I met Geoff at art school – me in my first year, he in his last. Although it was most certainly not love at first sight (he was otherwise engaged, I was blissfully unaware), we did hit it off and became part of a group of friends who regularly shared time together. When he left school to discover other, more distant pastures, it laid the groundwork for a pattern, which would last for a period of several years.
Every six months I would hear from Geoff, whose points of contact seemed to vary with the seasons. “Hi, I’m calling from a payphone in Smooth Rock Falls…” soon changed to, “Hey, I’m calling from my house in London...” to, “Hello, I’m calling from my cell phone… in your driveway.” Eventually, one thing led to another and at some point, I agreed to ride shotgun in his 1987 Volkswagen Scirocco.
When the two of us eventually decided to be married, we had no delusions of grandeur. Let’s face it; two artists heading into the world together do not a giant wedding make. Not to mention the fact that the both of us shared a little known disorder, which manifested itself in a fear of microphones, flower girls, and tiny pieces of fruitcake wrapped up in tin foil. An agreement was set. If there was any way for us to join together as husband and wife, while at the same time avoiding a sea of silverware brandishing guests clinking forks against crystal goblets -- we would find it.
Driven by our desire to escape amplified relations revealing embarrassing childhood secrets, Geoff and I started to plan our “civil ceremony”. The first step required a trip to city hall where people like us could acquire and sign the appropriate pieces of paper. Then came the rub. Apparently, half of the city’s populace was keen to get hitched in city hall. We were faced with a decision; wait out the 10 months as names were crossed off a list, or… find another way.
Billy Rolf* was a criminal court judge who had some casual dealings with my uncle, which did not involve solitary confinement. No really. “Call Billy”, said my uncle. We did.
The ceremony took place in Judge Rolf’s chambers. His executive assistant wrote the vows. Standing there with my parents and grandmother behind us, Geoff and I couldn’t help but notice the countless bits of sports paraphernalia, which decorated the shelves. If memory serves, I’m certain there were at least a few bobble head dolls. It was a casual ceremony… no doubt about it. It was also perfect, for us. No pomp. No circumstance… just the law.
A few weeks after the ceremony, note cards with the big, bold print phrase, “They Did It!” were sent out across the land, inviting loved ones to a simple garden party to celebrate our wedded bliss. The cards might as well have said, “She’s Knocked Up”, considering the reactions of many near and dear to us. Several relatives made the trek to our party, strictly for a chance to scrutinize my belly. My new sister-in-law, who was mother to a one-year-old daughter, telephoned me to inquire (delicately) if she should save any of her baby items and send them my way, should she begin clearing out her attic. (I later learned that she was, at the time pregnant with her second child.)
To be fair, when Geoff and I got hitched, we surprised most everyone. His friends and relatives couldn’t believe he had actually (willingly) settled down. Mine couldn’t believe anyone made it beyond section one of my ever-so-strict dating checklist. As far as they were concerned, the only possible explanation must have been an unplanned pregnancy.
Recently, I was asked if I regretted the way in which I became a wife thirteen years ago. I thought for a moment… Was I disappointed at the lack of bridesmaid’s frocks, personalized stationary, party favors, garter belt, dj and Sears’ registries in my life? Did I miss not having a pre-wedding day skincare regime and one week fast in order to fit into a dress that was three sizes too small? Nope. Not even a little bit. And to those of our casual acquaintances who are convinced that we must certainly now have a teenage child… you’re off by a little bit. She’s just turned 16 months.
*No, Billy Rolf was not his real name.