June 11, 1988
One of the marvels of the known world is how two people who live in Hollywood manage to remain married -- and smiling -- for twenty-two years. As a friend put it today:
Congrats to you and your mister for 22 years together (in LA, no less). You guys should get a medal or a parade or something.It was a grey morning but just after three, the sun came out. ("It was a day a bit like today" said my mother on the phone earlier, "rather lovely, really.") My sweet atheist fiance agreed to get married in the village church, and managed to giggle nervously through the service, much to my father's chagrin. The poor boy could hardly make it through the "I do's" without the threat of imminent death from my dear Pappa. Thank goodness for the quick-thinking Vicar, rousing Trumpet Voluntary and this.
The church was filled with a colorful mix of my parents' friends, our friends, and J's parents friends, fresh off the plane from Los Angeles. It was culture shock To The Max -- they were thrown into a tiny village in the Chiltern Hills, where it was wet and muddy and there were no shops but the village Post Office for miles in each direction. But there were two pubs. (Small mercies.) The LA crew took it in their stride. The women found fabulous hats after desperate searches at I.Magnin and Bullock's Wilshire. J's mother had one made to match her jacket. She looked gorgeous, really glamorous like a movie star. A friend of hers came decked out head to toe in sugar-pink Chanel (it was the eighties -- everything was Chanel and Butler & Wilson). My mother was dressed in pale blue raw silk -- a little fitted jacket and skirt. I have just looked at her picture; she was only a few years older than I am now and she looks breathtaking. Quite perfect.
The English crowd thought the Californians a hoot. "The Beverly Hills contingent" they called them. Our friends got very drunk (honorable mention here to the Norwegians) on rather good champagne and jollied everyone along, and no-one seemed to notice that the food was dreadful or that our request for music had been met by my father finding a chap with an electric organ, who played hits from "The Good Old Days." (I'm only slightly joking about this; the memory is fading, mercifully.) Madame Chanel lost a heel in the lawn, one of the groomsmen fell in the pool, a Norwegian cousin twisted his ankle and my lovely chestnut pony was decorated in blue & white ribbons and cornflowers to join in the rousing farewell as we set off on our honeymoon in my mother's 1961 bright red Daimler Dart, which my beloved had trouble starting (something to do with pulling out the choke, nudge, nudge, wink, wink, or so the boys said that stood behind the car, yelling cheerful obscenities).
We were twenty-four years old and we came from different worlds. We loved the Talking Heads, Velvet Underground, Edvard Munch, Blake, greek olives, greasy breakfasts in the Oxford Covered Market and cooking. I fell in love with a surfer boy turned prep who was obsessed with Demosthenes and Dr Richard Feynman and he fell in love with a girl who loved ponies and books and summers in Tjøme, and whose father had told her that she could only marry a man with a grouse moor (not many of them in Beverly Hills). After rattling through Scotland for a week, we flew back to California as newly weds. And here we are, still.
Most things that life has thrown at us, we've weathered: Deaths, births, marriages, friends' divorces, quarrels, heartache, our different beliefs, cultural divergence. He doesn't like poetry readings. I don't like the Lakers. He has a hard time sitting through a horse show. I refuse to go out shooting with him. He sleeps. I don't. He's a critical thinker. I'm a slave to my emotions. I read Salinger. He reads about Kim Jong Il. He naps in the daytime at the weekend. I rush about filling the house with cuttings from the garden and silently judging him, secretly longing to nap too. But we've grown up together, developed an aesthetic that is our own -- the Tianna Farms brand, we call it. When we cook, it's an old, familiar dance. No words are needed. Both of us knew that the black hen with the pompadour had to be named "Elvis." He agreed to two dalmatians, even though he missed our old black lab. He mixes Manhattans and makes them sound so good I have to try one. He explains the U.S. Constitution to the children with the help of Schoolhouse Rock. And when we go out to dinner with friends and I haven't seen him all day, he wows me. He reads. He meets clever people. He knows things. I mean he knows things I don't know even though I have a blue ribbon in collecting useless information. I am a dilettante. He reads Scientific American and understands the Large Hadron Collider. I sit there with my mouth open and stare at him. "Who on earth are you?" I think, in a breathless kind of way.
And laying in bed at night, after a party, I rest my head on his chest and he puts his arms around me and we giggle about everything. We still do. That's the miracle.
And I look at him every single day, and I think: what a lucky girl am I.
That's my ticker tape parade.
From the Queen's Silver Jubilee, 1977