Monday, April 2, 2012

Being Married in a Different Tradition

Last night I received an email from my daughter Jo that included a JPEG of her and partner, Peter, standing joyously in front of a white wrought-iron gazebo with an arched sign reading, "Little White Wedding Chapel." The text of her mail was pithy:
Hey thought u might care to see this one. No this doesn't mean grandkids.

Hmm. As the subject line of the email was "4/1" I could feel a definite tug on one of my legs. Still, I hedged my bets with this riposte:
I wasn't thinking it did [mean grandkids].

Does it mean you're married though, or just fooling around on April 1? I'm guessing the latter because [if you were actually getting married] it seems highly unlikely that you wouldn't have mentioned it on our phone call the other night.

Mind you, I'm not trying to steer the ship—I'm OK with you being married or not being married—I'm just trying to understand what meaning adheres to the image you just sent me (in case it's something more than an April 1 goof).

This morning I was greeted with this:
Still married even though its not 4/1 anymore. Surprise!!!!! I didn't tell you because I wanted to see which way you would go with the April Fools or not and u have joined the ranks of everyone on the not believing side. [Laird's note: this seemed a bit mean spirited in that I at least acknowledged there was a chance they weren't kidding.] But... the real prank is that it's real. We just decided to do it last week and we didn't invite anyone but Ceilee to be a witness. We got married at the same place he did. But at least I'm telling you about it.

Sigh, I reckon this goes to show that even after they're adults, the capacity of one's children to surprise never wanes.

My reactions to all this are complex (though I suppose that in itself is not surprising):
o I'm happy for my daughter. She's been in a relationship with Peter since fall 2008, she loves him, Peter is a good guy, and the marriage is a recognition of that happiness. That's a good thing.

o I'm sad that I didn't get to celebrate the relationship by being present at the marriage. (I love receptions, especially when I actually know the couple and think they're good together.)

o I'm confused that she didn't tell me about it ahead of time. I don't understand the advantage of being secretive about celebrating happiness.

o I'm curious about why they got married. I'm guessing it may be a practical thing, like Jo getting covered on Peter's health insurance as his spouse (maybe the CBS affiliate in Vegas doesn't extend coverage to domestic partners), or maybe they get a better home owner insurance rate as a married couple (they just bought their first house). Who knows?

o I notice with some bemusement that I am probably in a select company of people who: a) had both their children play major roles in his first (and only) wedding—Jo was in charge of the reception menu and Ceilee ran the bar when Ma'ikwe and I got hitched in a four-day extravaganza back in 2007; b) generally has good relationships with his kids; and c) didn't get invited to either of his children's weddings, both of which turned out to be subdued, low-key civil affairs in a Las Vegas wedding chapel—in fact, the same wedding chapel. How many of us can there possibly be? About the only thing we three have in common is that all the weddings took place in a desert environment above 3000 feet. (And I had been hoping all three would have occurred in more of a dessert environment, as in wedding cake and champagne.)

I reckon parenting is mainly an exercise in letting go. If you need your kids to reinforce the choices you've made in life, it's a sure recipe for heartbreak. A main motivation for my having a large and multi-day wedding was the chance to make a positive statement about ritual and celebration. Hah! After being an integral part of my nuptials, when it was their turn both of my kids opted for a minimalist ceremony, as stripped of ritual as they could make it. So much for impact.

Maybe when I'm out for visit in June, Peter and Jo will let me take them out to dinner.


JoSandhill said...

While it is true that the affair was stripped of ritual as possible that doesn't preclude that we don't want a reception with its own ritual and in our own way. You (and everyone else) will be invited to that. But, as you suspected, we needed to be married legally ( not a ritual that either of us if particularly fond of) for practical reasons. Also you are always welcome to take us out to dinner. That is one (family) ritual we do readily embrace. -Jo

Anonymous said...

I had a friend who was never married to the man she lived with for 35 years- they never felt need to get married- their finances were really entanged by living togather- he died all of a sudden and she is going through hell with lawyers and probate etc. with house, bank accounts, etc. One problem was they never felt need to do a will- all this needs to be thought through by folks who have similar situations because the way some states handle this.

Anonymous said...

I'm happy for your daughter, and at the same time I understand your feelings. You sould like an excellent parent, and I hope things work themselves out.

Anonymous said...

I fully understand the need to marry for legal reasons. their happyness is not based on a piece of paper but on how they relate to each other. Best wishes to them !!!
And yes Laird our kids seem to alway know how to surprize us, startle us and get under our skin.
love putz