I overheard this remark by [REDACTED] and decided to remember it. I thought it might come in handy as the title for a blog post one day.
That’s 38 years ago. July 14, 1979. The day Alice Woodworth and I were married. That’s her father, the Reverend Robert B. Woodworth, officiating at the ceremony.
It’s always interesting and spooky, too, to look at an old picture of oneself and ask, “what was I thinking in that moment?” I remember the moment vividly, and I remember that I was thinking about a lot of things, all swirling through my head and heart. I felt there was approximately zero distance between those thoughts and the moment I was experiencing. I was in the moment, one might say, though that seems a superficial way of describing it. Awesome, however, seems apt. It’s a word with great range. Awesome is exhilarating, awesome is humbling, awesome is uncanny, awesome is a little scary, awesome is that “oceanic feeling” of oneness.
This kiss was awesome in all those ways. The first kiss of our married life. Our first deed as a married couple, out there in public, a response to the minister’s pronouncement that we were married. (And yes, right there in front of my wife’s father.) How strange, in a way, that the traditional response to “I now pronounce you” is to kiss each other. A good tradition, in my view. Awesome.
Everyone knows that the pronouncing is sealed with a kiss. Here’s comes awesome! Wait for it! Another photographer documents the moment:
And now, what has changed? Oh, everything. One awesome kiss marks that change. We walk together from that moment on in a new way, one that co-exists, sometimes spectacularly, sometimes confusingly, with the old ways. Alice walks, Gardner walks. No problem. We’d done that together. But now, walking with Alice, walking with Gardner, is this third thing, Alice-and-Gardner, our marriage. The wedding has concluded, and the marriage has begun.
Our marriage walks with us, now, everywhere we go. Here’s a picture of that beginning.
The three of us–Alice, Gardner, and our marriage–are still walking together, 38 years later. It’s still awesome, in all the ways I could have imagined and in all the ways I could not possibly have imagined. Getting to know each other is a mighty work-in-progress. Getting to know that third thing, our marriage, is an equally mighty work-in-progress. The marriage becomes a person in its own right, a third being that can be distinguished, but not divided, from the two separate beings who have walked together for all this time. I hadn’t expected that, though I’m sure all the elders tried to tell me. Such lessons feel like riddles or news from another land until the years clarify and expand one’s own complex locations. But I’m glad to remember that they tried anyway. It’s an elder’s job.
So here we are, two young people in love, guarded and goaded and lifted beyond ourselves by the persons we have just invited into our lives: each other, and our marriage.
Happy anniversary, Alice.