Here Comes the Bride
It is March 19, 1977, a cold gray day, end of winter. The 50 people in Saint Jude’s Catholic Church in Atlanta watch the small bridal party process down the aisle. The two bridesmaids are wearing turquoise dresses, each are carrying one red rose. The groom and best man stand up front, along with a long-haired, really young priest.
She doesn’t know to be nervous, so she isn’t. She stands, arm in arm, with her father. They never had much to say to one another, so the silence feels quite normal. When it is time to move, they walk slowly and a bit awkwardly, her gait hobbled by the four inch heels she unwisely chose to wear today. She notices the very few pictures being snapped by their photographer acquaintance. Oh, well.
It is a Mass with Communion, much longer than a Protestant ceremony. Finally, they join hands and say their memorized vows (they are both actors; learning lines comes easily for them). The priest picks up all his cues, even though the bride has edited the script (she refuses to “welcome children joyfully” to the marriage; she doesn’t want kids), and they are wed.
At the brunch reception at Brennan’s restaurant, the small crowd mills around clutching mimosas, an odd mix of twentysomethings and her parents’ friends. There is no dancing, just Eggs Sardou. There is no cake to cut, just Bananas Foster. They won’t leave for their brief honeymoon until evening, so no merry, rice-festooned dash to a getaway car. All is low-key, as the whole day has been.
Later, they drive north towards New York City before stopping at a South Carolina motel for the night—because they want to catch the finale of The Mary Tyler Moore Show. And so 3-19-77 ends for the newlyweds.
43 years later, it’s another gray late winter day. A distressing number of those 50 witnesses to their wedding have passed away, including their parents, her sister Mo and too many friends. But they survive, and their marriage does too. They’d leave Atlanta two years later, never to live in the South again. God laughs department: after all their noisy objections to offspring, they ended up with five of them.
What would I whisper in her ear, that terribly young bride in the back of the church that morning? “Get ready for a tough time ahead”? “There will be so much worry and sadness and loss”? “You should have waited, finished college, had some time on your own”? Would she have listened? Would it have mattered?
Would she trade one minute of these 43 years of ups and downs, births and funerals, laughter and tears?
Because of the guy that stood there, waiting for her, at the end of the church aisle that morning. The guy who has stood by her four decades and counting. Who is here with her this morning in Oreland, and will still be here, please God, as the adventure continues.
Happy Anniversary, my love.