My mother went back and forth all week long, just as my father predicted she would. I never imagined she’d be at my wedding, so just let her know out of courtesy. I only gave her one week’s notice, hoping it would limit the grieving period. Hoping too that she didn’t have enough time to successfully sabotage our 15-minute affair.
When I told her, she couldn’t stop crying. She said our marriage didn’t fit with the vision she’d always had for me – to become a beautiful woman, find a man, make money, have children, live happily ever after. Happiness came last and was not attainable by any other means.
“There are lots of people who are happy on their own,” she suggested after an hour, having exhausted other arguments. Better to abstain. Better to forego the joys that come with being a partner, being a mother, having sex, having a family. She tried in desperation to downplay the importance of the very things that have shaped her life and given it value. A lesbian should be submerged in her work, self-sufficient, an eternal single-ticket. To choose otherwise is weak, shameful, a hand basket to hell cleverly designed to look like health and happiness.
She went back and forth, but I guess she had no choice. Taken out of context, “I missed my daughter’s wedding” sounds like a Jerry Springer-show travesty. It sounds like grounds for a lifelong grudge (although I assured her it wasn’t). It sounds serious, the way getting married sounds serious to people who don’t know that the serious relationship happened ages ago for Andrea and I.
Having a wedding was the only way my mother was going to understand the seriousness of our relationship. She doesn’t get the idea of our being together. Lesbian, gay, queer, same-sex – none of these are words that fall easily from her tongue. My life in general is a foreign affair, a modern novel in another language. But marriage is ancient, it’s a tenet of her culture – albeit not the way we did it.
We lived together first, had visions of growing old together long before we even thought of getting married. Neither of us wore a white dress, I wore a red one over my pants. We both wore running shoes. Still, my mother knows weddings. My Italian family smiles often upon them, and frowns upon divorce (at the expense of the women, the men, kids, grandkids, neighbours, nurses, everyone). Marriage is a sacrament, and all sacraments are permanent. Marriage is definitely a serious thing.
We were giggling and excited about our outfits. The room was pink and green, the colour of 1980s bathtubs and plastic plates from the Salvation Army. The limited space worked to our advantage; our 20 loved ones filled it to the brim. My mother was there, meeting Andrea’s family and hugging my friends. She was smiling a bright lipstick smile, even as I knew she was crying a river inside.
Our justice of the peace was gay, which must have made it all the more surreal for her. He had a remote for the music. He asked if we wanted to walk down the “aisle,” which was a short winding staircase and the length of three chairs. We did it in seconds; Andrea hates waiting and I hate being watched. In the video, we see my mother in the background as I say my vows. She looks like she’s watching my execution. But she’s there, her eyes are open and she’s only facing the wall for half of the ceremony.
As it happened, I was overwhelmed with something bigger than happiness. I was in awe, amazed that the rumoured burden of marriage could feel so easy and light. I was amazed, too, as I’ve been since the beginning, that no one was losing. I was sure that someone always lost at weddings, that one was always giving up or gaining more. I’d only ever seen it proven that power could not be shared or equally divided.
Andrea held my hands and I fiddled with her fingers to keep from crying. She almost cried, too, but denied it until we saw the video. We also discovered she’d swallowed her gum before saying, “I do,”
It happened so quickly, it felt like a play that I wanted to do over again once I knew what my lines were. We didn’t write vows or choose our own music. We didn’t wear rings. We didn’t do it under blossoming magnolias in Edwards Gardens (it’s twice the price to get married off-site). We missed the “something blue” part of the dress code. We didn’t plan dinner, just found a nearby restaurant that would seat us all without reducing our friends to water and breadsticks.
When it was all said and done, we weren’t stressed, broke or cranky. The people who love and support us were there for Andrea and I, but also for my mother who was falling apart, but holding together better than anyone had expected.
I never imagined she’d be there, but then again, neither did she. I guess new visions are in order, for both of us.