Thursday, March 06, 2008

Part IX: The Reception

It took months for me to realize my broken wedding ring was a bad omen. At the time, I focused my energy on making long distance complaints to the jeweler from my in-law's house upset that my ring had not endured even a week of marriage. After a number of lengthy phone calls involving endless minutes on hold with various people shifting the whys and hows and whats through various transfers, I was told white gold was unstable and essentially these things happen. Perhaps a better, if not more accurate, explanation than "fate is trying to tell you to cut all ties and run now." Meanwhile, we were still getting a monthly bill (because Mitch hadn't had the discipline to pay the $800 ring off over the summer) and I didn't have a symbol of our union for our upcoming reception.

Adjusting to those first weeks of marriage were not unlike the weeks, months, even years I spent adjusting to being divorced through the end of the decade. As I reclaimed my single status I felt separated from everyone around me as if the word "divorce" was not just an estrangement from my husband but a detachment of me from society and my peers. I spent a good part of my twenties walking around with this filter of divorce altering my perspective and attitudes and reactions. I felt compelled to disclose my marital status without prompting simply because I thought it was relevant to everything as if that word somehow defined who I was.

It was a similar, yet very different, acclimation those first weeks of marriage.

I was self-conscious starting a new quarter of school without that ring acting as an explanation of how much my life had changed since my last final. When male acquaintances from the prior year chatted with me about my schedule or potential study groups, I interpreted it all as flirting and I worried about how best to subtly break the news that I was married, convinced that if I had the ring it would have done that job for me.

But more than just acting as a hint of my marital status, I wanted the ring for Saturday's reception - the reception my mom was planning, the one to which I had invited all my friends and family, the reception I actually wanted as opposed to the open ill-fated house my mother-in-law had thrust upon me. I could not imagine conspicuously standing in a receiving line for two hours without a wedding ring. Luckily, I managed to convince the jeweler to not only replace my ring but to loan me a temporary ring for the reception while the new one was being made. It was yellow gold and not what I had picked out but it was better than a blaringly naked finger.

After class on Friday we drove to Salt Lake for our reception and stayed at the only hotel I believe we ever shared - the Anniversary Inn. It was our one honeymoon indulgence. For some reason we stayed in the Napoleon room which boasted a large sleigh bed that occupied the better part of the room, a gas fireplace in the corner with a TV hidden behind a cabinet. The room's biggest selling point was the bathroom which held a large whirlpool filled by a waterfall. There was also a mini-fridge with sparkling cider and cheesecake and each pillow held a chocolate truffle. We thought it was all so luxurious and incredibly fancy. I took a bath shortly after we arrived and when I came out looking for my chocolate I discovered Mitch had eaten it.

After checking out the next morning, we went to my parent's house to help prepare for the reception.

My mother and I (but mostly my mother) had spent the summer planning the Salt Lake reception. Unable to afford a reception hall we also opted the route of the free cultural hall at the church. Luckily, Salt Lake is full of churches and although it took some finagling, we managed to schedule it at one of the newer churches with a carpeted cultural hall and lower ceilings so it didn't feel like a gym. With the aid of friends, neighbors and ward members, my mom transformed that room using lamps (no overhead lights), a natural looking archway filled with silk flowers under which we stood to receive people and beautiful centerpieces on the tables - large hurricane lantern vases ringed with silk flowers on a deep purple table cloths. My bouquet was also made of silk flowers both so it would last for both receptions and due to my father's allergies to flowers. I had african violets. A flower, up to that point, I loved but I cannot now see without a twinge of heartache. Instead of neglected dj equipment stashed in the far corner of the room, my dad played periodically with his string quartet or one of his talented friends played the piano elevating the room to something a bit more elegant. The food was better too with turkey salad sandwiches and other tidbits I doubt I ever managed to taste as opposed to the frozen slices of cheesecake leftover from the open house the week before. As this was the proper reception it was here that I had a wedding cake - a simple three-tiered cake frosted in a basket weave design adorned with the only fresh flowers we had at the reception.

Needless to say, after the prior week's poor turnout and the terrible awkwardness that filled the large, empty space, there was some trepidation that we might have a repeat no-show performance of the prior week. But everyone swallowed that concern, afraid if it was vocalized, surely we would be doomed for a repeat. But thankfully people came. They came and they were generous both with their compliments and their gifts and I finished the evening feeling as I should have on my wedding day - toasted into marriage. We were even given a proper send off and discovered our car had been filled with newspaper and garbage and written on with soap. Something we realized we could have done without when we were at the car wash the next day cleaning it out.

We opened our gifts with my family at my parent's house and ate leftover turkey salad sandwiches and wedding cake and I was truly happy that day. We instructed my mother to keep the top layer of our wedding cake in their deep freezer to preserve it for our one year anniversary, not realizing we would no longer be living together on September 16, 1996.


DeAnn said...

I'm leaving a comment so you know we are still reading -- and YUP - we want more!

Beck said...

It's awful to look back and think that things were so obvious, isn't it? Another beautifully written piece.
And your webpage looks GORGEOUS!

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