Thirty years ago today, at 4:40 in the afternoon, Mr D and I were walking down the aisle. Or rather, I was walking down the aisle, because he was already there, waiting, at the front of the church. This was to be one of the few times in our lives together that he would be on time, and I would be late.
I was primping in the back, the last minute fluffing up of a terribly ill-advised perm. The pianist was playing, transitioning into the music that was to be my entrance, when suddenly Max, the minister, bustled through the double doors and said, “Just hang on a few minutes. Go back, go back! We’ll have this all sorted out in a second or two.” My heart sank. Was this going to be cinematic-style tragedy? The bride left sobbing, groomless, in the narthex of the church as the husband-to-be skittered off through a side door and ran away for parts unknown? I retreated to the bride’s room, and now worried, stared at myself in the mirror and wondered, “Was it the perm, after all?” And then I felt sorry for myself for a few minutes, as I imagined the sorrow and the embarrassment I’d feel soon enough, as a jilted bride in this day and age, for God’s sake.
Because who even was getting married in 1979? No one, that’s who. Everyone at Wellesley was going off to be a trainee at Citibank or Morgan Stanley, or continuing on to grad school at the London School of Economics, or learning the ropes as an intern at Sotheby’s or Christie's, or doing some other highly important thing. Getting married was the idiot’s move.
“What are you doing after college?” began a conversation in Tower Court’s dining hall.
“Oh, I’m getting married. In September,” I answered.
“Ummmm. Yeah. But what are you going to do?”
Oops. No good follow-up answer for that question. Indeed, what was I going to do? Vacuum? Dust? Work at minimum wage out there in the wilds of Oregon, as a married person? Any answers were worryingly vague.
And now, on the very wedding day, even this lame plan of mine looked to be scotched. Because suddenly it appeared I wasn’t going to have the chance to walk down the aisle at all. Oh, woe!
The music began again, and someone popped a head in and said, “Okay, it’s time!”
My Dad walked me down the aisle, and there was Mr D waiting for me. Pleasant surprise! We were married on that hot September afternoon thirty years ago, fumbling with rings and getting our words wrong, and soon after, we were out into the church garden for pictures and into the reception hall for a light dinner buffet.
“What was that all about?” I asked my sister later.
“What?” said Martha.
“The hold-up? At the beginning. The reason we didn’t begin at 4:30?”
“Oh thaaaaaat. Well, there were lots of bats flying around in the eaves,” said Martha.
My dad laughed, “Yes, and Harlan said, 'Oh, you know my brother Lee – he couldn’t afford white doves, so they made do with bats instead. I’m pretty sure it’s good luck though.'”
And yeah, it probably has been good luck. We’re still married, and happily so. I feel incredibly lucky, especially after almost pitching it all in a couple of different times. I must say, it’s mostly down to him, to my dear husband. He said when we married, “I don’t believe in divorce.”
There’s something to be said for that kind of dogged persistence and single-mindedness. It’s partly what’s necessary, to keep a partnership going, because there’s always going to be one person who’s a little less in love, a little more cranky, quite a lot more angry, a helluva lot more tired. The roles and the moods shift back and forth – sometimes one person’s sick of the whole thing, sometimes the other one has had quite enough for today, thank you very much. Yet the certainty that it’s permanent means that you get up the next morning thinking about compromise, and adapting a little bit all over again.
And of course we remember that we did get married for love, and not because we had to, or because we had no better ideas for what to do that Saturday afternoon. We’ve sailed through the good parts, and slogged through some really grim bits, but underneath it all there’s been the surety that it was a plan for the long-term: the very very very long-term. Until death do us part.
Happy 30th Anniversary to us! Hurrah, hurrah, and hip hip hooray!