On this day 28 years ago, I was married to my high school sweetheart in my parents’ church in northern California. I was 21 years old. Jim was 23. I wore the veil that my mother and grandmother wore on their wedding days. I wore the hoop petticoat that my mother wore in 1955 under her similarly long-sleeved and high-colored wedding gown. I also wore the wedding present Jim had given me a year before: a beautiful cameo pin that he had purchased on the Ponte Vecchio in Firenze. My dress had been made by a local seamstress using pattern ideas, material and trim that my mother and I had picked out. My mother and I selected the caterer, the photographer, and the florist together. My mother secured the musicians: a flute player she knew to play in the church with our organist, and a jazz trio to play at the reception. My parents issued the Banns of Marriage in the bulletin of the mass the week before my wedding, inviting everyone in the parish to attend. The reception was held in the Parish Hall behind the church.
My bridesmaids included my two older sisters and two friends. Jim’s groomsmen included his half-brother, my brother, and two friends. We selected other friends to participate in reading the Scriptures. Since we knew so many semi-professional singers personally, we decided not to have any soloists. Instead, we included congregation hymns that we could all sing together. The whole affair was pretty simple, but elegant, and definitely traditional. I did not have a manicure or pedicure, I did my own hair and make-up, we did not have a DJ or MC or dancing. I did throw my bouquet, but I gave my garter to my husband…to keep. We did have lots of champagne and loaded the unopened bottles into the station wagon (nothing like a limo) when we took off afterwards for our honeymoon, driving back down to Southern California where I would continue the second semester of my senior year at college.
My grandmother was appalled that Jim and I arranged to meet each other the morning of our wedding day to drive out to a county arboretum and spend some time together. She kept insisting that it was bad luck for the bride to see her future husband before joining him at the altar on her wedding day. She also kept asking if someone was going to sing “I Love You Truly” at the service. These were not the traditions that we were interested in honoring, though. We were not about superstition or sentimentalism, or so we thought. We wanted to be sacramental and sincere. I suppose there are slippery slopes and fine lines involved in those distinctions. What I do remember thinking about is how to conceptualize a lifetime together. I figured that might be 50 years or more. I could barely conceptualize the two decades I had actually experienced. I realized that it had to come down to faith. I couldn’t imagine or predict what our marriage would be like. I could only promise to live it moment by moment as lovingly as I could “until we are parted by death”. I did that to the best of my ability, I believe. That parting occurred almost four years ago, now.
January is often a month of looking into the future, making uncertain plans, vowing to try to live in particular ways. “Pointing your canoe”, as we like to put it. Don’t let it frighten you. Paddling is slow work, with plenty of time to correct, re-align, look around, and get inspired. You can even drift for a while, if you like, without causing harm. Forgiveness can arise. Consequences will arise as well. There’s no need to cast blame. Look lovingly on the scene, on yourself, on your partner, on the world. I enjoy marking the milestones, and I’m finding I even enjoy moving on.