Independence Day 1981

July 4, 2012 MemoriesRelationshipsVanilla Life  No comments

Today is the anniversary of my first wedding.

I married Beth the first time on July 4th, 1981.

So, the first time we “married,” we said it to ourselves in Cazenovia, New York, under some trees, while fireworks went off overhead.  My ring was a silver one with a small blob of silver in place of a stone.  I have no idea what ever happened to it, I’ve not seen it in 20 years, anyway.

The next year, however, we did it up and had a big ol’ gay wedding.  It was, of course, illegal everywhere then, so there was no legal ceremony.

We were married by a Unitarian Universalist minister, Father Tim, who suffered so much guilt over the fact that we were not able to legally marry that we always expected him to write us a check.

He and his wife were what slave drew calls “crunchy” types.  Very much old hippies.  Long hair for both, no makeup for either, his and hers matching Birkenstocks.  They actually lived in a tree house.  I swear.  A tree house.

We wrote our own vows, obviously.  It was the 80’s and we were dykes.  Of course we did.  We used two readings I still like a lot.  One was by the poet Adrienne Rich, from the poem, The Dream of a Common Language:

No one lives in this room
without confronting the whiteness of the wall
behind the poems, planks of books,
photographs of dead heroines.
Without contemplating last and late
the true nature of poetry. The drive
to connect. The dream of a common language.

The other was an Apache wedding blessing:

Now you will feel no rain, for each of you will be shelter for the other.
Now you will feel no cold, for each of you will be warmth to the other.
Now there will be no loneliness, for each of you will be companion to the other.
Now you are two persons, but there is only one life before you.
May beauty surround you both in the journey ahead and through all the years.
May happiness be your companion and your days together be good and long upon the earth.

We had friends as part of the wedding party, too.  Our best friend, Marie, was Best Queer, and our friends Ida and Lynn were our Dykesmaids.

I made all the food except the cake.  Mini quiches and cookies are all I remember, but I know there was more.

Our friend Kateri’s sister made the wedding cake, which had fresh flowers on it.  She didn’t really want to know what it was for, I remember her kind of rolling her eyes and saying, “Whatever…”

Our colors were lavender and green.

The flowers were wildflowers that Beth went out that morning and picked.

I did mention it was the 80’s, right, and we were dykes?

We had two friends, Nancy and Paula, who both sang beautifully, and they provided the music.  We used three songs by Cris Williamson, one of the seminal Lesbian singers of the era, someone we saw in concert a dozen or more times.

The processional was Lullaby.  It’s a beautiful round, one that can be repeated as many times as you want:

Like a ship in the harbor,
like a mother and child,
like a light in the darkness,
I’ll hold you awhile.

We’ll rock on the water.
I’ll cradle you deep
and hold you while angels
sing you to sleep.

The song we used in the middle was Sweet Woman:

Sweet woman,
Rising inside my door,
I think I’m saying you
Singing through me them soft words
Taking me to your secret
Letting me know,
Taking me in,
You let it all go
Let it all go
Old warmth surrounding me
It’s nice, staring, staring at me
Old warmth surrounding me
It just won’t let me
Just won’t let me be
A little facet of time
Till I hold you and you’ll be mine
Sweet woman, rising so fine
A little facet of time
Till I hold you and you’ll be mine
Sweet woman, rising so fine
Old warmth surrounding me,
It’s nice, staring, staring at me
Old warmth surrounding me
It just won’t let me
Just won’t let me be
A little facet of time
Till I hold you and you’ll be mine
Sweet woman rising so fine
A little facet of time
Till I hold you and you’ll be mine
Sweet woman, woman, rising so fine
A little facet of time
Till I hold you and you’ll be mine
Sweet woman
Rising so fine
Rising so fine
Rising so fine

The recessional has always been one of my favorites, Song of the Soul:

Love of my life I am crying
I am not dying, I am dancing
Dancing along in the madness
There is no sadness
Only the song of the soul

chorus: And we’ll sing this song
Why don’t you sing along
Then we can sing for a long, long time
Why don’t you sing this song
Then we can sing along
Then we can sing for a long, long time

What do you do for a living
Are you forgiving, giving shelter
Follow your heart, love will find you
Truth will unbind you
Seek out a song of the soul

Come to your life like a warrior
Nothing will bore yer, you can be happy
Let in the light, it will heal you
And you can feel you
Sing out a song of the soul

Love of my life I am crying
I am not dying, I am dancing
Dancing along in the madness
There is no sadness
Only the song of the soul

I remember a few of the gifts we got.  A pair of pictures, tasteful semi-nudes.  I gave them to Beth years ago.  A ceramic half moon with stars hanging from it that still hangs in my upstairs bathroom.  A bunch of fireworks, which we set off that night, in the street.

We lived in a Polish neighborhood, and I remember women necking under the streetlights while fireworks went off overhead.

I remember that that night, after we went to bed, our friends invaded our bedroom and, for reasons lost in the haze of memory, painted a labrys, “a symmetrical doubleheaded axe,” on Beth’s back in nail polish, which left a stain on the sheets, and dumped an ashtray in the bed, which also left a stain although not a burn mark, so I should be grateful for that, I suppose.

That happened thirty-one years ago today, which seems utterly impossible.  I was 23, Beth was a couple of weeks shy of 25.

When I think of that day, I always see it as a single photo that someone took.  It used to be in a framed collage, somewhere, long since tucked away.

Beth has her arm around me, and is kissing my head, while I look down.  In one hand she has a cookie, and in the other a cigarette.

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