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the diary thing 
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11.09.01
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 wedding
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THE MOLLY MAIDS are in the kitchen, cleaning the place up for the family party we're having after the wedding reception -- a gift from K.'s sister, to save us one more chore before the day. It was terribly generous and sweet of her, but here I am feeling that strange guilt at having someone else do work I should have been doing, a vague shame that, I understand, often doesn't go away even when you have full-time help. Well, that'll never happen here. What I should be worried about is seeing just how clean this place can be, cleaner than we've probably ever made it. 

The smell of disinfectant is strong in the air. I'd really hate to know what they're probably thinking about the general state of the kitchen. "Typical professional couple; no time to scrub around the stove elements." Something like that. I hope that's the worst of what they're thinking.

Wedding countdown: one day to go.

YESTERDAY I BOUGHT MY TIE and a gift for Greg, my best man. With the photographer arranged (my assistant and buddy, Rod, who publishes a hardcore punk magazine and is generally more used to mosh pits) and the wedding favours paid for (Korean walnut cakes -- tasty, cute and cheap), I haven't much to do now but show up and say "I do".

Or rather, "volo", since the mass will be in Latin, the whole Roman Catholic enchilada, with organ and choir. There's not much call for the wedding rite in Latin; so little, in fact, that since was no English translation of the service we're using available, K. sat down with her Latin dictionaries and Wheelock's Latin textbooks and did it herself. According to the fathers over at Holy Family, she didn't do a bad job.

Last winter, K. returned to the church after a long absence. She says I inspired her, which is interesting if you know my long and troubled history with the Catholic church, especially after thirteen years of religious education, but it's what she says. She goes to church every day, twice if she can make Sunday vespers, works the reception desk at Holy Family two mornings a week (this morning is one of them) and eagerly joined the Women's Auxilliary. A few weeks ago, she started teaching catechism to little kids. My (future) wife, it's plain to see, is as Catholic as they come.

I, on the other hand, am not. I suppose I'm her greatest trial -- the (future) husband whose faith is bound and subordinated to an essential, constitutional skepticism. I'd never deny that every facet of my worldview, every image and metaphor with which I define the world, is essentially the product of a Catholic upbringing. But I'm not a churchgoer, or someone who can embrace the whole of the Church -- the Pope and the Curia, the doctrines and edicts, the troubling and often intolerant history, the decidedly dangerous mingling of politics and religion -- with anything like unquestioning obedience. I have no problems with her faith -- it's a truly wonderful thing, based as far as I can tell on compassion and a deep, even pained wish to make the world around her a better place -- but it's not something I'm able to share unquestioningly. I have my reasons.

It's a situation that bears some discussion -- later. Right now, I have to say that I find something comforting about the venerable ritual, the solemness and structure of the service, the freedom from writing our own vows.

We're both writers, so it's not like we can't aptly choose our words, but K. adores the vows in the old Catholic service, and was even happy to use the word "obey". Her mom was apoplectic when K. told her, though. It's amazing to watch the generational dismay when a boomer mom like K.'s mom realizes her daughter doesn't feel the urge to be "right on" anymore. In any case, our vows are from the modern Latin service, and stick to the popular, supportive theme of a committed "partnership":
 

"Catarinam, vis accipere Richardum in maritum tuum et promittis te illi fidem servaturum, inter prospera et adversa, in aegra et in sana aletudine, et eum diligas et honores omnibus diebus vitae tuae?"

...or in language you can understand...
 

"Do you promise to be true to him in prosperity and adversity, in sickness and in health, to love and honour him all the days of your life?"

Which all sounds fine to me.

Last night, K. was on the phone with her best friend, Krista, who suddenly materialized for the wedding, three months pregnant and engaged; the last time we'd heard from her she was somewhere in the Amazon. The other day, just after her re-appearance, we got a long-delayed postcard from Argentina. Krista is, to say the least, a peripatetic soul.

"Are you taking his name?" K. asked Krista. "I am too. That's so cool."

I started laughing and couldn't stop for five minutes. They sounded exactly like they would have at fifteen.

Keep in mind that taking my name wasn't my idea. In fact, a quick service on the deck of a slow freighter would have been fine with me, but I've been involved with enough weddings to know that, this time more than any other, it does a man well to defer in almost everything to his future wife. It's not your day, buddy. Don't even pretend that it is.

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"No happiness is like unto it, no love so great as that of man and wife, no such comfort as a sweet wife."
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- Robert Burton
Anatomy of Melancholy

 
One day to go. Here's something I wrote about an exhibit of Canadian war art from the two world wars. 
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the cover of the invite
the quilt thingie
At left, the cover of the invite, and above, the card we put inside requesting fabric swatches for the wedding quilt K. and her sister are making. If any readers would like to contribute to the quilt, send me an e-mail for our address.

THAT'S NOT ENTIRELY TRUE. The greatest collaboration we've had together on the wedding has been what creative types at advertising firms would call "imagining the product". The Latin rite sounds anachronistic now, but imagine if the wedding was taking place in, say, 1952. Pre-Vatican II days when the whole of the service was in Latin, the altar was still back against the wall. When men knew how to buy a shirt and tie that fit and the cars parked outside the church had personality. 

Both of us occasionally entertain fantasies of living years before we were actually born -- a common enough fantasy in our circle of friends, actually. Lately, I'd say K. is fonder of the fantasy than I am, if only because of her longstanding obsession with housekeeping and "women's work". 

(Don't assume that an obsession with housekeeping means this place is a model of tidiness and order. I think the Molly Maids would disabuse you of that notion. The truth is that we're always busy, and that chores get deferred all the time. K.'s love of housekeeping literature is kind of like sci-fi, I suppose. A speculative interest in a fantasy alternative reality.)

As for myself, I still find myself leafing through old Esquires and New Yorkers thinking that things looked better then, clothes especially. I can't help but long for a day when adults, even in their leisure time, dressed like adults, and not overfed junior high students on a field trip. And so we built up a mutual fantasy of who we'd be, and what it would be like if Rick and Kathleen were getting married in November of 1952, the first year of both Ike's presidency and the reign of Queen Elizabeth II. 

HIGH NOON WAS THE BIG FILM that year, and I liked it much more than K., who preferred Orson Welles' Othello. Hemingway won the Pulitzer for Old Man and the Sea, which I thought was ghastly, an overrated hot puff of wind.

"He was a better writer twenty years ago," I said over the paper when I read the news. "And even then I preferred Maugham."

"Well, Marianne Moore won for Collected Poems," K. replies, reading the paper over my shoulder. "That's something, anyway." She's been reading Capote's The Grass Harp, and some Reinhold Neibuhr that she's sticking with even if it's hardly seized her imagination. 

I'm reading Waugh's Men At Arms. I put away F. R. Leavis' The Common Pursuit after struggling halfway through. I just haven't had the patience for egghead stuff these days. We're both marrying a bit late by the standards of our parents' generation. Things have been different since the war, however, and some people, like myself, needed time when it was all over to figure out what to do next. K. was married before, during the war, but it didn't last. 

We've been living together quietly for a year. Our friends weren't too scandalized, but we've tried to be discreet. Our priest has been understanding, but K. has had to be careful what she says at church. In any case, it'll all be a moot point in a day or so.

We both did service during the war. Thanks to my eyes I had a desk job, but K. got near the front as a CWAC and doesn't like to talk about it. We're both desperate to believe that the world is a better place after the war but it's been a hard hope to maintain, and that's why K. went back to the church.

We used to be big jazz fans, and still try to go out dancing at a nice hotel like the King Eddy but the big bands have been dying for years now and our friends have families and can't come with us and it just doesn't feel the same. Most of the stuff on the radio is novelty tunes, but a buddy lent me some bebop records, which I've been trying to like without much success, though I like "Manteca" just fine. All that stuff just doesn't seem important as it used to anymore. Sometimes I can get this station from Detroit on the big German radio we bought together; great American negro stuff like Louis Jordan and Wynonie Harris. K. didn't like it at first but she loves it now, even though a few of our friends still don't get it. 

We're considered a bit "bohemian", but not freakishly so. The newspaper business is a tolerant enough place, and as a photographer I can get away with the goatee. In a few years, I'll shave it off after too many people call me a "beatnik". 

A couple of friends stopped talking to us when we went to Spain on vacation. "I can't believe you of all people are supporting the fascists." We loved it, though, even more than Cuba -- better food, no casinos. Since her return to the church, though, K. is dying to go to Rome. "Just don't ask me to kiss anyone's ring," I tell her. She shakes her head.

"Maybe this time we'll fly to Europe," I say, changing the subject. K. flew on planes during the war, and isn't as afraid of the new jetliners as I like to pretend she is. I'm more excited about taking a plane than I am about Italy. "Think of the time we'll save -- just a day instead of a week on some former troopship." 

K.'s wedding dress is a Dior thing she saw in a magazine and had her dressmaker copy. Ice blue and pink silk. Not white. "It makes you look like Eva Peron," I joked. I managed to find a matching tie, though. She's dying to have kids. I'm worried about money. We're glad the day is finally here.

THE MOLLY MAIDS HAVE LEFT. The kitchen has never been cleaner. They even polished the kettle. 

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©2001
Rick McGinnis
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