Saturday, July 05, 2008

(this continues the posting of chapters from The Brides of March. Last week's chapter was missed while I baked in the heat under a canopy at the Inavale Farm Horse Trials in Philomath having the time of my life talking horses and dogs and painting portraits ten hours at a time)

The Wedding March

It was time. The Associated Press photographer who had hopefully hovered was asked, by joint bridal decision, to leave during the ceremonies. None of us were getting married in order to appear in papers across the country.

The eight kids were asked to settle down by the Senior Minister, Marilyn Sewell; not surprising since they’d been vaulting up the stairs, across the altar, and orating at the podium as if they owned the place. Which, having spent quite a bit of time there attending Sunday School, singing in the choir, ringing bells, and dressing like a sheep on Pageant day, some of them probably felt they did. We were in the old Salmon Street sanctuary, kind of English, ancient pipe organ, wooden pews, nothing too clean, just the place for women to marry on a Wednesday morning.

With some urging, the kids were finally seated, the friends and parents were pulling out tissues, Marilyn Sewell joined Tom Disrud to co-officiate, and all at once, it was happening.
On cue, Graeme was suddenly awake and hungry and potentially loud. I dove for the pile of Ritz crackers I’d brought, doling them out one by one during the ceremonies, anything to keep his mouth and hands busy.

Chris and Lisa were first, Katie and Jacob behind them. They walked up the aisle together, and already everyone, including Tom, was crying. Jacob held the rings on a pillow. Katie held flowers. Chris, always a weeper, could barely speak through her tears. During the vows, the nineteen years of love and commitment that led up to this moment was a tangible thing, a presence that everyone in the sanctuary could feel.

They exchanged rings, kissed and were pronounced “married.” We all stood as they walked back down the aisle, beaming, and were photographed in the narthex while our family moved to the rear of the church, snatching another handful of crackers on the way, to await our turn. As Marty and Terri stood up with McKenzie to begin their walk down the aisle, Chris and Lisa piled into the pew ahead of us, and Lisa grabbed Jannine’s hand and squeezed, unable to express emotion any other way at that moment.

Marty and Terri walked down the aisle looking like a couple who had weathered the years, and become a comfortable, stable, loving family. Tom stumbled over some of the vows, forgetting entirely the blessing and exchanging of the rings, he was so emotional. This was a big day for him. In the rear pew, we could barely hear the vows, but we know they were slightly different from Chris and Lisa’s, by accident and intention. This was no Las Vegas wedding chapel or the Church of Elvis, this was a church of community, and this was a real, if spontaneous, wedding.

Marty and Terri kissed and came back down the aisle with McKenzie, everyone standing as they passed. Marty’s mother was snapping pictures, and mopping her eyes.

It was time, and Graeme was restless and still munching. He’d hardly eaten all morning, was still mad at his nursing-free state, but he’d been a trooper. My left breast was the size of a small cantaloupe as Jannine and I stood at the ready, waiting for our music to begin. I carry him on my left, so he hid this imbalance, though I am the only one who could possibly care at such a moment, among such good friends.

Duncan and Anna were remarkably calm. They both seemed to know just how serious this was and took their places with a calm dignity. The piano music began and we walked up the aisle, my black sweater covered with crumbs. The two ministers faced us. How many weddings have they performed where one of the brides is sprinkled with crackers and carries a toddler? Liz tried to dive in and grab Graeme, but we waved her away. This was the way we wanted it. The children are part of our marriage. They exist because between us we had enough love and energy to bring three children into our home and the world; there was nowhere else they should have been at that moment, but with us.

Tom messed up the vows a little, which was fitting since I was a little messy, too, and isn’t the world? He asked Jannine twice to say “I will,” mixing up our names at the crucial point. Not sure what to do when it was my turn to speak and Jannine had been asked again, there was a pregnant pause before I said, “I do, too, I will, I have,” and the moment was saved.

Before we got to this moment, I always thought it would feel awkward saying the vows, fake somehow, like a theatre performance. Or, that I would blubber endlessly, because I am a crier like Chris, weeping over everything. Minutes before, I thought maybe it would feel clinical, since we planned to have another, more elaborate wedding later, that day allegedly being about making it legal.

But, it wasn’t about that anymore. I looked into Jannine’s eyes and meant every word. It was all true, and more. No tears, no awkwardness, just joy to say it there and then, with witnesses, and a license, and the blessings of our community.

We exchanged rings, platinum bands we bought two years ago, then kissed and were married, and walked back down the aisle, somehow holding hands with our kids. We realized halfway and grabbed each other’s hands instead, laughing at ourselves that even in this most romantic and symbolic moment, we were thinking of the kids first.

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