It was sixteen years ago today . . .

. . . when Marcia and I were married at the Church of the Incarnation in Minneapolis. She quite literally grew up in its shadow: looking out her bedroom window, it was the next building over on her block, immediately to the west. Setting sun would have been blocked by it. She attended grade school there, as did her siblings (all ten of them, I believe), before going off to a Catholic girls high school.

We had known each other for about two and half years at that point, had been a couple for about eighteen months, and had been engaged for a year. We were living in Washington, DC at the time, having actually already bought our first house there. We both worked at Naval Reactors, and right around the time we got engaged, we actually even moved into the same office. I figure for the first two years of our lives together, we probably spent 23 hours a day within 25 feet of each other most of the time. We certainly knew that we enjoyed each other’s company, even in amazingly large doses.

We planned the wedding from afar, which raises a variety of interesting challenges and stresses. We drove up to Minneapolis a few days before the wedding for final planning and preparation. I had not set foot in the church prior to that time. My parents and sister flew up, as did my best man, Allen Walther, a friend from the Naval Academy and a room-mate from Supply School. Al was a member of “The Late Night Study Club” at the Academy, a group of rogue students who would gather for all-nighters before exams, typically in my room, as I taught myself (and them) an entire quarter’s worth of class work, keeping it in our skulls just long enough to vomit it out onto the exam papers the next day, then sleeping off the bad after-effects of too much information too quickly. Al was also a key player in the “Stupid Life Story” I posted last month where I got stomped by the University of Georgia’s offensive line in a bar in Athens, Georgia. He’d seen it all.

Marcia’s matron of honor was Kelli Walton, a Naval Reactors engineer and Marcia’s house mate in Washington for a few years. Kelli had left the Navy by that time and was living in Chicago. I had sort of been her and Marcia’s third room mate for a while before Marcia moved in to my rental house, and we then bought our own place. Marcia and I had the upstairs of the house, Kelli the downstairs. She used to do nice house matey things like get up at four AM in the morning before work to make cake on Marcia’s birthday. If you’ve ever read Edward Gorey’s “The Doubtful Guest,” that was my role in their house: I just showed up one day, and then never left.

Those were the only people representing my side of the family at the service, since I chose not to send invitations to all of my far-flung Navy friends or our mutual friends in DC (as we figured it would be seen as gift-mongering from people I knew couldn’t come). But did I mention that Marcia had ten siblings? Well, they were all there, most with their significant others and multiple children. It was actually the first time all eleven Brom children (that was Marcia’s maiden name) had been in the same place at the same time in something like eighteen years. Marcia was the baby of the family. When the last one marries, I suppose that’s a noteworthy moment in a large family’s development.

Most of the Broms sat on one side of the church, while the Smiths (all three of them) held down the other side. I didn’t really notice the lop-sidedness, though, until I saw the pictures after the fact, since I was pretty focussed on what was going on up on the altar. The service and music were lovely (although the priest and organist between them did manage to miss one of the pieces of music we had selected, but, hey, the marriage was still official, so no hurt, no foul), and we had a great dinner reception with the extended family at a nearby hotel. I made the music mixes for the party, and had one of Marcia’s nephews serve as DJ for the evening.

For our honeymoon, we drove a couple of hours west to Green Lake, Minnesota, to stay at Spicer Castle. It was a lovely, quiet, bucolic place on the lake. We went out and drifted around on a pontoon boat, ate good meals, rode horses and generally relaxed before rushing back to the work grind that Naval Reactors put on both of us. I also discovered one thing about that part of Minnesota that I hadn’t know before. It is ripe with Poison Ivy. And I am horrifically allergic to poison ivy . . . when I get it, it turns me into the Elephant Man. And I got it. On our honeymoon. Real bad. I mean, really, really bad. Everywhere. And I mean everywhere.

We drove back to Washington with me in a benadryl fog, feeling like I needed to wear a burlap sack over my head, with one eye hole cut in it. I was not an animal. I was a man. Things had gotten some better by the time we got home a couple of days later, so Marcia and I went to yoga the night before going back to work. We had been doing that together for a while at that point, and I was pretty good at it, being very limber. I did all of my usual invented and difficult moves that night in the dark and warm room where the classes were held. When class ended, Marcia looked at me with an expression of horror on her face. And I mean horror.

I couldn’t figure out what was wrong until she told me to go to the bathroom and look at my face. As it turned out, evidently the swelling from the poison ivy had either weakened or damaged the blood vessels around my eyes, and the extra vascular pressure associated with invented yoga postures caused them all to rupture, so I now had gigantic, black and red Uncle Fester circles around both of my eyes. Holy crow!

I went to the emergency room that night just to make sure I wasn’t hemmoraging into my brain or something, and they basically said I just needed to let the tissue heal, keep compresses on it, etc. Problem was, the next morning I had a major budget hearing with senior staffers from Federal Office of Management and Budget and Department of Energy. I went to the meeting wearing my tortoise-shell RayBans. The budget examiners looked quizzically at me, so I apologized and quickly slid down the dark sunglasses so they could catch a peak. Then they understood. And we got the budget request we asked for, too, so maybe I got the sympathy factor going as well.

So that was sixteen years ago. A lot’s happened since then, some happy stuff, some not: Katelin was born on Marcia’s 30th birthday (1991), we moved to Idaho (1991), we bought a house in Idaho (1992), we sold the house in Idaho and moved to New York (1993), Marcia started law school (1993), Marcia graduated from law school (1996), I left the government (1996), Marcia’s dad died (1997), Marcia moved to her current law firm (1998), we bought our current house (1999), I started at the C+CC (2002), my Dad died (2002), Katelin finished elementary school (2003), Marcia became a partner in her firm (2005), Marcia’s mom died (2005), Katelin finished junior high school (2005). And then we got a hot tub. See below.

It’s a cliche to say it, but it really doesn’t seem that long ago. I could make this post 50 times longer than it is by filling in details of 1989 that are as sharp in my mind as details from yesterday. I’ve always said the two best things I’ve accomplished in my life were marrying Marcia and fathering Katelin. All the rest of it is noise and decoration and gravy . . . those are the two things that matter more than any of the others, the things around which I define my life.

And, really, I wouldn’t have it any other way.

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