Saturday, September 1, 2007

45 years ago, my mother didn't get married

Today is my parents' forty-fifth wedding anniversary.

Or it would be if they'd actually gotten married.

My father, a very moral man who was understandably a bit nervous at the irregular circumstances of his relationship with my mother, what with two kids and two dogs and a mortgage and everything, attempted to marry my mother again on September 1, 1982. This was the date that marked their "twentieth anniversary," but unfortunately it didn't happen. For the second time, my father stood in the front of the church with a minister and the ear of God and the presence of friends and family, but walked out of the church just as much of a sinner as when he went in.

My mother, having donned a pretty dress and a veil and the whole works, has never been able to say her wedding vows. The two ministers, circa 1962 and 1982, have tried to pry an "I do" or an "I will" or even a head-nod out of her, but she's never been able to do it. She has always been obscured by a fog of tears, weeping stormily into lace hankies, standing there by my father who might or might not have been wondering: What have I got myself into?

"Never said her vows?" I said incredulously on the occasion of being told that I was a love child, conceived in sin. I think I was about thirty-seven at the time. "Never said...?"

"Nope," said my father, dealing out a hand of Hearts. "No 'I do,' no 'I will,' no nothing. Just with the crying and all."

"What's the matter with you, woman?" I asked, turning to my mother as she sorted through her cards, emitting a small shriek of displeasure when she found the Queen of Spades. "Can you imagine what the congregation was thinking?"

"I was beyond thinking about congregations," she said.

"Well, yeah, because everybody probably thought that Grandpa brought a shotgun to the church and said, 'You get yourself married, you little...."

"Okay, first of all," she interrupted, "your grandpa doesn't talk like that. You do, and I don't know why because I raised you right. Second of all, I was pregnant a month after we got married, not before."

True. That's true. They were married on September 1, 1962 and I was born on June 29, 1963, which is plenty of time to incubate a suitably full-term infant, especially one as gigantic as I was.

My father threw the two of clubs out into the middle of the table to start the game. "You were born in plenty of time to avoid any kind of scandal. Or you would have been if your mom and I were actually married. Which I still don't think we really are."

I played the ace of clubs; my mother played the king. "Oh, Bob, you stop that talk," she rebuked him.

I played the jack of spades and she reached over and hit me on the arm, throwing her queen of spades onto the table. My father, with a self-satisfied smirk, played the ten of spades and my mother hit him, too.

"So why were you crying then, if you weren't being forced down the aisle to give your unborn child a name?" I teased her.

"Well, I guess just because....well, because I loved your dad..."

"You do mean this man right here, don't you?"

"I did NOT raise you to say things like that..."

"I'm just checking."

"Besides, you look just like him."

"You are very lucky," my father advised me, raking in the next trick.

"Were you hedging your bets, just in case your high school boyfriend turned up again? What was his name?" I tapped my finger on my pursed lips.

"That would be Dennis," said my dad. And then, in a squeaky falsetto, "Ohhh, Dennis! You're so dreaaaaamy! Dennis, can I wear your frat pin? Oh, Dennis, you're soooo handsome in your Red Devils varsity letter sweater!"

"You're just like Pat Boone, only even more handsome," I joined him and we fell about laughing.

My mother viewed us both with displeasure, her brows drawn together and her spine straight. "I was not hedging my bets," she said with dignity. "I was moved by the ceremony! My heart was touched! I was marrying the man of my dreams!"

"Weren't you....nineteen?" I asked.

"Shut up," she said.

"Because when I wanted to get married at age twenty-seven, you told me I didn't know my own mind."

"I was very mature for my age," she said repressively.

"Besides," my dad added, "the ministers - both of them - felt that since she didn't actually bolt for an exit, that implied that she wanted to go throught the ceremony - both of them."

"Are you happy now?" my mother asked, trying to avoid taking in some hearts.

"So I'm not a love child?"

"Well, you are loved, but not that kind of love child."

"Darn. That was a good story, about how my parents have never been married."

"I raised you better than that..."

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