We were living together in Montreal, engaged, and had been gearing up for an August wedding in Nova Scotia. But then Deb got pregnant. It happens.
You tend to let your guard down when you’re in a state of shock, and before we knew it, we were agreeing to a December wedding with just family in attendance. Strings were pulled. Marriage classes were skipped. (I had to agree to raise our children in the Roman Catholic faith. Sure.) The dress was bought, the tux rented. The saying goes “it was all a blur,” but it really was.
We were married at St. Pat’s Cathedral with both a United Church minister and a Catholic priest officiating. Our reading was the standard, “Love is patient, love is kind…”; if we had put some thought into it, we might have selected something a bit more personally meaningful, say some lyrics from The Eurythmics. But again, we were still a bit stunned.
My brother Andrew was my best man. Deb’s bridesmaid was supposed to be her sister, but a medical emergency prevented her from attending. Her dad pulled double duty as both the giver-awayer and witness.
It’s hard to remember what exactly was going through our heads 30 years ago, other than the terrifying prospect that Deb and I—age 22 and 25 respectively—were going to be parents. PARENTS! Our lives had just swerved off the meandering path of youth onto the autobahn of adult responsibility.
But I can still picture Deb walking down the aisle in her blue velvet dress, a ring of flowers in her hair, beautiful. She was wearing makeup, one of the maybe five times she’s ever worn makeup. But I didn’t feel nervous. Sure, this was a small gathering of family in an unfamiliar church with two more religious faiths represented than we were at that point accustomed to. But a version of this—marriage—was in the offing one way or another. This was fine. It was a stripped-down version of what we wanted: the next phase of our lives together.
It snowed lightly that evening. After the service, we moved to the reception at my in-laws and posed for photos in their living room. Deb, as I said, was stunning (still is). I had swooshy hair and big glasses. We took some photos without glasses too. I should have kept them on.
There was food, there were many beverages. (Me, some; Deb, pregnant.) There was a piano player, and I have a distinct memory of my father sitting in a chair with his eyes closed listening to the music. Did I mention December 15 is also his birthday? He turned 60 that day, so he was probably thinking, “Damn kids stole my thunder.” (Happy 90th birthday, Dad.)
Our wedding night was spent down the road at the Delta Hotel. We watched Die Hard 2 on pay-per-view and Deb fell asleep. We were married.
We never did get a honeymoon. We had no money, and it was a long, long time before we did. (You see, we kept having children…) One of these days, we’ll take that Alaskan cruise.
Over the years, it’s been difficult to celebrate our anniversary because December 15 is just 10 days before this holiday called Christmas, which is kind of a big deal. I don’t want to suggest I’m ungrateful for what our parents pulled off, but that’s one thing I would change.
Ultimately, though, marriage isn’t really about that day. It’s about every day after. And Deb and I have had a lot of days, 30 years of days, 10,950 days and counting. They are not all days of wedded bliss. Marriage is hard. Raising a family is almost impossible to get right. Throw cats and dogs in the mix and you’re asking for trouble. Even the most perfectly paired people won’t always align, nor should they. How boring would that be?
Over the years, that freeway has had some unexpected detours. Some have been dead ends, others have been picturesque backroads. Sure, there have been times when we’ve had to pull over. (“Don’t make me turn this car around!”) But to extend the metaphor, I love my driving companion and can’t wait to see where our journey takes us.
This evening, during our pandemiversary, there won’t be much to do—no movies or restaurants to go to, too cold for an excursion (at least for me). I’ll make a supper, then I plan to hook up the old VCR, pull out the cassette of our wedding and hope the tape doesn’t get mangled in the machinery. (Metaphor alert!)
And who knows, if the mood strikes us, maybe we’ll watch Die Hard.