I am rudely awakened by the clock radio in our condo. It’s the , singing “Staying Alive.”
“Oh God,” Brian moans, and not in a good way.
He has to leave first, to get to his Dad’s house in time to ride to the beach with them. I’m told later that several different drugs are offered to help alleviate his jangling nerves. He said, “All I wanted was a fucking beer, and no one would let me have one. Valium was OK, but I couldn’t drink a beer.”
I shower and try to do something with my hair. Useless. It turns out that the hair is the least of my problems. I don’t have a slip for the dress. I’ve only brought a seriously tiny piece of underwear, thinking that the dress itself would be less transparent than it is.
I am sadly mistaken. Given the pictures and the long memories of my friends, I will live with this for the rest of my life. Good lesson for my daughter, anyway. Always bring a slip.
Still, I manage to finish makeup. I finally decide what to do with my hair. I’m alone in the room, so no one is offering me anything. I begin to wish I’d asked for company getting dressed. It’s getting lonely.
I start to shake a little bit. Stage fright, or something close to it.
My stepmother meets me at the stairs. “You look beautiful!” she says. “Do you have a slip?”
Fuck. Whatever. It’s too late to go back now.
I insist on driving by myself, because I want to listen to Sting on the way out. I cross the drawbridge to Sunset Beach just before they open it to let the boats through.
The sky is mythic: cerulean North Carolina blue and boiling with white, silver-lined clouds. I pause halfway over a boardwalk to the beach. I don’t want to get there too early and have to stand around waiting for Brian to show up. That’s a nightmare.
I hope for a little movement in the belly, just to let me know I’m not quite alone. Apparently the adrenaline isn’t enough to wake up the Duck. But I can feel her there, a solid weight, lying on my bladder as she has for the last five months or so. I poke a little, trying to wake her up. Then, as now, she is not to be disturbed when sleeping.
I take a deep breath. Surely everyone’s there by now. Two of our friends have come down the boardwalk to take a couple pictures (and to scope out my location, no doubt.) Dad’s there, too, I think.
I come down the steps to see sixty or so of our closest friends and family, waiting for me more or less impatiently. There doesn’t seem to be anyone else on the beach that day – Saturday is changeover day, so we have a few golden hours where the beach is ours.
I stop trembling once I see that Brian’s there, but I still don’t know what to do with my hands. I suddenly realize why brides carry bouquets, and I wish to God that I hadn’t cancelled the order for a small bouquet of daisies. It would be nice to have something to draw attention away from the belly.
The ceremony is short. My dad reads a poem he’s written. The wind is up, but our friend who’s performing the ceremony speaks much louder than we do. I think he’s the only person the small crowd can hear.
We say our vows, kiss, and then, per my request, Sam and a few others pull out their kazoos and buzz the wedding recessional.
Buffy and I disappear to find a corner somewhere I can change out of the dress and into a bathing suit. We spend the rest of the morning lazing happily on the beach. Even though Brian is hiking a mile or so down the beach for beer, everywhere I look, I see someone I love. Buffy and her impossibly beautiful girls splash in the water. Tammy and her perfectly handsome son play in a warm tidal pool. Sam sculpts a mercouple in sand. The mermaid is pregnant.
We retire to our condo to nap, or at least to lay down. Afterwards there’s the party at a friend’s beach house. A shrimp boil, a canoe full of beer, a handmade blessing quilt from our friends that makes me cry (not that it’s hard to do these days, given the hormones) and the feeling of being well-loved, no matter how inappropriate my choice of underclothes.
Since then, the dresses (for both the wedding and the party) have been recycled into skirts. We still can’t find a place for the quilt, and I refuse to put it on a bed; it belongs on a wall. We plan to paint the bedroom sage green – it will go nicely there, I think.
Everything changes. Some things that you only take out for special occasions become staples of your wardrobe. Some choices that you only had to make once in a while, you make every single day. Some things are tucked away for later: plans for a honeymoon, hopes for school, dreams of traveling the world. Some things are thrown out entirely, eventually: fear, attachment to the past, to old identities and freedoms that don’t really apply any more, out-of-date behaviors that just don’t work.
Some things you have to transform, even in how you love someone, and especially how you treat them.
It amuses me these days to see how much effort and expense and stress is invested in that One Big Day. The real work is done the day after, and the day after that, and all the years that follow. In the mornings, you elbow your partner out of the way of the coffee pot and giggle because it annoys him, and he knows you know it. During the day, you call to find out how much the weekly deposit was (or how much you owe the mortgage company), and steel yourself to be unattached to the response. At night, you let your partner sleep instead of initiating intimacy. Over dinner, you make cracks that only your partner could really appreciate, and only at that particular second. On weekends, you give each other a bit of solitary time to recover from parenthood and partnerhood and all the responsibilities that accompany those roles.
You trust. You apologize, sincerely, and immediately if possible. You forgive. You stumble, and you catch each other, or if you both fall on your asses, at least you know you’re not there on your ass alone.
My husband annoys the crap out of me sometimes. He also adores me. And I love him more with every day, with every second that passes.
Happy anniversary, darling.