Horizon at Sandy Point

Thursday, June 20, 2013

The marriage step

Marriage was never on my to do list. Not within any sphere of reference. I never imagined that I might feel compelled to form an everlasting bond with just one other person, and even less might feel a need to bear a child: with the fear of over-population drilled into my 60s brain, I figured the world didn't need me to reproduce. I saw marriage as mundane and traditional, rooted and routine with responsibility. The grand affairs of books and movies usually ended at the wedding ceremony. And happily ever after in real life also seemed placid and predictable.

My eldest niece too seemed to have similar sentiments. She said she would never marry; and my mother (her grandmother) in a moment of mischief, had her sign a note that said "I (name) will never get married ..." or something to that effect. She recently had a wedding and everyone is happy for her happiness. Is that what it's about - no one wants to be alone, or to see those we love alone. Being alone is not one of my fears either.

But perhaps it was about being free. Was the 70s an age of permissiveness and freedom? Or had I - coming through Trinidad's first coup and state of emergency; used as a factor for integration in a college that had been all-white in the US south for a hundred years; and experiencing the effects of Watergate, the first technological scam, in Washington DC - simply positioned myself out of everything that was traditional or mainstream in Trinidad and Tobago? I did a job that seemed experimental; in Trinidad, was there no template for publishing, no quality, no standard except what we saw from abroad; the world of advertising and video production still developing; the world of pan-playing and Carnival still outside the pale. Communication a gift rather than a skill. Learning by doing makes work very hard. But this is an aside. There was no one that I wanted to marry.

It is still therefore somewhat a mystery that on a Thursday afternoon in 1982, I would be walking along the uneven pavement on Abercromby Street to the Red House to get married. Accompanied by the statutory two witnesses, the groom and I were followed by a rag-tag and bobtail crew - well really, the groom's brother and his fiancee, and friends who professed to be along to be part of the record for posterity.
The wedding party on the way to the Red House

Kenny as best man

Brenda as maid of honour
The preparation for this event started with posting the banns (publicly stating an intention to marry so that anyone with an objection could register a protest) the month before. At that time, the date and time for a civil ceremony was set by the clerk of the Registrar-General. Two weeks before, my hand-written (before the days of internet and email) announcements had gone out.

We met barely two years before, and quickly grew together. It is true, isn't it, that you can know in an instant who's  right for you. You can also spend a lifetime finding reasons why you should not be together with someone. 

For the day itself, the plan was to have lunch - a fine restaurant on Henry Street - with the couple who would be our witnesses, since the official ceremony was scheduled for two o'clock. Later in the evening, the handful of family and friends that were in Trinidad were invited to a barbecue at our apartment.

In hindsight, we did not have a wedding. No white dress, no bridesmaids, nor groomsmen; no first dance, no bouquet to throw, and barely any photographs to put in an album. Rain spoiled the barbecue and everyone left before midnight. The groom fell asleep, and the bride started married life cleaning up. There was a honeymoon: we met family in France and Italy, and went on safari in Kenya.

My mother put a practical spin on the event. Your marriage is your business, she said. I believe she meant that it is up to us - the couple - to be committed to the marriage, to work things out, to be faithful to the original desire to be there with and for each other that is called love.

A more philosophical writer said it this way, "Plenty of books instruct sexual technique; but none teach the equally vital technique of transposing from the passionate relationship to the harmonious one." John Fowles's statement instructs us that marriage is the process, the journey. In which the wedding is simply the first step.

The groom wore white; the bride was colourfully dressed.