Just what exactly do I remember? The church, First CRC, Orange City, Iowa, a truly Calvinist sanctuary, movie material really, galleries on both sides and in the back, stark and plain, not at all ornate but huge, a church whose very design spoke of the authority it had once upon a time, and even then, but no more. I remember well who married us, a man I still respect as highly as any human being I know.
Honestly, I remember the way my wife looked when she came down the aisle, a gorgeous woman with uncommonly dark features in a Dutch-American world. I don't remember the dress, but, as I stood in the front of that church with the rest of the wedding party and spotted her taking her father's arm, I do remember thinking I had me an absolute knock out (I know that's not nice language, but back then I was a sinner).
I remember the reception at a local college's dining hall, circles of people sitting on folding chairs, one of those circles composed of former profs at the college we'd both attended. I remember thinking it somehow nice that they'd all come--I hadn't always been their favorite student.
I remember meeting relatives of hers I didn't know and, right then, didn't care to. I remember being really anxious to be finished with all of that pomp and circumstance. I don't remember a thing about the reception--did we have some kind of program? Were there jokes? That's all gone.
I'll never forget my sabotaged orange VW squareback, shaving cream messed all over it, inside and out--plus, the little thing had been jacked up on blocks. I was going nowhere until I got it down. I was very angry--I will never forget that. The very first moment my new wife and I were together alone inside that car, she heard words that could have melted the dash of that VW. You'll have to ask her if she's ever again seen me that pissed. Eventually, we made it out of town, but I wasn't exactly in the mood for a honeymoon.
An hour up the road, all that heat had shifted focus easily.
But, sadly, the two of us were hippy-ish enough to regale traditional spendy honeymoons. No Niagara Falls, no Vegas, no San Diego or Maui for us, our first night together, man and wife, and the splendid consummation of those intimately prepared marriage vows took place in a roadside dive just outside of Worthington, Minnesota, a real dump where I hadn't even made reservations. I suppose I could have done worse, but it would have taken major effort. It's a wonder she stayed with me.
But she has, and today, amazingly, we've been married for 38 years.
So this morning's thanks is a piece of (wedding) cake. An old friend of mine once said that he'd determined, rather unscientifically, that two out of ten marriages are really good. Three are tolerable. Those that remain are either painful or simply impossible. After all these years, I'd nominate the one that began in First CRC, Orange City 38 years ago today, our own, among the very blessed.
Honestly, to me, the detailed rituals with which we embellish our wedding days are barely there in my memory of that long-ago event. But then, the two of us had started dating only six months before--you might say we got married in a fever.
And as for that disaster of a honeymoon, I'm typing these words in a beautiful cabin on a bay of a huge lake in northern Minnesota, a cabin where, this morning, the sounds of a pipe organ are coming up softly from an FM radio across the room, the coffee is brewing, and this bride of mine is still luxuriously fast asleep a room away. Outside, it's cloudy and gray, but honestly, inside, there couldn't be more warmth, more sun.
For all of that, this Sunday morning of our 38th anniversary, I'm more than thankful.