Friday, June 01, 2007

Till death did them part

I woke with a nagging sense that this was a day to remember. Gradually it came back to me: On June 1, 1945, my parents got married. I know nothing of the weather or even what day of the week it was, but the war in Europe was over and the baby boom was about to begin.

June 1, 1945, some church in New York City. A small party: the happy couple and their two friends/witnesses. Possibly her mother, but his parents were in Baltimore. I like to think the date has a passionate significance: she wanted a June wedding, he couldn't wait any longer. (And in those days, decent people waited.) Strange to think of them as panting newlyweds. Beyond strange.

This is what I know. She was Catholic, he was some vague form of Protestant (way back, the family were Quakers). The priest extracted a promise to raise the children as Catholics. (Thanks a lot.) Even so, the wedding had to take place in the vestry -- the priests' locker room -- so as not to sully the church proper. And when the priest found out the best man was Jewish, he tried to prevent him from signing the register. Nevertheless, they were married.

I've seen the wedding photo. She's wearing a suit and a hat that belongs on Betty Grable. He's in his Merchant Marine uniform. They look happy. They made it work. They stayed together until cancer carried her off in 1999; fifty-four years. After that, he was never the same. Did I ever really know them? I wonder if anyone did. They had no siblings, not many close friends. They had dear eccentric aunts and uncles they shared with us kids, along with his war stories (the funny stuff only) and her tales of growing up in Astoria (my mother went to Julia Richman High School when it was girls-only, one of them Betty Bacall). Her people arrived after 1900, his in the seventeenth century. His were farmers with names like Mordecai and Elijah and Oliver; her father was a New York City fireman who left when she was fourteen. All I have is facts.

Happy anniversary. I miss you.


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