Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Today is Our 20th Wedding Anniversary: Satellite of Love

On this day, twenty solar cycles ago, I got up to a semi-empty apartment.  It was just me and the cat, who I did not get along with at this point, so we didn't interact much.

Jamie had spent the evening with her parents at a hotel in South Austin that no longer exists.  She would spend the day doing all the things I guess brides do on their special day.

Plus dialysis.  You know, we gotta stay on-brand.

Jamie had gone on dialysis somewhere between when we graduated from our respective universities and when we got engaged.  Her health issues had taken up a lot of our time between first moving in together in the spring of 1998, and I frankly no longer remember the sequence of events or schedule of hospital stays.  It was a lot.

Somewhere in there, we got that cat.  We merged our CD collections.  We made joint choices about what would go on the walls in our shared apartment, learned to cook together.  At some point in the fall of 1999, we had a conversation or two about the fact we clearly weren't splitting up, and assumed we were sort of ride or die.  At least one of these discussions occurred over ICQ while we were at our respective jobs - back then Jamie was working for a boutique gaming company on Congress and I was working in the mines of primeval elearning.

We realized we were engaged.  There were no rings immediately.  The stories vary as to how it happened, but it did.  The notion solidified itself while Jamie was having a particularly lengthy hospital stay, and by the time she got out, we hadn't just said we were getting married - Jamie and her mom, with nothing better to do, had booked location and date.  My folks drove down before she got out.  We had the softest celebration anyone ever had for an engagement, sort of raising cups of the terrible hospital coffee.

We didn't know anything about weddings.  We were the first of our friends to get engaged, sort of.  There'd been the couple who shot-gun weddinged my sophomore year (I understand they're still married).  And we found out shortly after getting engaged that our pals, Chris and Sherry, had also gotten engaged.  And we were scheduled to get married 24 hours apart.  So we'd beat them by a day, and still have no idea how any of this worked.

Jamie was never wired to be one of those girls who had a dream of what her wedding would look like, or how it would go.  I'll always take Jamie's "whatever" approach over some of the brides I've heard become... nuts.   But I don't think a single bridal magazine passed through our apartment.  Advice was given and we sort of nodded along.  Likely, had we gotten engaged and not started with a venue, we might have just gone to City Hall.  I don't really know.  But we had a big, fancy location and things seemed like they should probably match that.  So we got to work.

Fortunately, the location required we use their kitchen and bar for everything (Green Pastures in South Austin, now Mattie's Restaurant), so we didn't worry about food or drink.  I was sick as a dog when we went cake testing, so I just smiled politely and had no idea what I'd selected as I couldn't taste anything.  The venue would also only allow for X number of people, so that was helpful in getting us to prioritize and organize a guest list.

Jamie's mother, who passed a few years ago, had a friend who was a jeweler in Bryan, so one weekend we hoofed it to Bryan and I ordered my "I dunno, a piece of gold pipe", was what I asked for, and what I got and what I wear.  Jamie re-used some gold and a diamond from some family jewelry.  We couldn't have afforded more than something out of a gumball machine, otherwise.

But we didn't know that wedding invitations were a racket.  We didn't know flowers were such a big deal.

Again, we were about 24 years old, working all the time, and Jamie was on dialysis.  Flower arrangements and matching thank you notes were as far from our concerns, or world, as anything you could imagine.  But a former neighbor from my childhood had started a business doing wedding invitations and whatnot, so we went over to her house to discuss, and she realized we had absolutely no idea what we were doing.  And - while she was not a wedding coordinator, she was suddenly our wedding coordinator.  And thank goodness.  She found us flowers (white lillies), a string quartet for the ceremony, and she basically organized us.  Right up to the rehearsal, which no one knew how to do.

You do not want to hear about how we acted like making a wedding registry was the worst thing anyone could have asked of us.  Still. we just retired those plates and bowls a few weeks before lockdown.

We found a pastor in a woman who had been the mother of a kid I'd been friends with growing up.  She had gotten ordained after I'd moved away in high school - and she was kind of perfect.  She was entirely realistic with us when we came in for pre-wedding counseling and mostly just checked in to make sure we weren't making a terrible mistake.  But also was super easy going in general, and it was great to have her and her son around for the wedding events.

We got married on a Friday, which had its challenges.  Maybe not destination-wedding difficult, but a lot of people had to take the day off.   Our rehearsal was a Thursday night, and went well.  The dinner afterward - at Austin's County Line BBQ, was a crowded, noisy affair.  I had no idea what was happening through most of it as everyone but me seemed to have something to do.  A lot of dads pumped my hand.  A lot of my friends drank beer and laughed at me.  People told inaccurate stories.  I was sent home alone.  I remember listening to Fleetwood Mac while driving around.  I think Jamie and I got to talk to each other for about five minutes the whole time. We didn't even get to engage in the usual under-the-breath "what the hell is going on?" conversations we were used to.

From across the country, family had come in for both sides.  Many of them stayed in the same no-longer-there hotel in South Austin, and we ran by in the days before, and I met a lot of people for the first time on Jamie's side.  It all seemed sort of weirdly like it had nothing to do with us, after all.  This was a thing that was happening and we had a part to play, but the wedding itself had taken on a life of its own.

Day of the wedding, my folks were wrangling my grandparents and aunt and uncle.  I know I had lunch with Jason.  We went to a junk shop on North Loop and I played with a doberman that was just roaming around the store.  At a quick-mart, some of the street-rats Austin used to have in great numbers asked me for a ride, and I decided it was good karma to shuttle them to their next destination.  They asked what I was up to and I was like "well, I'm getting married in five hours", and they wanted to come, but I refused to disclose the location.

I remember getting dropped off for a few hours and just sitting perfectly still with the TV on, but I didn't watch it.  I have no idea what was on.  Eventually I shaved and put on the rented tux, and Jason came back to get me in his tux and drove me a good few miles from my apartment before I realized I'd forgotten the rings.  We doubled-back and still made it relatively on time.  Heather and Rebecca, Jamie's bridesmaids, found me and assured me Jamie was doing well, getting ready in a room in the mansion house that was the venue.

I got corralled with the groom's party beforehand, which included my mom, who was bouncing off the walls and excited to see folks pouring in.  Jason was best man and Jamie's brother, Doug, was second-best-man?  We'd not gone nuts on bridal parties.

There had been a lot of back-and-forth about the guest-list as we did have a limited number of seats and couldn't accommodate flocks of my mom's elementary school teacher friends and still have our friends present.  In end, we'd had a bridal shower in Houston in March, which had cleared out our wedding registry and we'd had to start coming up with things to want or need, which is hard when you're used to cooking with the one pan you've always owned and its the only thing you know how to use.

Co-workers from both our offices arrived, college pals.  Some had jobs like ushering or pointing people in the right direction.  Guest book wranglers.  But it suddenly did seem very, very much about us as I was watching high school friends I didn't see very often mix with the sound engineer from my office.

The ceremony was brief.  Jamie was gorgeous.  We did not write our own vows, but stuck to the Lutheran liturgy minus the stuff about Jamie obeying every word her husband speaks.  We got through it how most people do, I guess, by drowning everything else out and just echoing back what the minister says while you keep your eyes on each other.

And then we were married.

We have lovely photos of the day in a beautiful album that sits in a drawer and weighs approximately thirty pounds.  I have many favorite photos taken, but there is one of every single person in one large mass looking up at the camera.  And it's one of those pictures you take to remember what a remarkable assemblage of people you had in one spot for one night at one point in your life.

Too many of those people have since passed.  Too many more I've simply lost track of over the years or haven't seen for one reason or another.

We did the things that you're supposed to do at a reception, but which were novel to us.  We sipped champagne in front of people.  We cut cake (we did not smush the cake).  Jamie danced with her dad, and I danced with my mom.  My brother gave a heartfelt speech that did everyone some honor.  But mostly we talked and chatted with folks.  I was introduced to some of Jamie's family, she was introduced to some long lost friends - some of which I haven't seen since.

And then Jamie and I danced to Lou Reed's "Satellite of Love".

That's our wedding song.  And that's the one thing Jamie suddenly had an opinion about.  I put no less than forty songs in front of her as options, thinking, surely, surely not "Satellite of Love".  But, yeah, that's what she wanted, my last "you know, in an ideal world, this is what I'd use" choice for which I did no set-up, because I assumed she'd shoot it down.  But, no.  She made her decision in about twenty seconds.

Sure, yes, there was the MST3K reference.  And there was the Lou Reed factor.  It was nice to have something that felt like we hadn't just picked one of the five popular wedding songs of 2000 for our first dance as a married couple.

I won't wax rhapsodic about the choice.  It's the choice we made, but it made no sense at the time, and maybe less so now.  It's a song about observing wonder, but also concerns of infidelity.  It talks about the future.  But mostly it's about a satellite of love, and sometimes that's what it felt like maybe we were living on.

Our twenties were not like a lot of people's twenties.  I don't think most of the people who knew me, even my friends, had any idea what was going on with me and Jamie the vast majority of the time.  I don't want to dwell on it too much here, but we could be an outpost circling the world a lot of the time.  And I'm not sure that's ever ended entirely.  It wasn't she and I against the world, but it was always she and I together dealing with things as they came.  We did then and we do now.

But I still laugh when I think that was our choice.

Before midnight, we got whisked away in a classic car I never saw.  It was convertible and electric blue, but we ran out of the venue holding hands with soap bubbles bursting against our faces and jumped into the waiting car that drove us straight to Austin's Driskill Hotel.  By the time I had grabbed my overnight bag from the curb, the car was gone.  Friendly driver.  I finally saw it in the photos a month later.

The car ride was also the first time I'd gotten a chance to talk to Jamie in two days.

There are a lot of ways to think of or express the need you have for speaking to or being with the person you care about most in times of stress, and I've never found any of them anything less than embarrassing or ridiculous.  But that was the irony of the whole affair - you can't talk to the one person you would and should be talking to because of the demands of the weekend and roles everyone needs you to play. Even in our wedding clothes, the first I felt a return to anything resembling reality was in the backseat of that convertible, talking about nothing much heading from South Austin to the center of town, occasionally waving at people.

We'd learn later about the small foibles and mistakes of the wedding, but that night we knew nothing.  Everyone was happy.  Everyone was lovely.  Whatever it was we'd set out on when we paired up in the fall of 1995 was now over and a new stage was starting.

The honeymoon wouldn't be for a few weeks - I needed to wrap the academic year.  Jamie and I would both return to work in the next few days.

That night, our room was on 6th street about three or four floors up, with a balcony.  We changed out of formal wear and into soft clothes and sat in the bathroom eating a plate of food we'd been given from the venue who knew we hadn't had a chance to eat at all during the evening.  we compared notes about who we'd talked to, who we needed to follow up with.  And then we went on the balcony and sat and watched pedicabs and people milling around 6th.    I thought Jamie would be tired, but she talked and I talked and I guess we listened to each other.  Like I say, we hadn't seen each other in two days, and now we had no details to cover or tangles to unsnag.

In the morning we'd realize we had no way to get home, and I wasn't smart enough to know to tell the front desk to call us a cab.  Eventually Jamie's brother came and got us.  And that felt absolutely normal, and back to reality.  Everything about the prior 72 hours faded into the background.

And that was the day we got married.

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