December 29, 1939

For some reason, the thought popped into my head yesterday that as of December 29, 2009, 70 years have passed since my parents’ wedding day in Salem, Ohio. Perhaps the weather was similar to what I’ve seen out my window today — snow falling, wind blowing snow around, several inches of new white stuff. But I don’t know because there’s no written record of what the day was like. My dad’s been gone since 1995 and my mom since 2003, so I can’t ask them. And it never occurred to me, for some odd reason, to ask them about their wedding when they were alive. In fact, no one of their generation is left alive who can answer my questions.

At the end of 1939 when they decided to get married, they were 23 and 22. They were “on the road” with my grandparents and other band members of “The Red Jackets”, staying in a hotel for several weeks while playing nightly at the hotel. My dad, his father, and two other men were The Red Jackets — there are a lot of photographs from their years on the road, and a lot of newspaper clippings, all now preserved in archival-quality photo scrapbooks. There are a few photographs of the wedding day but no gown, no bridesmaids, no church wedding, no honeymoon, nothing formally marking this life transition besides the certificate itself and just a couple of candid slightly-out-of-focus  black and white photos. Why they decided to get married at that particular time, in Salem, Ohio, as opposed to some other location on their tour, I have no idea.

Just for the record, I was not born in 1940. My parents were married for 12 years before they had children; then they had 2 spaced 2 years apart starting with me. Rather unusual for their generation. On December 29th last week, I was still busily “doing Christmas” and did not think about my parents’ wedding anniversary, which I often remember. But then I remembered this week, with some twinge of sadness realizing it had been 70 years. In the photographs of my mother in her early 20s, she was a small, thin person, with a lovely face and nearly-white hair. She was alone in the world. Her twin sister lived in South Florida, her mother had died in 1927, and she and her sister were estranged from their father, who lived so far north in New York State that he could see the St Lawrence River daily. But I think at that point, my mother did not know where her father was since they did not communicate. I tracked down information about my grandfather more than a decade ago, much to the surprise of my mother. She claimed at the time not to know when or where he lived or died. And there are no photographs of him, that I’ve been able to find.

Seventy years seems like such a long time. So, my parents were married in 1939 and I was married in 1979. Perhaps one of my children will marry in 2019 to continue the pattern.

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