The Story of Our Wedding, Or At Least Some of It March 25th, 1972
42 years ago today I stood at the altar of Holy Family Church in Kirkland in a rented tuxedo, and I was nervous. Not nervous in general, but specifically. I was about to be married to Susan, and although I had no doubts about that, I was terribly afraid that I would be so nervous my voice would squeak, or I would pass out, or commit some horrible social faux pas or another. I was not all that familiar with weddings, and churches were pretty much an unknown land to me.
As I stood there I looked down at my father, sitting in the front row. Tears were rolling down his cheeks. He was happy for me, but thinking of my mother who had died 5 years earlier. That was the last think I needed, and I almost collapsed into tears myself, but instead chose to look past him over his head.
I looked to the back of the church and in walked Susan, looking so spectacular I wondered if I’d never before noticed how gorgeous she was. And is. As she walked down the aisle my nerves vanished, and I was so surprised that I was calm and happy and confident. As we turned to face her uncle Joe, the priest who would marry us, I was sure she would be nervous.
I wanted to give her some confidence, so I muttered an aside to her. “Pretty low-cut wedding dress you have there.”
She glanced at me with a smile and said “Thought you’d like that.” She was not nervous at all! We actually enjoyed the ceremony, which neither of us had expected.
I had met Susan a scant eight months earlier. I was 24, and she was younger. I had no idea how much younger. After we had dated a couple of times I was over at her house having lunch. I told her a story about how, when I had turned 21, I did not want to just get drunk. What I wanted to do was get all dressed up and go to a fancy nightclub. My friend Bob Abel turned 21 a couple of days after I did, and he felt the same way. We got all fancied up in suits and went to a fine nightclub. The odd part was that Bob was 6’ 5” tall, and I guess we both looked older. The people at the nightclub welcomed us and led us in to a table, and did not ask for an ID. We repeated this at several nightclubs and got increasingly frustrated. Nobody seemed to want to check our IDs! Finally, by now pretty smashed, we got carded at a seedy bar two blocks from my rooming house.
Susan replied “That’s what I’d like to do when I turn 21.” I froze; my sandwich halfway to my mouth. How old WAS she? Was I putting my teaching career in peril by dating an underage woman? I gasped out the obvious question, and was only partially relieved to hear that she was 19.
We became engaged ten weeks after we met, and I was away on a motorcycle trip to Florida for five of those weeks. When she burst into her parents’ bedroom on the night of September 24th to announce that she was engaged, her father sat up in bed and asked “To whom?” I’ve always loved the fact that my father in law, also an English teacher, used “whom” correctly at that moment.
Entering into Susan’s family was a journey for me. I sat through the movie “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” a few years ago with a smile on my face, for I had pretty much done “My Big Fat Catholic Wedding.” I came from a family of three sons that had pretty much shattered when my mother died of cancer when I was twenty. Susan was the eldest of SIX children!
There were also adjustments to be made for the wedding. Her uncle Joe was a priest, and this was an era when the Catholic Church was pretty liberal, but allowing a heathen like me into the church was a stretch. I joked that the church might be struck by lightning and burn to the ground when I entered. About ten years later it did.
While filling out the seemingly endless paperwork required for this church wedding, Father Joe was very patient with me. Most of my answers were not ideal. At one point he asked “And where were you baptized?” I looked blank, and his face went pale. “You WERE baptized?” When I replied “I don’t know” I thought his credulity had been stretched to the limit. Fortunately a call to my father confirmed (good pun!) that I had been baptized, and we were back in the game.
Then I learned that people were seated by sides at most weddings at that time, depending on whether they were there for the bride of the groom. Asking “Why?” was no help. Susan came from this enormous family and had lots of friends. I had moved to Seattle three years earlier, where I knew my father. That was it. Pretty much the only people I knew where the staff at Rose Hill Junior High, some of their parents, and my students. This problem solved itself, as many of my students wanted to attend, so “my side” was filled with colleagues, students, and their parents.
We wrote most of our own ceremony, which was quite the thing back then. It started with the poem I had written for Susan when we got engaged, and I recall standing “back stage” and flying into a rage because Father Joe had inserted a comma that did not belong. Fortunately my best man was there to bring me back to a semblance of reality.
The reception was held at her parents’ house, and eventually we made our escape for the first night of our honeymoon, the Westin Hotel in Seattle. After we checked in to our room we realized that we had been so busy at the reception that neither of us had eaten for about 12 hours. Our first wedded meal consisted of cheeseburgers ordered from room service and a bottle of champagne provided as a gift by the hotel. The next day we returned to my apartment, now our home, and packed for the rest of our honeymoon, a 5 day motorcycle tour of the Oregon Coast, in March. But that is another story, and there are so many.
I’ve been very fortunate in life. I have made several good decisions, and been on the receiving end of a bizarre litany of lucky breaks and good fortune. I have enjoyed excellent health and two careers that were perfect for me, I managed to marry into a large and chaotic family that supplanted my own that fell apart.
But the best decision I ever made was proposing to a beautiful woman who was remarkable in so many ways, and in fact far more remarkable and amazing than I had the capacity to imagine.
And still is.
David Preston Copyright 2014