Thursday, June 03, 2004

Union Made

One year ago today, Adam and I scaled a hill in Vermont and got married. The only witness to the event was Anne, the Justice of the Peace whom we'd met for the first time that afternoon. Anne carried a folder with the wedding vows we had emailed from the previous day's Amtrak stopover in Schenectady. We wrote the vows on my laptop, in the memorial chapel of Schenectady's (appropriately named) Union College.

I carried up the hill a riotous bouquet of lilacs, which, minutes before the ceremony, our motherly B&B host had cut, bound with ribbon, and thrust into my arms. Rita found us alarmingly under-prepared for matrimony, not having thought to arrange for flowers, photos, or even wedding guests. Although Adam and I were formally attired, I hadn’t had time or money enough to get matching shoes. And so I wore under my dress a pair of scuffed black pumps—happily discarded once we had settled in the grassy carpet of the sunny hillside.

After declaring us hitched, Anne scampered down the hill ahead of us. She wanted us to have a moment alone, she said. We beamed, blinked, and breathed the green. In the farmhouse below, Rita and Malcolm prepared the party that was to mark our wedding and their eleventh anniversary. You might say they thought of everything. Champagne. Roses. A heart-shaped cake. String quartet on the boombox. We loved them for their kindness, but felt more wedding-y on the next day’s impromptu nature hike, with Anne.

With wedding vows, it seems, we blindly/heroically promise the impossible, in so far as it is impossible to know what people we will become or in what circumstances we will find ourselves. That's one reason I'm partial to the totally private wedding ceremony preceding (or in place of) the more public one. The best vows function not as a tether rope, but as a constitution. A constitution that declares attachment, commitment, affection, passion—and what we intend all that healthful stuff will mean in our common lifetime. When we wrote our vows, I realized how much Adam and I believe in words, and in their ability to create, or at least make possible, a hoped-for ideal. We labored over every phrase, such that our actual wedding, the actual knitting together of our lives, may also have taken place at Union College. As it has taken place in all our intentional conversations, both before and after the day called anniversary.


At 11:49 PM, Blogger Benedict said...

Now I've got you, rhetorically speaking. You call it a constitution, but you want it to be private. A secret marriage cabal, you elitist- oh, who am I kidding. Is it better to have camera thrust in your face, like the first poor sob's in Massachusetts, or the private ceremony on a verdant hilltop under an azure sky; - with a rainbow, no less! - just two people and an appreciation for words?

At 7:13 AM, Blogger YelloCello said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

At 7:16 AM, Blogger YelloCello said...

(I'm having a heck of a time getting this comment function to work. It doesn't help when, in trying to remove a cat walking across the keyboard, I accidentally removed my own post. Here it is again.)

Maybe, in my wash of sentimentality, "constitution" risked sounding obnoxious/grandiose? But I'm still fond of the concept. (Blame my h.s. U.S. history teacher.) Your post also raises the good point that the privacy might be something of a privilege for those for whom marriage vows are not news.

At 3:45 PM, Blogger Benedict said...

Maybe the publicity was part of the appeal for the first wave of marriage seekers. Had they waited a week or two, the media would have gotten distracted by something else. Of course, there was also some evidence that this window could be closed by the governor or the justices at any time.


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