If you had attended our wedding in 1979, you may have concluded it was a low-budget affair. My bridesmaids paid $6 each for the sundresses they wore. Avoiding the traditional wedding march, we played Handel’s water music on a 8-track tape, recorded from an LP we borrowed from the library. I picked my bouquet from my grandmother’s garden. The meal was basically cold cuts and salads made by my sisters, mother, grandmother and me and served in my parents’ garage. Our wedding rings were 2 for $25.
You may also have thought that is was an unusual affair. We wrote our own vows based on (I’m not making this up) “The Anarchist-Feminist Wedding” we found in a library book. We forgo’d the receiving line. There was no father-daughter dance. The wedding cake was forgotten and served after most guests had departed. The rain spoiled our planned outdoor setting, so we moved the band into the family room, leaving a small space for dancing. I had a wonderful time, despite complaining earlier in the day that the bride should not have to be the one cleaning the toilets.
I am not sure what else the guests felt about the event, but if I were to guess one thought that may have arisen in their minds, it is “This marriage will never last.”
You have probably already deduced the punchline. It’s our 40th anniversary. But our guests are not to be blamed for their lack of confidence in our future. I was a 21 year old college student and and Brian was my former high school teacher, 12 years my senior, divorced with a child. I still get a little nervous when people ask how we met. Truth be told, I had a definite crush on him in high school, so when I ran into him 2 years later in the bar of a local restaurant where I worked, I boldly approached him. We bonded over a shared desire to take a trip to California, where I had spent my formative years and he had an older sister.
But, yes, in the retelling I can see that this did not resemble a match made in heaven. I see 21 year olds now and think: what do they know about love? What do they know about life? I was unformed and easily influenced. Brian, while not exactly a senior citizen at 33, was formed. He had finished college, grad school, held jobs, been married, was a parent.
Nonetheless, we took that trip to California in the summer of ’78. My parents were not happy when I quit my lucrative summer job and drove off in that little black Fiat X19, a sports car more known for looking good than running well. I had an insurance settlement from a car accident (tale for another day) and saved-up tip money which funded my share of the expenses.
We joke now that our trip to California was our first date – 4 weeks long. Pre-internet, pre-cell phone, with an instamatic camera that required film, we had no distractions. We had only a very loose itinerary and a AAA Triptik to guide us to Brian’s sister’s place in Palo Alto. If our wedding was frugal, so was this trip. We stayed in cheap motels – receipts we saved show a range of $14-$29 per night) I ate BLTs for lunch everyday until this California girl was far enough west to find Mexican food (which did not exist in New Hampshire in the 70’s.) We stopped when we wanted, took detours as they occurred to us. We rode with the top down, drinking cold Lowerbrau beer to combat the dehydration until we discovered we could avoid dehydration if we drove with the top up. It was freedom like I had never known before or, if I think about it, perhaps since. We certainly got to know each other in that tiny car, my feet on the dashboard and our dirty laundry co-mingled in the trunk. New to each other, we had much discover – our histories, our opinions, our dreams. By the time we hit the vast expanse of the Plains, we decided that we should live together upon our return.
It was long ago, and there is sparse photographic evidence, but I remember that first date in all its detail. What I wore – channeling Annie Hall. How we spent our days (aided by a journal we kept – an activity for the passenger while the other drove). Iowa City, Cheyenne, Wyoming. A glorious 12 days in San Francisco and surrounding area. Vegas, the Rockies, Mt. Rushmore, Minneapolis-St. Paul. All these places and more will ever hold special meaning, photos or not. Playing backgammon every day. Our private jokes. But what stands out to me most is the overwhelming emotion. I was dizzy, unmoored, reckless. I know why it is called “falling” in love.
Maybe it helps to start out with bang. The ensuing years, though less dramatic and much of which is forgettable and forgotten, are not to be discredited. Certainly, we have done all the “normal” things – jobs, houses, kids. Laundry and dishes. Vacations and everyday pleasures. Also, arguments and disagreements followed by understanding and reconciliation. And personal change. I am no longer as unformed and am less easily influenced. I do now know quite a bit about life. And also love – which I have discovered is less about the dramatic gestures and more about having a person who knows you better than anyone, who shares your dreams, successes and sorrows, and who continues to make you laugh every day.
So, Happy Anniversary to the anarchist who had faith in the feminist. I’m looking forward to more journeys, epic or not.