Twenty-five Years Ago

Last night, as we fell into bed, I said to my patient and steady husband, "Twenty-five years ago you wouldn't come with me when I went to bed ..." His response was blissfully familiar. "That's because you didn't like me. You always made me go away." My response to that is also familiar. "Huh-uh ... YOU wouldn't stay with ME. Remember? You said, 'I won't go home tonight. I'll just stay here,' and I said, 'Okay.' But you never did stay! YOU didn't like ME." That's when he tells me again in a very very serious voice that I am bad and naughty and tempting him all the time. And that is the conversation had at night after nearly twenty-five years. In the middle of July this year, twenty-five years.

Of course, with that kind of milestone in view, I remember what it was back then. How much we wanted to just stay together all the time, all day and all night, and everyone else in the universe could just go soak their heads for all we cared. (Sorry, everyone else in the universe. But that was what we felt back then. We'd been engaged for the last year and a half of my college days, and we were really really tired of waiting.)

I've been remembering the showers and plans and sitting in the living room wrapping the tiny little packages of things for the reception. (But I don't remember what was in them.) I remember sewing the little seed pearl beads onto the lace that went onto the dress, and watching my mom make my veil. Taking endless drives up the old highway in the Gorge, in that tiny red Opal (which, conveniently, only held two people, so no, we can't give you a ride). Picking up the invitations from the printers (I used the only local printer in town so I'd know whose neck to wring if they weren't right), and the constant consultation over "who's that?" when a gift would come and the name on the card wasn't one we recognized. We didn't know each other's extended families very well yet, and both of us have extensive extended families who loved us and loved our parents. We were often unsure as to whom a particular aunt or uncle belonged - had to check with our parents all the time.

I've heard that some couples fight a lot during this time before their wedding - we didn't. We just don't, as a rule. There are those close to us (nowadays, I mean) who roll their eyes and make comments about "another reasoned discussion" while they're walking away and leaving us to it. Even back then, we thought arguing was a waste of time, didn't solve the problem, and it just seemed smarter to "work the problem, not each other." Besides. Neither of us would stoop to it. (I'm not boasting - this kind of self-control has its limitations. I'm just sayin.)

It did seem to me like everyone else was trying to pick a fight, though. I remember saying repeatedly - reciting it to myself over and over, like a calming, centering mantra - "in ___ more days, I will only have one boss."

And people who knew me wondered if I had some kind of distortion glasses on because I'd told people for years that I'd be getting married "as soon as I find someone big enough to boss me." Most people thought that would take someone the size of the Empire State Building, who kept a hidden reserve of the energy of a cornered badger close at hand. They figured, whoever he was going to be, he'd have to be some kind of a Uberfierce Argument Champion. (I think they were looking for someone to do their dirty work and tell me where to get off. Wimps.)

But I didn't marry a fierce man. I married a steady one. Twenty-five years ago, in this part of the year, the two of us were attending other people's weddings, and doing the myriad of wedding tasks together, and trying to find an apartment we could afford.

We were invited as a couple to dine with other people, too. One older single woman invited us to her home, served us a pie for dessert that she gave me the recipe for, and said to us (in words she'd obviously thought about so that she'd get them exactly right), "I know you two will be happy. It's obvious that you think the world of each other." That was a sweet moment. Someone who'd been watching could see the key to the thing. We respected, admired, and deeply wanted each other. On our wedding day, our chief emotion was relief. It had felt like a long, long wait.

We spent a lot of time talking and planning and planning and re-planning while we were engaged, but --- see the picture to the left here? All the fancy and expensive and glittery and golden and sparkles? Not us. We were each going to have one attendant, accompanied by my nephew as a ring-bearer and the flower girl who was a couple of years older than little Andrew, and could commandeer a small country even back then - I think she was about six. She volunteered - enlisted, actually - for the job of flower girl. Told us she even had a few dresses still, from other weddings she'd been in - and two of them probably still fit. Just in case we were interested. She was just letting us know. Just in case. (Followed us to the car after church one day to make sure we were aware of her experience and availability for the job. It was simply impossible to say no to that.)

The church was full of gorgeous dark wooden pews and railings and wall paneling, a huge pipe organ, and tasteful, Presbyterian orderliness (that's a picture of it, linked to the website for the church) -- and it was not in need of any gilding of the lily. White carnations and greens - a few roses and greens on the candelabra - and then know when to stop. Elegance is a function of restraint. Planning and restraint. (We had a looooong time to talk about this.)

The memories are flooding in right now. I might write some more about it in the next few weeks - before we go out of town to remember it all together. Like ... the fact that we got married on July 16, and it rained every day for the first fifteen days in July that year - and my mother had a party planned that required the use of the outdoors. (I think the weather angels were just messin' with her.) Or the woman who figured out as we were leaving in a borrowed car that no one had decorated the vehicle or provided rice - so she tore into the kitchen at my parents' house, grabbed a box of Rice-a-Roni, and ripped it open to throw the uncooked San Francisco treat as we were leaving. (We found the flavor packet when we cleaned out the car to give it back.)

At the end of that day, our faces actually hurt from all the smiling. Since that day, a lot of other things have hurt too. But the day was worth it - the effort was worth it - the waiting and the planning and the details ... all worth it. He turned out to be big enough not just to boss me, but to love me too.

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