Saturday, February 18, 2017

This Day in 1986

Thirty-one years ago I woke up, went through my regular morning routine and went to work. It was a Tuesday. Not just any Tuesday, mind you. I was done at noon. I had a hair appointment. I walked into the salon with a dried flower headband that Cindy braided into my hair. I was dressed in jeans and an old denim shirt. Allen and I went to Nick's Hamburgers and had a late lunch. We were in the habit of going to Nick's on auspicious days to celebrate whatever big thing was going on in our lives. A couple of hours later we were at the courthouse with Brenda and Dave. We had an appointment with the judge to get married. We waited outside his chambers and the clock crept forward past our scheduled time. I was chilly, the cavernous stone building had absorbed the cold of the three previous months and my dress was lacy and gossamer-thin. I think I was visibly shaking by the time the judge opened his door and gestured us in. He seemed a bit distracted, frazzled even, as the four of us, bride and groom, maid of honor and best man, assembled inside his paneled office. Turns out he was was in the middle of a trial and had recessed briefly to officiate at our wedding. He was agitated over the testimony of the defendant, whom he was convinced was lying. He said so, and needed some time to calm down, read through the transcript and decide if there were grounds for perjury. I was grateful for the warmth of the room but still felt as though I was shaking, if only internally. The judge was looking over our marriage license and recognized Allen's name. I remember thinking, this can't be good. Several months earlier, Allen had written a letter to this very judge on behalf of a friend who was serving time in the state penitentiary to ask that his friend's sentence be shortened. That if he served his full sentence, it was likely that his marriage would be over and his life would suffer irreparable setbacks. I felt as if a pall had been cast over our day, the day we were committing our lives to one another. First by the ongoing trial in the next room, then by the troubles of another couple whose marriage was likely over. Three's a charm was the thought that crept to the front of my brain. I wonder sometimes why this memory lingers in crystalline crispness so many years later. And if it was a glimpse into the future of our marriage. Perhaps an indication that it wasn't built on such solid ground after all. It was snowing outside when we left the courthouse. Big, feathery flakes landed softly on us and the car. The kind of snow that is easily brushed away. Just as I brushed away my doubts over the promise of til death do we part that had been uttered mere minutes earlier.

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