Two weeks before, at my best friend Heather’s wedding, we’d stood in front of a hot church, feet aching in pink satin pumps (what WAS she thinking?), sweat trickling down our backs. August 1990 was hot and sticky in Portland. But the morning of the 17th, we woke to cool grey skies and blessed relief.

I hadn’t seen Heather since her wedding, but we met at the hairdresser’s, where the whole wedding party had gathered to have hair and nails done. The hairdresser had provided the coffee, juice, muffins and bagels, fruit platter. Heather and I rushed off to the bathroom for her to give me a few bridal tips, in private.  

The weather was perfect; not raining, but comfortable. We rushed around doing last-minute things; checking on flowers, picking up groomsmen’s suits with one of our groomsmen, who had just ridden his motorcycle down from Alaska to be there; digging frantically through boxes to find out where the safe place was that I’d put our marriage license.

Growing up, I had always assumed I would get married someday, but wasn’t in a hurry. I was a little scared of the commitment. I knew this couldn’t be a decision I made lightly—I wanted my marriage to last for life. But in your early 20s, how can you know who you are, much less who you will be? How can you be sure? I agonized and agonized.Donn and I were young when we started dating. Too young, I felt. He was ready; I wasn’t. I put him off. I was so afraid. We dated for nearly 4 years, while I continued my studying and he began to focus on his photography.

Even on that cool August afternoon, I felt some stirrings of fear. It was too late to stop—all the workings of a wedding were in place. We’d sent invitations, received gifts, ordered flowers, a light buffet, reserved a cabin on the Oregon coast for our honeymoon. But how could I be sure? This was the biggest decision of my LIFE!!

That evening, we gathered at the church. At the proper moment, the huge doors in the back swung open and there I was, on the arm of my oldest brother. He walked me down the aisle to the strains of Handel’s “The Arrival of the Queen of Sheba.” (Not only is it great music, but it provides amusement and entertainment for your guests when they read the program.)  A Welsh friend and poet stood and recited Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s famous sonnet which begins, “How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.” And I looked at Donn, and I knew. I wasn’t afraid anymore; just excited. We exchanged rings, recited the traditional vows. I knew my limitations as a writer, and I knew I could never write anything that perfect and meaningful, vows that would last a lifetime, like the old “for better for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health, for as long as we both shall live.”

Outside, the clouds cleared to a vivid coral sunset. Inside, candles flickered as the ceremony finished and the celebration started. The Welsh friend and poet had not only recited beautifully, but she loaned me a ring (something borrowed and something blue, too) and made an incredible British wedding cake.  In my typical state of organization, I’d bought Donn’s wedding ring only 2 days before and hadn’t had time to get it sized, so when we got to the hotel we realized he’d lost it! We called my mother who called the church. Apparently the janitor had found it but hadn’t thought it was real—it was too funny, finding a real ring lost after a wedding.

And so began the adventure of a lifetime together. We haven’t made it a lifetime yet—only 16 years—but it’s a start. Of course, as with everyone, our life has included a lot of fun and laughter and plenty of pain, too; lots of sleepless nights and lazy mornings and jet lag and stressful decisions to be made and all the sorts of things of which life is made; everyday things like unwashed dishes and mountains of laundry and sending Donn out to the store 3 times because I’ve kept forgetting things for the dinner party. It’s not like our experience is unusual; except in the sense that Donn has an unusual way of looking at things that has made our life together so much fun.

So, given my time-challenged way of going through life, it’s not surprising that I’m 2 days late in posting this. But it doesn’t matter. We meant that “for better for worse” and while we’ve had plenty of each, I’m still certain. I haven’t changed my mind since Wyn Morgan recited that sonnet. I still know.

Advertisements