We were young but had no idea that we were young. None at all; in fact, I think we entertained the delusion that we were cosmopolitan sophisticates. Except that we had no money at all. I wanted to elope but he feared his parents would never forgive him. He came to my house 5 days early and for 5 days we cleaned and cleaned and cleaned. Nixon was president. Agnew was still the veep. And there were profound lessons to be learned which were, perhaps, much more important than festivity.
The morning of my wedding was a disaster. My mother had a boyfriend and his wife had sent letters to both her and to my father. She told my father about the affair and she begged my mother to stop with her husband. My father crumpled into a heap of depression and my mother became a maniacal Medusa filled with self-righteouness. It was too late to stop the wedding; the future in-laws were already in their cars driving up from New Jersey.
My mother had determined that there would be nobody but family there and my future in-laws were, I think, a bit sad that they could not invite their best friends. Nor could I invite any friends. The day before the wedding my mother walked up and down the streets of New Haven and invited everyone she saw and she allowed my younger siblings to invite all of their friends.
I hated the taste of alcohol but took a big swig of whiskey proffered up by somebody who suggested that all brides had to do that. We wore blue jeans and bare feet.
We "plighted our troth" in my living room. There were some things we did not know---it was the last time my family would be together because a younger sister (my bridesmaid) and my father would be soon and suddenly dead.
It was very crowded because my youngest sister had invited her entire 7th grade class in an impromptu way. All of the neighbors and strangers my mother had invited assured me that they would "send a gift" when they had time. None of them did. Why would you send a gift when you are given a verbal invitation as you casually saunter down a winter street a few hours before a wedding ceremony? You have not received a formal invitation, after all, and you probably do not realize when you see the crowd that nobody had received a formal invitation.
Then we sat down and played bridge with some guests who had urged a game. I don't think we really wanted to play bridge but we did not know how to say no. (We still don't know how to say no and after forty years of hard-learned lessons we still hardly dare to say no--and the stakes are so much higher than a bridge game).
Our wedding gift was the use of a two day car rental from my father so that we could return to school. We spent our wedding night at the Howard Johnson's in Danbury, Connecticut. The next day we were back in Ithaca ready to return to school. On Monday the car was returned and we went to class and life resumed as normal. And forty years has passed in the twinkling of an eye.
I picked the right person to marry and I hope he still feels the same way. My sisters all tell me that it was the saddest wedding that they ever saw. I did not feel as sad as I might have; I was going to twitch my mantle new and focus on the future.
But days like this bring me back to the past which seems as immediate as if it were yesterday. I write my impressionistic memories of the day. Impressionistic. I don't mean to sound as if I am complaining. I am saying that seemingly sad, odd, vague, capricious way-ward beginnings do not doom an enterprise! That day may have taught me more about the value of NOT breaking hearts than any of the saddest songs or greatest poetry could have. And it was a good life-lesson not to be the star at my own wedding. It made my husband and me cling to our life together with greater seriousness and it showed us that cherishing each other and not being too casual about what is worth the most is paramount!