Friday, May 7, 2010

Happy Anniversary

My future mother and father were married in a rushed midnight ceremony in the basement of a Miami nightclub 68 years ago today. I have no photos of Mother in a wedding dress. I don't think there are any. I do have a photo on my wall of them surrounded by small party of service men and one other woman having drinks at the club afterwards. Mother's expression is interesting. A little afraid maybe, but protective and with a hint of, "There, I did it. He's mine now." She got the man, but this was not the wedding she had planned. I've seen the engagement announcement - it's in a footlocker along with a lot of other newspapers circa WWII that is currently residing under my stairs until I find a better home for it. The announcement touts a destination wedding in Puerto Rico some months later. But, world events intervened, Dad got his orders, and they rushed the wedding the day before he shipped out. A lot of other couples around the country were doing the same thing. Some barely knew one another, but the enticement to marry and experience being a spouse however briefly (and all that it entailed, if you get my drift) before setting out possibly never to return was too much for a lot of young couples to resist.

I like the story of my parent's wedding; it's romantic in an old Hollywood movie kind of way. But, in my adolescent years when Mother would coach me on what to say at the custody hearing after the divorce (that never happened, I should stress, she just plotted about it a lot), I thought a lot about that generation and all those rushed marriages, and wondered how the rest of them were faring.

I am pondering all of this today because of the state of my own union, and because, of course, of the date, which caused me to wonder if my parents were reunited up in heaven somewhere and what that must have been like (!), but I did seriously grow up thinking a lot about how other couples married in the same circumstances as my parents managed to keep their marriages in tact. Because they did for the most part. Of course, in that generation that's just what you did. In junior high, I knew one girl who came from a divorced home, and we all treated her with the utmost sympathy, but with a bit of distance too, like if we got too close it might be catching. And my parents came from the generation before that one! Their peers really took that 'Til Death Do You Part stuff seriously. And that's amazing if you really think about it. Try and install your own marriage into the mores of the time and realize you do not have the readily available opt-out of a divorce as a socially acceptable option. Then think about the ups and downs your relationship has taken, all the times you really hated the very sight of your spouse, or the crying, screaming fights that you've had, and then think about it. Go on. Take a few minutes and then get back to me. (Don't try and tell me you've never experienced that, because I won't believe it or I'll say you haven't been married long enough. No marriage is without its dark, stormy days.) It's sort of scary to think you're in it for life, right (Mormons are excused from this part of the exercise)? But is that a bad thing? I ask the question earnestly. I don't actually have a sure answer.

On the one hand, I saw my parents go through a monumental dip in their marriage that took years to sort out and really messed with my head. On the other hand, they eventually came out the other side and grew to have a comfortable relationship that carried on through the end of my Dad's days. I wasn't there for the first 18 years of their marriage, but I know it was filled with a wealth of sorrows and loss. Any career military family probably experiences that, but they also tried multiple times to have an organic family and Mother miscarried several times. Mom, had she been mentally well when Kelsey died, would have known a lot about our current pain. To have one another through all of those rough experiences must have been a boon. Someone who knew you so well and had the same sorrow. Only someone like that could really be totally there for you and share what you feel, right? Yet, during their bad period they felt glued to one another, and I was stuck with the both of them, and we had a number of thoroughly miserable years that could have been alleviated by a nice judge signing a piece of paper saying none of us had to do that anymore.

I know that there were a lot of reasons Mother merely schemed and never actually went through with a divorce, probably not the least of which was she actually still had feelings for my dad, but I often wonder if they hadn't have come from a time when divorce was not only serious, but scandalous, their partnership would have collapsed. Yet, in their later years, even though they always still fought, I was glad they had one another. So, the debate rages on in my head: what is better? That couples feel pressure to stay together and work it out, or that they have the freedom to cut loose when the going gets tough? Because the going will get tough at some point. That's just part of the gig called life. I find it an interesting debate.

In the meantime, Greg just turned on Dr. Zhivago for me - it's on TCM right now - so I'll distract myself from these meandering thoughts by watching one man's answer: have a gorgeous mistress! (And, yes, I do know that's missing the point of the tale, but as I've said before, the whole beauty of the story is that it means something totally different every time.)

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