… to have and to hold from this day forward, for better or for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish; from this day forward until death do us part.
I’ve been thinking about these vows a lot this summer. Though Vernon and I had a wonderful wedding ceremony in front of our friends and family, we actually got married first for visa-paper’s-sake a week or so before the big event. It was just at the closest courthouse, we weren’t dressed up, and we only had young Maki as a witness. Apparently, the state of California only required someone who could write his first name and initial his last: fortunately for us, that was just the limit of what Maki was able to do.
It was meant to be a non-ceremony, just something to get the immigration paperwork moving. 4-year old Maki, besides marking this important signature, bore the responsibility of carrying two plastic rings we had just bought for change at the Toys R Us on the drive up.
The pretty young Korean girl who had signed us in sent us into a room to wait for the “judge.” We went in, giggling at the weird decor and the silliness of the whole event. When the door opened again, it was the same girl from the desk, now in a serious-looking robe, with a demeanor to match. SHE was the judge. Suddenly we weren’t laughing either. When we talked about it later…it was so strange we both had the same memory…even to the very feeling of the moment.
She had us repeat the vows after her…the most traditional vows we had heard dozens of times before. They had seemed so trite until we were saying them ourselves. For both of us, in that plain little room, it was as if a portal had opened and with our words, we were changed. Some deep spiritual shift had happened. I know I’m very romantic so I just assumed I was looking for the poetry of the moment. But Vernon told me after that he felt the same way. It was the strangest, unexpected moment that bonded us somehow…and we would remember it often as we told our story over the coming years.
But today is Sept. 16. This is our official anniversary. The day our best friends and family were witnesses. My wonderful dad officiated, having got his online-credentials weeks before. I was annoyed because it had to fall on the day after my birthday…meaning one of the two events would get swallowed by the other in the years to come (meaning LESS gifts for me—I see now that spells meaningless. Yep.)
This is how I remember it. The warmth, the friends, the love, the light. It all went by so fast, though.
And here is Maki, age 4: our best man.
An orange tree was planted in that garden at the end of the night. Recently I went back to visit (as the garden belongs to a dear life-friend.) Here is Justine by our tree, eight years later. She is the same age now that Maki was then: four.
On another post, I will write about what those vows mean to me now, as I have been thinking about their significance. But today I celebrate the fruit. We’ve made it 8 years. Two countries, four houses, some kids later…why shouldn’t we celebrate?