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You wouldn’t necessarily know it from looking at the photo, but this was the happiest moment of Irma’s life. How do I know this? Because I took the picture and then ten minutes later drove her downtown to the Justice of the Peace so she could marry Albert. He was the love of her life after 48 years that hadn’t given her much. That purple pendant she’s wearing was the first gift he ever gave her. According to Albert it was a rare gemstone, but to everyone else it looked like something from a carnival. Irma couldn’t care less, to her it was as priceless as Albert himself.

If their romance wasn’t a whirlwind, it did offer a steady light breeze in the form of constant warm companionship. They would take turns cooking simple dinners in their apartments, then attend a free lecture or slideshow at the library. If weather permitted, they might finish the evening holding hands and taking a long walk along the shady streets of our small town.

As you might guess, she was a nervous wreck getting ready that morning. Up early, fussing over her makeup and nails. Giddy as a schoolgirl. She must have put on a half dozen outfits trying to get just the right look. She didn’t own any decent dresses so in the end settled for her best top–something with flowers and bows. When I finally pointed the camera and said “Smile!” she gave it her best shot but I think she was still stunned that something so wonderful should be happening to her.

Albert said to meet at City Hall at 10:00 o’clock sharp and we got there a few minutes early. Irma paced back and forth in the hallway, looking out the window and checking her watch. Ten o’clock came and went, then ten-thirty, then eleven, then noon. We found a pay phone and called but were told the number was no longer in service.

Like I said, that picture was the happiest moment of her life.

Story by Will Conway

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