Everything has changed since that day. The house in which I grew up. The neighborhood. People I knew. The music we listened to. The way we listened. TV. Movies. Manners. The way we communicate.
I picture the day. It lives in my mind. January 20, 1968, a Saturday. The wedding was at 3. My mother wore a long, teal green dress with three-quarter-length sleeves. My father wore a black tuxedo with a gray vest. There were six bridesmaids and six groomsmen. Do people say bridesmaids and groomsmen, now? The words feel antiquated, stale on the tongue. The bridesmaids wore red velvet gowns, fur hats, and fur muffs. It was very Doctor Zhivago, which was a style at the time.
Everyone was so young. I see this, not just in my mind but in the wedding photographs. But I didn’t see it then. There’s my mother, younger than my youngest daughter is now. And there’s my father, only 44.
I was 20 the day I was married. My husband was 21. We were children, I think now. We were grown-ups, I thought then.
“Wouldn’t it be nice if we were older? Then we wouldn’t have to wait so long,” the Beach Boys sang over and over the summer of 1966. I sat in the car with my head on my future husband’s shoulder — this was before bucket seats and seat belts — and every time that song played on the radio, I would sing along.
In June of 1967 my husband-to-be, who worked for his father in the family travel business, emptied his saving’s passbook and put a down payment on a house next to his family’s home. We bought an inexpensive kitchen table, a Broyhill French Provincial couch with a matching chair from a furniture store in Quincy, and I bought a red bedspread at Nobrega’s in Cambridge to brighten up the double bed, part of my bedroom furniture, which I would be taking to my new home.
People married young in the 1960s. In a few years this would change. Too late for us, we joked then. We missed the sexual revolution, we joke now. We were in such a hurry to be married. “You know it’s gonna make it that much better, when we can say goodnight and stay together,” the Beach Boys sang. And we believed them.
I was a senior in college on semester break the day we were married. “What if there’s a blizzard? Why don’t you wait until June?” almost everyone said when we chose January. June was the sensible choice. But we weren’t sensible.
When January 20th dawned warm and sunny, I wasn’t surprised. I didn’t worry about the weather back then. I didn’t imagine people skidding out of control and slamming into trees because of me. I wasn’t yet a worrier. I wasn’t who I am today.
When I walked out of my childhood home, down the cement front steps where I had posed for countless occasions — First Communion, confirmation, graduations, proms — I didn’t think that THIS occasion was not only the biggest but the last to be captured on these steps. And I didn’t take note that for this final time, my father was not behind the camera but in the picture.
I look at this photo now. Both my father and I are coatless; my father is holding my arm. I look happy, eager for the future. My father looks uncertain. As if he knows that the weather, that all of it, all of life, is out of our control.
“Until death do us part,” the boy I married and I vowed to each other, half a century ago, not knowing anything about death, and even less about life.
On our 25th wedding anniversary, we renewed these vows. And standing at the altar the second time around, just the two of us, no bridesmaids, no groomsmen, we said again, “Until death do us part.’ And this time the words had meaning.
Now it is our 54th wedding anniversary and here we still are. And while everything has changed — the people we know, the music we listen to, the way we listen, TV, movies, manners, the way we all live our lives in this crazy, unpredictable world — it’s the two of us who have changed most of all. What remains of the boy and girl we were, only the two of us can see.
“Maybe if we think and wish and hope and pray It might come true. Baby, then there wouldn’t be a single thing we couldn’t do.”
I study the wedding photos and this Beach Boys’ song is in my head.
“Oh, we could be married (oh, we could be married) And then we’d be happy (and then we’d be happy) Oh, wouldn’t it be nice?”
And I think, they didn’t lie.
Beverly Beckham’s column appears every two weeks. She can be reached at email@example.com.