger at Lacey, “Did you forget about the Bride’s breakfast that’s being hosted over here, by you, Dear.” Lacey had obviously forgotten and apologized to her mother, “Oh, Ma! I’m sorry, what time is it.” The black wood finished floor clock in the corner of the room read just past seven thirty a.m. According to Ms. Tess, the breakfast was to begin in about an hour. Lacey excused herself and disappeared behind her bedroom door again. I wondered what was behind those double doors that always seemed to be closed. The way her robe billowed and flowed behind her like an obedient servant made me imagine her bedroom as a grand castle made completely of sparkling ice and mirrors! I laughed aloud. “It’s good to see you so calm and in good spirits, Cami.” Ms. Tess said. Sometimes she’d make comments that confused me. At times I couldn’t make out whether or not she was being sarcastic -- she had a really good poker face, so if she was being snarky, I couldn’t tell. I cautiously replied, “I’m looking forward to everything today. Especially seeing Ali in his tuxedo, waiting for me at the altar.” The thought warmed me all over. “I’ve never been so sure of anything in my life, which gives me great comfort.” I added with a confident smile. When I snapped back to reality, both Oliver and Ms. Tess were smiling at me. She told me to hurry along and get dressed, because the women of their family had planned something special for me. I heard Oliver yell goodbye to me while I was in the guest room. I ran out to stop him, “Oli.” I yelled. He stopped at the door, “What’s up, Boss Lady.” I was so grateful to him for being here with me and I wanted him to know it. “Thanks for everything, Homie.” He walked towards me and I met him halfway. We gave each other a tight hug and he said in my ear, “You’ve got this, Cami Cam. And I’ve got you.” I teared up and told him that I had the best friend ever! When he was gone, I watched him walk up the stone path to the main house before I turned to go back into the guest room to finish dressing. “He’s a special kind of man, ain’t he.” Ms. Tess asked. “He sure is.” I answered without hesitation. “And he’s all the family I have left now.” I casually added. Ms. Tess corrected me, “Yeah, that’s until today at noon, then you’ll have all of us.” She came around the kitchen counter and hugged me, too.
The breakfast was a thoughtful and touching affair. The women in Ali and Lacey’s family served me, groomed me and prayed for me. They offered prayers for our union and honored Camilla with a candle lighting ceremony. The morning was spent in clouds of laughter, fun and family traditions steeped in feminine mystique, it was truly a day I’d never forget. I was to be dressed at Lacey’s house before heading to the church. Only Lacey and Ms. Tess would be with me when I got ready for the ceremony. Lacey curled my hair in loads of shiny, cascading curls and brushed my hair up to one side pinning it with my crystal floral hair combs. She applied my make up and insisted I wear individual false lashes to enhance my own, that were thick enough, in my opinion. I went with her suggestions, because despite how strained our relationship was, I couldn’t deny that she was a stunning woman. She adjusted her cateye glasses and tilted my face to the light, “You look amazing, Camisha.” I thanked her, without moving my face. “I’ve never seen my big brother so happy.” She lined my eyes and brushed on a soft, sparkling gold eye shadow and few coats of mascara. “I talked to Oliver, and I’m going to give us, my best effort.” She chuckled to herself and painted on a pale shade of pink color to my lips. “Camisha, I owe you an apology and I’m truly sorry.” she sighed, “I knew the moment I saw my brother with you at that ferris wheel that you were going to change things, and I was right.” She told me to blot my lips, which I did and she went on. “But, you changed things for the better, and I’m sorry for being such an icy, B-.” She looked me sternly in the eyes and said, “Yeah, I know about you calling me an Ice Princess.” She broke into laughter and so did Ms. Tess and I. “Now let’s get you in this dress, Sis.” She turned to her mother and cracked, “Lenny’s going to break when he sees her Momma, and I’m going to get it all on film.”
The walkway to the church was lined by tall wooden dowels with cream, peach and gold ribbons flapping in the Autumn breeze. The timeworn arched doors were flanked by glossy boxwood topiaries decorated with the same peach and gold ribbons and held wreaths of ivy with peach ranunculus and white gardenias, one on each door. When we walked in, I was whisted off to the pastor’s small, dusty office where Oliver was waiting for me. He looked so elegant. He wore a classic black tuxedo and black bow tie, with fresh ivy and a gardenia pinned to his lapel. His goatee and hairline were neatly trimmed and his dreadlocks were french braided down his back. His familiar cognac colored eyes and wide grin relaxed me right away. He held his arms out to me for a last minute embrace. He rubbed my bare back and teased me, “Whoa, Boss Lady.” He took me by a finger and twirled me. “This dress is all church in the front, but all party time in the back.” Was the dress too low for a church wedding? I’d worried about that. My face gave away my concerns, so Oliver jumped in to calm me, “Boss Lady you look Ah--May--Zing. You look like a queen. Mr. Perfect is going to lose it when you turn that corner. You got this, Cami Cam.” he said, poking me in the arm. He looked nervous and asked me to go over what he was supposed to say when it was his turn to speak. I laughed and slapped at him, “How am I supposed to know? I’ve never been to a wedding, you putz.”
“Oh that did it.” he exclaimed. “I remember now, I’m giving this.” he gestured to me with both hands, “pain in the ass AWAY.” I smacked him in the head and scolded him for cursing in a church. Something flashed in Oliver’s eyes and he went into his breast pocket, pulling out a folded envelope. He handed it to me with a smile, “It’s from Mr. Perfect. He asked me to give it to you before Daddy.” he beat his chest like Tarzan, “walked you down the aisle.” I swatted at him with the letter and turned to read it in private.
“To my greatest love, Camisha Ann Robbins: So today is the day that we officially start this journey together as man and wife. Cami I know life has been less than stellar for you up until today, but I want to make this promise to you and I wanted to put it in writing. I will love you from this day forth, Cami Ann Robbins. I will employ every resource at my disposal to keep you from another second of harm, real or perceived. I will work tirelessly to live up to your every expectation for our lives together. If I’m falling short, I promise, today to be totally open and receptive to whatever you want to tell me. Cami, I think you know by now that I have my shortcomings. I can be a short tempered, workaholic. I can be self centered and possessive. I sometimes lose track of what’s really important in life, but I know God has not given up on me, because He gave me, YOU. From this day forth, I will begin my own journey to learn to choose my battles wisely, I will learn to humble myself and to be grateful, I will learn to BE and not just to HAVE. I know that I’ll get it, because I have the best teacher in you, Cami. You are a living example of grace, humility, real beauty and love. Thank you for this opportunity to love and to be loved by you. Yours, Ali.”
The knock on the door snapped me from the euphoria I’d floated into. Mr. Robinson poked his head in the door, “It’s time.” he said. My heart rose into my throat and I took Oliver’s hand in my own sweaty one and squeezed it tightly. Oliver gave my hand a reassuring pat, wiped the tears from my face with a handkerchief he pulled from his pocket, “Let’s get you hitched, Boss Lady.” he said with a big, proud grin. I folded and tucked the letter down the front of my dress, next to my heart.
The sanctuary was lovely. Lacey’s vision for our wedding day far surpassed anything I could have ever imagined. Ribbons of tulle that matched the skirt of my gown were draped from each pew and bound by small bouquets of deep green ivy and white gardenias. The altar was lined by hundreds of tall, white candles encased in clear glass columns with more ivy and gardenias in them. When I crossed the threshold of the sanctuary, the collective gasp from our guests was humbling and I felt like the queen Oliver thought I looked like. I steadied myself and took a sec to take it all in and my eyes landed on the smiling faces of James and Evangeline. They looked every part the proud parents of the bride and my heart twinged a little for the absence of Camilla. I nodded in their direction to acknowledge their presence and then locked my eyes to Ali’s piercing, golden brown eyes. I wanted to run to him. He was more stunning than I ever remembered and his eyes were free of any doubt. As cliche as it sounded, I’d never known love could feel like this. I could have never imagined that a feeling could manifest itself in such a palpable way. My love for Ali at that moment physically filled me up and spewed from me in tears. When Ali and I were finally together we attached ourselves to each other, which elicited a chorus of ohhs and ahhs, the pastor chuckled and asked, “Who gives this woman to this man.” My face was buried somewhere between Ali’s chest and armpit, but I heard Oliver answer, “I do.” with a little chuckle of his own. We whipped through our vows, arm in arm. And when the pastor pronounced us husband and wife, Ali excitedly took my face in both of his hands and kissed me so sweetly, my knees buckled a little. “I got ya, Beautiful.” he said, as he looked into my eyes. We turned to face our guests for the first time as, Mr. and Mrs. Lennox Robinson! Oliver played a haunting, acoustic rendition of Marvin Gaye and Tammy Terrell’s, You’re All I Need To Get By, on his guitar as we left the church, hand in hand and married!
Ali and I spent our first night as husband and wife in Birmingham at a charming and romantic B&B. It was filled with Victorian touches of lace, period furniture, gorgeous wood trim and marble fireplaces. Ali insisted on carrying me over the threshold, I argued that I thought that tradition was meant for our home. He jokingly admonished me, “Hush woman, and let your husband do what husbands do.” .”Yes, Sir. Mr. Robinson.” I answered bashfully and kissed him. He carried me to the bed and tossed me on it. He looked down at me seductively and said, “Now let me look at you in this dress, Mrs. Robinson.” I smiled, theatrically smoothed my dress around me and posed for him. He shook his and stood back a little, taking it all in. “Oh my God, Mrs. Robinson you look like a dream. And I thought you were beautiful in my Stanford tee.” He took a knee alongside me on the bed and kissed me on my ring finger, where I was wearing my new wedding band. He laid with his head in my open hand for a minute or so before speaking. “How you doing, Babe.” he asked in a sincere tone. “I’m sure today wasn’t all that easy for you, without your mom being there.” He was right. I’d had my moments throughout the day. But, I didn’t want to talk about it, and I told him so. “Yeah, I’ve had my moments today, but your mom honored her this morning at breakfast, and having James and Evangeline there was good for me. But, I don’t want to talk about my mother or your mother right now.” I purred, and pulled him onto the bed with me and kissed him passionately. I knew the conversation wasn’t over, but I only wanted thoughts of my new husband filling my head, that night.
Oliver took the reins for our Atlanta celebration, the next weekend and Lacey had returned with him immediately following the wedding ceremony to attend to.”last minute detail.”, as she put it.
As expected, Oliver went all out on the party plans. His acute attention to detail was evident in every inch of the party space. There were so many personal touches -- Poster size pictures highlighting our childhoods, our courtship and our wedding day were artistically displayed throughout the backyard. He and Lacey made a great team, as shown in the music and menu choices they’d made for the celebration. “He’s turned this backyard into Tuscany.” I squealed with delight! Ali walked around the yard marvelling at its transformation. He finally deduced, “That man is truly talented, I’ve gotta give it to him.” and shook his head in amazement. Yellow uplighting cast a golden glow all over the backyard, globe string lights lit the carport and the pergola, both of which were draped with white tulle and they’d repurposed the ribbons and wooden dowels from the church, to line the driveway. Oliver had rented tall modern, looking patio heaters and two long tables with white chiavari chairs. There was a DJ, a string quartet, valets and servers all dressed in white coats. They’d thought of everything -- a coat check, dinner music, passed hors d’oeuvres, a three course meal, buckets of champagne on ice and two dance floors. The night was unforgettable and we had a wonderful time with our friends and family. James and I shared an official Father -- Daughter dance to Stevie Wonder’s classic, ’As’ and when he twirled me I saw Ali and Oliver looking like proud peacocks for meddling in my business. But, I was thankful to them both and felt blessed to have their love. We left everyone to stay over at our house and we stayed the night at Ali’s place, where we’d be leaving in the morning for our honeymoon in California’s wine country.