I turned 30 on Wednesday. I went for a run, indulged in treats without counting calories, went to work, rode a carousel, received gifts and cards, and had an unexpected but insightful conversation with an older woman at my church. Turning 30 was an overwhelmingly exquisite experience. No fuss, but an important milestone taken with full awareness that a significant chapter of my life is ending and many more are before me.
August 8 is also my parents’ wedding anniversary. Yes, though I am an only child, I have always shared my birthday. My parents were wed on August 8, 1981.
My parents got married at a church in the Bronx where my family still has ties. My mom wore a white Mexican-style wedding dress. (We are Jamaican. I doubt a Jamaican-style dress exists.) I asked her why that dress, and her response makes complete sense: “I liked it.” My mother did not wear a veil. Instead she placed baby’s breath in her afro, which she tells me was not an afro but “Christian curls.” I’ve seen the pictures, and I’m still not sure if she wore any makeup, but there is a photo of her pretending to put lipstick on.
By her side was her best friend for whom I am named. Though my mom has three sisters, she opted to keep it simple and had a single-member wedding party. There was no extensive maid of honor dress shopping either. My mom told her bestie to “Where what you like.” There were no “colors” and no theme. The theme was basically “Welcome to our wedding” if anything.
My dad wore a gray suit. He didn’t rent it. He owns it. I’ve seen it hanging in his closet for years. I’m not sure if he’s ever worn it again. One of his brothers was his best man. They did not match.
The church handled modest decorations of candles and floral arrangements.
My parents got married among friends and family who made the trip to the Bronx from Jamaica and Canada and places in between, but their parents were absent. All four of them in Jamaica. (No visas I guess. Or no money.) One of my mom’s older brothers gave her away. My mom had been living with him while completing her graduate studies in NY when she met my dad. (However, it seems my dad already knew her though. They don’t have their stories straight.)
There was no bridal suite. There were no limos. My mom got dressed at the home of friends – Audrey and Bob. Bob woke up early that morning to wash and wax his brown sedan. They drove my mom and the maid of honor to the church minutes away after my mom confirmed that my dad had arrived.
When the church ceremony ended, pictures of family were taken. No one was smiling – except my parents. They look happy… and proud… in all the pictures. Maybe everyone else was hungry. There are few pictures of the reception, but it seems to have been a lighter atmosphere. Why not? Who doesn’t love a Chinese buffet?!
Yes, my parents’ wedding reception was held at a Chinese buffet restaurant in Yonkers. There were some toasts and a lunch. No dancing. No photobooth. There was also no attempt to recreate the space into some more opulent wedding venue. My parents literally reserved a room at the Chinese buffet and lunch was served. From the pictures, it looks like about 100 people were in attendance. I presume the favors were traditional Jamaican takeaway – food. Black cake for everyone in a little box! Every dessert is better blacker and doused in rum.
My mother did not have an engagement ring, and my dad doesn’t have a wedding band. My mom’s wedding ring was a single gold band. She’s lost it many times. My dad replaced it the first few times, then he stopped. The ring on her finger today is one I believe she has purchased for herself.
They honeymooned in the Poconos. My dad drove. They got lost. My mom offered the absurd idea that he use a map or turn another way. It was their first argument as husband and wife. They came back from honeymoon to my dad’s apartment in Mount Vernon. They live about 5 blocks from that apartment now in a house – the house I grew up in.
That’s how my parents got married. They did not go into debt. They did not stress out. They didn’t have “it all” but they had each other, the support of family and friends, and those things they still do have. They have their marriage. Most days, I wish I could have been there, but I wasn’t alive yet.
I have a feeling my wedding will be similar, and I can only pray and prepare for my marriage to last as long.