Friday, June 11, 2010

22 and counting

 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


Tania Kindersley said...

Oh, feel a bit teary now, that was so touching. HURRAH for you and the lovely husband and the twenty-two years. I keenly congratulate.

The Americans in the Chilterns did make me laugh. And, oh, I had quite forgotten about Butler and Wilson. Can hardly imagine that at that particular time we all thought it the last word.

So glad you liked special green Scottish pictures.


PS Will you watch the World Cup and have to support different teams? Or is it like the Lakers for you, and you will elegantly ignore the whole business?

Northern Snippet said...

You were lucky to find The One first time around.You ARE very lucky.Loved Talking Heads too.

LPC said...

Rather lovely, really. :).

CampusLady said...

Oh Miss W, you brought tears to my eyes. What wonderful memories, effortlessly shared. You two are a wonder and give hope to us all!

Annabelle said...

Sigh... :)

Marilyn said...

This was just lovely - and every soul who reads it will feel like they were there, wrapped in the color and texture and feeling of the day. And all 22 years thereafter. Beautiful feeling, beautiful job, Miss W.

PS. I too learned the Preamble through Schoolhouse Rock. Doesn't everyone?

rebecca said...

What a lovely read. Congratulations!

Miss Cavendish said...

Congratulations! A grouse moor sounds good, but so does the thought of Beverly Hills palm trees . . .

Anonymous said...

How big, how small; how personal, how universal; how obvious, how brave.
What lovely writing. made me want to cry. made me want to look around for longevity in my own life.
well done you two and all who got you there and kept you there.
Would love to see a picture of your mother in blue silk

Anonymous said...

that is so touching and moving to read. thank you for reminding me that we can start out with dreams and they do continue for some even with a few clouds along the way.

Liberty London Girl said...

Reading a glorious piece likes this makes me realise how much I have given up on love...being around my parents this past year has rather killed my emotions, so thank yu for reminding me that it does exist. LLGxx

laundryetc said...

What a seriously sweet piece you have written. You almost restore my faith in marriage... I said almost!

Anonymous said...

When I was preganat with 5 and 6 I 'hid' my expectation because friends were going through IVF. Nowadays, I feel guilty that our marriage is still going strong. I suspect that I guilt trip with ease. I loved reading your blog. June is the best month for a wedding.I wish society talked more about marriage and less about divorce. Marriage is hard work at times but it's worth it. Well done Bumble.

Miss Whistle said...

Thank you to EVERYONE for such lovely, supportive comments. I am so touched to wake up to this.

Tania -- I'd love to ignore the world cup but it's almost impossible. We'll be there at 11:30 PST waving our different flags wildly.

Marilyn -- Schoolhouse Rock changed my life.

LLG & Laundry -- Am glad to have to have restored a wee bit of faith in the institution.

Anonymous 1 & 2, Campus Lady, Snippet, LPC, Annabelle, Rebecca, Miss Cavendish, Fi -- huge hugs to you all.

Much much love,

Miss W x

Susan Champlin said...

So beautiful, joyous, and spectacular. I love and envy the glorious garden of marriage that you and the Maharishi have planted, tended, watered, weeded and reveled in for 22 years. With dirt under the fingernails and glorious blooms! Many congratulations to you both.

Zosia Swidlicka said...

I've just come back from a beautiful wedding in Lake Garda. More people should have faith these days! Congratulations to you and your husband.

P.S. What a fantastic blog, a great inspiration for mine. (

So Lovely said...

You do need a parade or possibly a statue somewhere as 22 years in LaLa Land is amazing. You truly found your perfect other.
My father held on to our estate in Surrey hoping that I was going to marry an Earl or Lord of something under a marquee on the lawn. He's still waiting....xx

Christina @ Fashion's Most Wanted said...

I absolutely loved reading this. Great to have found you via Backwards in High Heels xx

Anonymous said...

Congratulations! A wonderful tale, told wonderfully well.

Here's to the next 22.

Best to you both.


shayma said...

so beautiful- how did i miss this? i love how your story- a true story- is so beautifully written, it talks about the teeny tiny flaws and the love which brings you both together. mashallah- as we say-touchwood, what a great couple. congrats- a belated congrats. much love, shayma