Wednesday, June 3, 2009

6.3.66


Forty-three years ago, in the Greek Orthodox Church of Sts. Constantine and Helen, in Detroit, Michigan, my parents were married in a traditional wedding ceremony. Of course I don't remember this event; I was born three years, three months, and three weeks later. But a fascination set in long ago, and I remember looking at albums, at the square-format photos with thick cardboard backing, photos now bleached out with light exposure and age . . . Without the photo in front of me (I swear it), I can remember the exact orange-pink shade of the roses my mother carried, the cream color and elegant tailored cut of her sleeveless dress. I see her in profile: slim body, head angled down, youthful skin with full, flawless cheeks, the merest hint of a smile like a pale Mona Lisa. I see my father, brown suit (or was this just the discoloration of the print?) draped on a "tall, dark, and handsome" man. Not a trace of silver in his hair yet. He, too, looks fairly serious, but completely content. In the non-memory of their wedding ceremony, my mind replays their walk around the altar: the Greek's Dance of Isaiah, three times around, crowns of stephanotis exchanged on their heads. In the Greek tradition, the couple is both formally engaged and also married in the same ceremony. I remember that when the time came for my own wedding, a pearly branch of the stephanotis was placed in my hair. Since my parents' union, there have been forty-three anniversaries now. I don't recall many of them at all. I do remember the ruby anniversary, though: the fortieth. Three generations went together to Block Island to celebrate: my parents, my husband and I, plus our son. I remember thinking that maybe this was an oddity: wouldn't most couples prefer to be alone on such a special day? But then again, I thought it could be fitting. What better testament to a lasting romance? Lives born from their partnership, a proliferation of vows. With my husband and I pulling out of the fabled seven-year slump (or itch, or whatever you wish to call it), it is hard to imagine the power of forty years, which is the entire length of my life. Maybe we, too, will reach this milestone. Whether we do or not, I thank my parents for the love and commitment they gave to each other, as I have directly benefited; they have shown me what is possible in a relationship, in a marriage between two individuals. I wish I had the impossible (for me) memories of their wedding day—a day of beauty and beginnings, of poignancy and power and fragrant rose petals—but I will happily content myself with faded photographs and a greeting to them: Happy anniversary. May there be many more.

2 comments:

  1. was teh wedding service in greece or english? my parents married in an immigrant church in nz, but ot was a wholly monolingual community, so it was in greek, and we're talking 44 years ago

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  2. Official church pronouncements were, I think, in Greek... although I'm pretty sure that the ceremony on the whole would have been either bilingual or in English, esp as my father is not a modern Greek speaker (well, OK, he doesn't speak ancient Greek, either). You know, it's weird, I never thought to ask this question of my parents, and I really don't know for sure. You'd better believe I'll be asking them now... and I'll get back to you on this!

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