Where were we?

Saturday, in a garden in California.

It was warmer than I had expected, and I was wearing a suit, but you kind of have to get married in a suit.

I was nervous, pacing behind the offices of the Art and Garden Center, repeatedly reciting my vows under my breath. The moment was huge.

You were in the dressing room with most of your family and two bottles of wine, and you refused to come out for photos, because your mother had just convinced you there was some merit to the argument that a groom should not see his bride in her dress before the wedding.

The guests were taking care of themselves—which was good, because neither of us was taking care of them. We had done the whole thing ourselves, just the two of us, and we were too busy to realize we’d need a greeter.

People had trickled in slowly. I remember wondering if anybody would actually show up, or if we’d just get married on our own, in this field, with your mom. That’s crazy, right? I’d have been really mad.

As it turned out, though, eighty people had come, of the hundred we’d originally planned for. “Twenty percent attrition,” you’ve always said, with confidence. Twenty percent seems like a lot, when you’re offering free duck and booze, but you were right.

We were to be married in a little field, surrounded by low-slung buildings shingled in redwood. Behind us was a hill, and past that a fountain.

My younger brother Ken, served as officiant, having paid the County of Marin twenty-five dollars—considerably cheaper than going to seminary—for the privilege of being solemn and kind, and of being called “the priest” by your Catholic family for several years after.

Ken vetoed both our vows the night before, for not being “binding enough”. My second draft was better, and more committed. Which is the point, I suppose.

My even younger brother Andrew’s quartet played the slow movement from Mozart’s String Quartet No. 14 as you walked down the aisle. It was breezy, and their pages flew off the stand halfway through.

They kept playing.

When Ken asked you if you’d take me as your husband, you got nervous and said “I ooo” instead of “I do”, but I took it as a yes. It seems possible that you could someday walk back this whole deal on that technicality, but it would be a reach.

I remember seeing everybody’s faces after we kissed. Looking up to see eighty people totally happy for you is a really great and unusual feeling. I’d say that everybody should get married for that reason alone, but I think we all know there’s a lot of work that goes into it, so caveat emptor.

On our way up the aisle, the quartet played the fourth movement, which is quite catchy and fast. Actually, maybe that’s when the sheet music started flying away, which makes it all the more impressive.

Your dad, your stepdad, and your mom’s boyfriend were all there, and people couldn’t stop talking about the plot to Mamma Mia.

An hour later, the caterer was growing anxious and had come over the hill to summon us. The guests are getting hungry, he said. We were going long on our photos, because of the whole not-seeing-you-in-your-dress thing I talked about earlier. You were hungry, too, but the photographer had brought this great old film camera, and I wanted him to take a lot more photos of us with it. We decided to take one more picture. This was our first tiny compromise as a married couple.

That last picture is framed on your dresser.

I wish I could remember all the speeches. My dad’s and your mom’s were really great. Nick went totally off piste for like fifteen minutes, but it was nice of him. Karen’s got the best response but was the most mortifying.

We forgot to learn a fancy dance for our reception, so for five minutes, eighty happy people got to watch us slowly sway back and forth in each other’s arms to David Byrne’s “One Fine Day”.

We were the last to leave the party, and we took all the wine back to the hotel and ordered pizza, which I have written about before and will always think is hilarious.

In the intervening ten years, we’ve each gone through several changes of career, flown together to places I never thought I’d go, shared roughly ten thousand meals, and supported each other through hard trials—lost grandparents, scary transitions, long labors, an energetic and sleep-resistant newborn baby.

On that day, though, I didn’t say anything about family or kids in my vows—you wouldn’t have wanted that, then—but I did promise “to build a life with you that we can be proud of”, and I know we kept that promise to each other, and our pride is manifest in our daughter.

A year and a half ago, you and I went back to the field, with Kina, and for some reason I expected it to feel smaller, but I guess that only happens when you’ve gone back to a place you grew up after having gotten much taller. We grew up in that garden, too, but I’m not any taller—which you like to remind me of from time to time.

Maybe we’ll take Kina there as she grows, and she’ll remark one day that it’s gotten smaller.

It still feels huge to me.

tangentialism is David Yee!