It was a Tuesday evening in July, when Michael and I decided to get married. And because we had broken every mold of tradition already, I proposed, quite unromantically, over the telephone.
My husband likes to say, now, that "we agreed" to tie the knot, but the truth is — I asked him to marry me. And although we were deeply in love, we had only been dating each other for six months, and it was a marriage that stemmed mostly out of convenience.
"If we don't get married before school starts, we'll have to wait a year. " I told him, bluntly. I was thinking of my youngest son who was set to start kindergarten in the fall.
After subjecting my children to a long separation and divorce, after 13 years of marriage, from their father, the last thing I was willing to do is make them change schools mid-year.
But even after that divorce, and in spite of my tendency to eschew tradition, getting married again seemed like the only way I would be willing to ask my children to uproot their lives. It was a commitment to everyone, that this was the last chance I was going to take, to make a relationship work.
"We can get married now, if you like. Or next summer. " I said. Please don't let him say next summer, I thought, worriedly.
"I don't want to wait a year," Michael sighed rather dramatically into the telephone from his apartment 20 miles away.
"Well then, let's get married." I offered, unceremoniously. Fifteen minutes later, we had purchased two wedding rings online, paid a surcharge for expedited shipping and had assembled a vague notion of crossing the border from our home state of Michigan, into Ohio for a ceremony that could be performed without a waiting period.
We set a wedding date of Friday, just three days later.
You may think this story is depressingly unromantic and can't possibly have a happy ending.
Well, I happen to think you're wrong.
I think our story is incredibly romantic and the way it unfolded suits me just fine. I do not believe a marriage is made or unmade by the wedding. The wedding is one day, one page, in the story of two people who have decided to bind their lives together. It is a grand expression of love and commitment, surely. I love attending big weddings and crying along with the bride and groom over the beauty of it all.
That just wasn't for me.
I think romantic love can be expressed in less extravagant ways, too.
Love, for us, was agreeing to put our children's needs above our own, when joining two families together in a second marriage. Love was understanding that the second time around, everyone was affected, and everyone was broken. We wanted to make it easy; after it had already been so hard. A big wedding, a long engagement—it all seemed too much to ask of our families.
Love is not always dramatic. Sometimes, love is logical. A wedding, even when it is practical, is not any less meaningful. Our wedding day was meaningful to the only two people that really mattered: the man and woman making the vows.
It seemed so fast to the rest of the world, and trust me, we had our fair share of naysayers.
But I didn't hear a word they said. I wore a simple cream dress and Michael wore a suit, with a new tie that I bought him as a wedding present. He stepped into my house and I saw the way his eyes lit up, when he saw me. His face, at 38 years old, was just starting to crease and fold around the edges. It was old and new to me, all at once.
I was 35 years old and a mom of four children. We had every reason to be terrified and there was every reason for the world to think we were making a horrible mistake.
Except one: I loved him fiercely.
He made me calm, just to be near him. And I could not imagine anything more beautiful than knowing that in a few hours time, he would be my husband.
We drove over the state line, like two teenagers who were young and in love and running from their parents. Instead, we were just a pair of divorced parents, with scarred pasts, hoping against hope that we would get it right this time.
Maybe that's not the kind of story that makes for a very good fairy tale, but we threw out the rule book long before we left Michigan to say our vows.
I will never forget standing, alone with Michael, in the courthouse on a Friday morning in July, whispering "I do." I will never forget my new husband's face, as the Justice of the Peace said, "You may kiss the bride." And I will never regret the simplicity in the promise we made, to start our lives alone, with no pomp or circumstance, no big wedding or flashy ceremony.
On that day, we were just two grown people, standing side by side, vowing forever with tears in our eyes. On that day, and every day since, we were just hoping, with every ounce of themselves, for one last chance to write a story that never ends. Or a story that only ends with three wonderful words: happily-ever-after.