When the G.O. and I eloped last year, once we’d weathered the gamut of welcome congratulations and not-so-welcome “unflattering amazement” as Kate so aptly described it, the next assumption we dealt with, after reassuring my new mother-in-law the absence of a big to-do wedding wasn’t because I was pregnant, and I wasn’t planning on -at 48 and childless- becoming pregnant… was about what I should thereon be called.
The answer for me was easy. My name. The one my parents gave me in 1965. Twice in my life I changed it, and was sorry both times. The first time at age twenty I was trying to do as many of the correct newly-married things possible. The second time I was nearly thirty, knew my mind and should have known better. I did make a stand, hyphenating the old and new surnames to begin with before conceding to husbandly expectations, lingering societal norms and laziness.
Like a boomerang, my own name -the one my parents gave me in 1965- kept coming back. And this -third time lucky- I was determined to hang onto it. We sensibly discussed it early in the proceedings before settling on wedding plans, and the big day. The G.O. was unconcerned; we’d been referring to each other by our respective surnames for more than two decades. I was who I was. So long as he didn’t have to take my name. Okaaayy, I could live with that.
Married for the first and hopefully only time several months before us, for my younger sister changing her name was a rite of passage. She assumed I’d be just as keen. And was somewhat nonplussed while understanding its place in her marriage & children plans, I rejected the idea for myself. No small practical consideration being the amount of necessary paperwork I wished to circumvent also.
For our Dad it’s plain confusing. My sister’s married name is Wells, and mine if I used it would be Welsh. For our husbands, Dad uses the surnames interchangeably.
Next came well-meaning reminders, from certain recipients of the note the G.O. and I mailed out sharing the happy news of our marriage, prompting us to procure return address labels updated with Mr & Mrs to supersede those featuring both our names that had been -in their view injudiciously- applied to the backs of the envelopes.
Regardless, several items of congratulatory mail came addressed to the new Mr & Mrs, and continue to do so. No problem. I’m happy to be the other half of Mr & Mrs and it’s never occurred to me to direct people’s preferences one way or another. I have no issue with their naming protocol even if I don’t refer to myself as such, and remain Ms. by my own hand. Although the G.O. sometimes refers to me as “The Missus”. Which he did even before we were legally married.
Very occasionally, usually in the vicinity of Taylors Arm where the G.O.’s family name abounds, if there’s a form to be filled in or a name to be offered up I opportunistically hyphenate our last names to put me in a local context. I’m not above a double standard when it suits me.
Coming up to a year of married life with the G.O. nothing has changed. We simply “put a ring on it” and carried on with our lives. We’re no less married than we would be if I had adopted his surname.
“It ain’t what they call you, it’s what you answer to.” ~ W.C. Fields
Note: From mid next week I’ll be offline until early the following week, as we’re taking a few days away to celebrate our first wedding anniversary.
For our honeymoon we enjoyed the gift to ourselves of quiet days. Content with our own company and simple pleasures we spent time walking, sitting by the fire or in the sun… and fitting a new handlebar to the motorcycle.
The traditional third glitch was suspected at the official signing but confirmed days later as we learned the misspelling of a name on the Certificate of Marriage is of much lesser importance than a beautiful moment.
Later in the week bearing offerings of wedding cake we made visits to parents, children & grandchildren to joyfully announce our elopement and private nuptials, and telephone calls to my sisters.
For a level playing field announcement to our wider circle we mailed postcards featuring our favourite beach wedding snapshot and the happy news to our Christmas card list of family and friends. And of course, later a Facebook update and pic.
Interestingly, amongst the congratulatory responses there were a couple of expressions of the shocked surprise kind. Regarding our unmarried status, we’d said more times than I think we realised “we’re happy as we are”, and our own sentiments were reflected at us.
It made us realise we two people simultaneously sensibly aware & needlessly afraid of our marital histories repeating, discounting the power of long-term friendship and love, had almost convinced ourselves (and others) that “happy as we are” was all we were worthy of.
What an opportunity for enrichment we would have lost had we not pursued the conversation that stemmed from the arguing-disagreeing semantics on the topic of nuptial how-to. From the moment we decided we could and would get married, a barely perceptible veil of armour dissolved. As if gaining permission, we became even more kind, gentler and appreciative in our expanded capacity for happiness.
Let these be your desires
Love has no other desire but to fulfil itself.
But if you love and must needs have desires, let these be your desires:
To melt and be like a running brook that sings its melody to the night.
To know the pain of too much tenderness.
To be wounded by your own understanding of love;
And to bleed willingly and joyfully.
To wake at dawn with a winged heart and give thanks for another day of loving;
To rest at the noon hour and meditate love’s ecstasy;
To return home at eventide with gratitude;
And then to sleep with a prayer for the beloved in your heart and a song of praise upon your lips.
The eve of our wedding day was a graced by a rainbow in the valley. One of us tried to rest. One of us baked a wedding cake: red velvet slab with white chocolate ganache. Neither pursuit was without its challenge: Soossie Cat tried to help with the nap; and the G.O.’s warning of an unsecured container meant just the edge of the [un-iced] cake hit the floor.
Our wedding day dawned drizzly, heavy rain escorted us from Taylors Arm to Coffs Harbour and the first glitch occurred; an amorous, distracted pigeon accidentally collided with the ute as we were driving en route.
Prior to the ceremony we needed breakfast, and flowers for the wedding bouquet. We took care of both at Pansabella Providores at Coffs Central, and the second glitch; a watch chain caught on a button was kindly & quickly repaired by a conveniently located jeweller. Sheltered from the rain in a covered car park I created a wedding bouquet from a bunch of freshly delivered ranunculus and anemones.
Due to a quiet word with the Lord by the G.O. (and possibly the inadvertent sacrifice of an unfortunate pigeon) the weather over Diggers Beach cleared to sunny in the half hour before 11 am. Our rainbow coloured umbrella that clearly horrified the photographer’s assistant-wife wasn’t required.
The ceremony was performed by celebrant Ken incorporating his words, our Kahlil Gibran poems and simple vows. Our chosen music melded with the sounds of the ocean in the background. Attired in favourite clothes (rather than our best) and much-loved hand-me-down jewellery, in the interests of photographic styling we adopted the suggestion we remove our glasses, making everything a blur, figuratively and literally, except each other.
Afterwards we cooperated with our photographer, Stephen and his assistant-wife Lisa (aka our witnesses) for a short session recording the special event for posterity. We also took a few informal happy snaps of our own. And, when the proceedings were concluded we celebrated by walking the length of Diggers Beach.
Then, with a thought to absent family we called by to place some wedding bouquet at grandparents May & Vince’s headstone, and went on to enjoy lunch in the sun, a celebratory glass of Boomerang Bay chardonnay and a XXXX beer at the Ocean View Hotel at Urunga. Before returning to Taylors Arm for our honeymoon we paused to place the remainder of the wedding bouquet at grandparents Roy & Muriel’s headstone, and visited the headstone of Ollie & Vin the original owners of our house. Our final stop was to snip wild roadside plum blossoms for wedding cake adornment.
At home the cake and Soossie Cat awaited. In the last light of the day, we set the table with a pretty tablecloth & crockery, and finished with a ceremonial cutting & eating of wedding cake accompanied by well-earned cups of coffee.
You were born together, and together you shall be forevermore.
You shall be together when white wings of death scatter your days.
Aye, you shall be together even in the silent memory of God.
But let there be spaces in your togetherness,
And let the winds of the heavens dance between you.
Love one another but make not a bond of love:
Let it rather be a moving sea between the shores of your souls.
Fill each other’s cup but drink not from one cup.
Give one another of your bread but eat not from the same loaf.
Sing and dance together and be joyous, but let each one of you be alone,
Even as the strings of a lute are alone though they quiver with the same music.
Give your hearts, but not into each other’s keeping.
For only the hand of Life can contain your hearts.
And stand together, yet not too near together:
For the pillars of the temple stand apart,
And the oak tree and the cypress grow not in each other’s shadow.
The G.O. and I recently returned from a week away. Our original holiday plan was a road trip to Queensland to catch up with long distance family & friends, and celebrate what we consider our tenth anniversary; of our first kiss.
With nine days up our sleeve and anniversary mid-week we plotted the trip back, forth, reversed, stopped and decided to spend a quiet week at our house enjoying the best of Taylors Arm; sunny verandah, chilly evenings, starry skies and the wood fire.
However… there’s always a however… a parallel conversation, begun at my youngest sister’s wedding in May, was happening also. I can still visualise our trio standing unsuspecting in the sunshine looking over the bay witnessing the ceremony in front of us: the partner of my other-bridesmaid sister; the G.O.; and myself. The G.O. and my sister’s partner were joking as men do at such events “you’re next “ “you are “… until the G.O. uttered the words “not us, we argue about it “.
The opportunity to pursue the conversation stalled as at that moment the ceremony was over and we were required to participate in official weddingy things. At the bridal bouquet & garter throwing point of the reception when invited to participate the G.O. and I both flashed the may-as-well-be rings we were wearing on our left hands, forestalling the customary urging to line up with the singles. Later we sailed under the radar of the attentions of my uncles who after a few drinks amused themselves ascertaining the matrimonial intentions of the younger unmarried couples of the family.
But with the following dawn… well, a little later as we sipped tea on our balcony looking over Port Stephens, came the reckoning. It was a rocky start to part 2 of the conversation as I had taken exception to the G.O.’s statement of the previous day and enough time to mull it over. Bewildered “but we do argue about it ” he persisted “there’s no way we’d want all this ” waving his arms to dismiss the recent accoutrements of traditional family-friends nuptials.
Aha, the G.O.’s unconventional semantics strike again. Argue about meant disagree with. It was as plain as chalk and cheese… one of his favourite pronouncements. And it opened a conversational door we had previously shut many times with the mutual declaration “we’re happy as we are “. Which led to me, because I’m the one with a desk, computer, telephone and time, exploring possibilities.
Sydney Registry Office – $401 or $507 depending on what time/day of the week, and both the intending bride and groom must visit the Registry prior during business hours to lodge a Notice of Marriage, and provide their own witnesses: too clinical – too expensive – too hard.
Knowing we’d be heading north in August, I investigated further options, thinking we might do it at Coffs Harbour courthouse, as we’d be in Coffs in June to lodge the NOM. But my Google search for the courthouse details came up with something interesting, Loving Images Wedding Photography who advertised:
“Elope to Beautiful Coffs Harbour,
With a Romantic Elopement Package…
Imagine having your stress free, intimate wedding ceremony, all for under $1000…
for your Celebrant, Wedding Ceremony, Photographer and Witnesses”
I called. They were available on our anniversary.
Not much older and only a little wiser after the demise of marriage #1, I embarked optimistically on marriage #2. Two of the players stayed on for the second act, Baddy and Jack, my cats. The cast welcomed Bo, an Australian Cattle Dog, who adored them both.
I met the man who would become Husband #2 for the first time a fortnight or so after I started a new job as Office Manager for the state branch of a hire company for mining and construction heavy equipment. He was the Branch Manager, somewhat elusive until that point. He’d been absent during my negotiations with Head Office and initially his existence substantiated only by a few phone calls from locations unknown, deferring his return.
Arriving at the yard early one morning I was curious to see a strange vehicle parked out front. The wanderer had materialised, and invited me to have a seat in his office. As I sat myself in the chair opposite his desk, I experienced a tangible but inexplicable sensation of cogs shifting then setting into a new alignment. We had a lengthy get-to-know-you discussion about the company, his role, my role, our backgrounds… and the way in which we most feared dying. This was something up until that point I’d not considered but the words by burning spontaneously but surely uttered from my mouth.
Several years later I read an article about a woman in Tasmania who did past life readings from photographs. I sent her a photo of Husband #2 and myself. She sent me a letter back describing a previous life connecting the two of us, in Cornwall where I’d been a healer in a small village neighbouring a larger settlement. Husband #2 had been a member of a church community who objected to my practices, and was responsible for me being burned as a witch.
If house sharing was the frying pan, marriage was the fire, and I carelessly fed my life to the flames.
Both Husband #1 & I were barely in our twenties when we set up house. He wasn’t averse to sharing household tasks but was shy of public knowledge. I was bemused one night cleaning up after dinner when he reacted to a knock at the door which I went to answer, by directing me to wait. As I hovered, he stepped away from the sink, dried his hands, walked to the living room, turned on the TV and settled on the couch. Only then was I free to open the door.
TV was central to Husband #1’s existence. Back in the 1980’s there were two channels – ABC plus a local commercial station, and VCR. Enthralled, he would sit for hours, gazing at the screen. On one occasion, I’d had enough. Awoken from solitary sleep in the early hours by noise seeping through the floor to the bedroom, my exasperation with the habit of his absence in favour of the idiot-box got the better of me. I stomped downstairs, eliciting no reaction though he was awake, engrossed. So rapt, he didn’t blink as in a single movement I pulled the TV out from the wall with one hand and cut the power cord to it with the scissors in the other. That got his attention.