wedding days, and wedded years

IMG_7659I see iris, I think of my wedding day.  Well, the parts I’m able to remember, anyway.

 

From Monday’s The Writer’s Almanac, courtesy of Garrison Keillor:

Tonight is Mid-Summer Night’s eve, also called St. John’s Eve. St. John is the patron saint of beekeepers. It’s a time when the hives are full of honey. The full moon that occurs this month was called the Mead Moon, because honey was fermented to make mead, and that’s where the word “honeymoon” comes from. It is a time for lovers.

 An old Swedish proverb says,

“Midsummer Night is not long but it sets many cradles rocking.”

I have a vivid memory from the mid-summer of 1983, when my sweetheart and I were newlywed tourists. A group of schoolgirls approached us in Bangkok, anxious to practice their English on us. “Why did you come to our country?” they asked, their question delivered by committee. We tried to answer them with the simplest words possible: we are traveling for fun, we are traveling after our wedding, we are… we needn’t have gone any further. One of the girls, with a huge smile on her face, exclaimed joyfully, “Honeymoon!”

Well, yes. We were on the grand tour after our big day, a double-header adventure that seemed hugely significant at the time. But in retrospect, the whole of that summer—our wedding day, our honeymoon, the nuptials we attended, one after another, once we got back home—was all mere prologue. Our wedding was a chapter-header, an acknowledgement that we were about to take a ceremonial first lap before a long series of journeys, some that required luggage, many that didn’t. We didn’t know yet how many times we’d come to a crossroad, literal or metaphoric, and ask each other, “This way or that?” We didn’t know how much more love there would be, as the decades rolled on, how much good fortune. We also didn’t know how we would buoy each other when we were visited by heartbreaking sadness. We were clueless about the true meaning of the words, “For better or worse, in sickness and in health.” We didn’t know the difference between reciting our vows and living our vows. Life was so good! What could possibly stand in our way, between to have and to hold, and so long as we both shall live?

IMG_7469Honestly, if I had some wedding photos of ours to post, I would.  But this summer, they’re all in a box, somewhere…

It was hard to imagine, back then, how much of our future was writ in those promises we made. I was so very sure that our marriage was meant to be: me with my crown of baby’s breath, my sweetheart with the iris and freesia pinned to his lapel, our family and friends all around. Truth be told, I barely remember speaking those vows, since I occupied myself through the whole ceremony by inspecting my shoes, trying with all my might to distract myself from tears. Happy tears they certainly would have been, but still, I let the words wash over me, so as to not be overwhelmed with the emotions that might bubble up right there, in front of everyone who mattered. I regret that I made it through the ceremony with thoughts of peas and carrots to keep me intact. I also wish there had been someone with a video camera, so I could revisit that lovely day, our kindly minister, my dear friend Melanie telling the brass quartet to cut the Handel’s Water Music, the sweet Glee Club friends who sang to us of Glorious Apollo, the applause that broke out from the balcony.

IMG_8178Everywhere I look, wedding venues. This one on my beloved Route 16B loop.

I’ve been thinking about weddings a lot these days. It is June, after all, which is when we celebrate our anniversary. But we’ve also entered a new territory, one defined by the years that have passed since we exchanged our vows. It began last autumn with the novelty of the first hand-addressed invitation in decades—what a lark, people still do this? Now, the floodgates are open. The children of our friends, the friends of our children, our various nieces and nephews are all approaching the age when getting married is what comes next. Our own sons aren’t there yet, but I know how this gig goes. What seems like just a ski season or a summer vacation will have come and gone, and then, pow! Five, ten years will have flown by. And before we know it, there we’ll be, sitting in the front row, across from the mother and father of the bride, before we’ve even had a chance to blink.

* * * * *

We went to a lovely wedding last weekend, at an island on Squam Lake. The groom was calm and steady, and the bride was lovely and beaming. Someone asked her if she was nervous, and she said yes, until she was walking down the aisle. Then she saw her sweetheart, and it all made sense. Oh, there’s Todd!  Everything will be fine.

IMG_7876Oh, happy day!

I suspect it will be. The two of them are thoughtful and grounded, and have spent enough time together to know each other, really know what makes the other tick. Their parents are completely delighted that they found each other. They will be worthy companions for the sorts of adventures they suspect lie ahead.

IMG_7912We left that wedding and stopped to visit this church, where we were married, on the very same weekend in June.

A mere 31 years earlier.

 

I had all that same certainty, three decades ago.   And now, looking back, it’s amazing to me to realize how many things have worked out for us through a combination of just plain dumb luck, along with decades of unanticipated vigilance around things we’d entirely neglected to ponder, back when we were in our twenties. The day we went to see some friends’ photos of their trek in the Himalayas, complete with stories of dysentery and altitude sickness, and afterwards looked at each other and agreed, simultaneously—is that on your bucket list? No? Phew! Me neither!  That was dumb luck.  I did, after all, marry the sort of guy who likes the outdoors, likes to hike, likes a challenge.  I’m more of a day-hiker gal, always happy to find the hot shower at the end of the trail.  That one could have gone either way. The way we enjoy each others’ company, trust each others’ feedback, get each others’ jokes, and give each other the space to do what we love to do, together and on our own, has been a series of miraculous strokes of luck, in my book anyhow.

IMG_7455Cousins gather for graduation celebrations, for now…

We never discussed what kind of parents we wanted to be before we were married, and now, here we are, our children approaching the ages we were when we promised ourselves to each other. I can’t help but feel both humbled by the young men our kids have turned into, and relieved that we didn’t know how hard it would be, how magical and exasperating and joyful and exhausting, back to back to back to back.   We both love our sons beyond known human bounds, and we feel so incredibly lucky to have made it to this place, two decades out, knowing that our synchronicity around when to stand firm and when to cut some slack as our sons grew up made all the difference.  And bless that man of mine, for taking those boys on long hikes and long walks, off to ride the escalators while I cooked the turkey or wrapped the presents, away to baseball camp in Florida and to animation summer school at UCLA. I may have done the heavy lifting on the day-in, week-out stuff, but oh, did he ever pull his weight on the special events package. Truth is, I didn’t see any of that coming.  We worked hard, and it all worked out.

So much I didn’t know, back then. So much has happened, so many events I fear I couldn’t have faced alone. Our wedding day was joyous. Our life together ever since has been, as Edith Bunker once said about her life with Archie, “Less Fourth of July, and more Thanksgiving.”  Amen to that.

And as was sung to us, in that beautiful church, those many Junes ago: “Thus then combining, hands and hearts joining, long may continue our unity and joy.”

 

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8 comments on “wedding days, and wedded years

  1. Melanie Essex says:

    Wow- great post. Great Wedding. Great Marriage! XX

    • khm says:

      The memory of you giving our musicians the old “Cut!” sign drifted up out of my ether from that ceremony. Then John reminded me of it, just last week, when we were at the wedding on the island. There, the organist had a mirror so she could figure out when to wrap up. It was the guys hand-pumping the organ who had to be told to take a rest!

  2. Kristen says:

    This was just so beautiful. What a lovely tribute to your husband and your marriage (and those sons, of course, too). I’ve been with my husband for twenty years come July 4th, though only married the last twelve of them. And it’s all gone exactly as you’ve described it, and I am just loving the adventure and mystery of it all. We even had Handel at our wedding ceremony too, though it was Arrival of the Queen of Sheba.

    • khm says:

      Thank you so much for this delightful comment! Here’s the remarkable thing: I met my husband at a ski race, when I was 15 and he was 18. Never do three years make more difference than those three, between my high school junior winter and his big man on campus debut! It also means that we now have memories of each other that are over forty years old, which is positively scary.

      Oh, and the Glorious Apollo was a nod to my lack of interest in the whole church thing. At 25 I wasn’t ready to tell the grownups, “For the record, I don’t believe this stuff…” Hardly matters, thirty one years later.

  3. Andy Macomber says:

    Lovely reflections, both kinds. My eyes got a little misty when I read of the “in sickness and in health” part. I’m glad we married someone for (music here) “a fine romance”, and then 2.) someone with whom we were in tune to raise children, and 3.) someone with whom we now want to spend the rest of our lives. Thank you, Margaret Mead, over and over. Everyone should have three marriages, and it’s with the same person if one is very lucky.

    You are able to put personal emotions down on a page for other people to read, and to have them sound beautiful.

    • khm says:

      You are so kind! And yes, we both pretty much hit the matrimonial jackpot.

      • nancy wissemann-widrig says:

        Mel sent this lovely tribute along to us and we want you to know it rings true for us too! But the next 30 odd years which we hope you have may surprise you even more. 61 fro us July 25. Love to you both, John and Nancy

  4. Martha says:

    I had a sneaking suspicion Edith Bunker was wise. Now I have a line to prove it. Thanks for all these thoughts..read as I head out on a plane to our next be adventure together.

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