Last weekend was crazy-busy in San Francisco — the SF Pride Celebration, the Golden Gate Triathlon, an annual music festival at AT&T Park, and the wedding of one of our closest family friends’ eldest daughter, smack in the heart of the chaos. We love this young woman like one of our own, so we braved the gridlock and booked a downtown hotel room for the night.
Our daughter, Sarah, was a St. Joseph’s classmate of the bride and one of her bridesmaids. She called me Friday night after the rehearsal dinner and said, “Mom — You’re not going to believe the church! It looks like the abbey in Sound of Music!”
It did. And the bride was as stunning as Julie Andrews’ Maria von Trapp, covered satin buttons running the length of her back right down to the hem of her long satin train. She selected many of my favorite classical pieces for the service — Bach’s Air on the G String, Pacchebel’s Canon and Schubert’s Ave Maria. My twin brothers and their families sat in the pews beside and behind us. I squeezed my husband’s hand, closed my eyes and let the soft music wash over me.
And there was love.
It’s the season for it. June 15th was our 31st wedding anniversary and today is the fourth anniversary of our good friends, Kevin and Rick, who were married at San Francisco’s City Hall on June 27, 2008. (For the record, they consider their true anniversary to be their first date, more than 22 years ago.) Their small family ceremony was beautiful and memorable, and we were honored to be included.
On that day four years ago I spun in circles on the polished marble floor of the Rotunda, taking in the grand staircase, shining brass elevators and warm layers of early evening light in the carved dome high above our heads. Every City Hall cove, staircase and balcony was filled with other wedding parties — tight family clusters and close friends accompanied by either black-robed judges or city clerks shuffling pages of vows and marriage certificates.
Every so often spontaneous applause erupted as a ceremony ended and lights flashed from assorted cameras across the hall. A little girl twirled in pink silk, taffeta and brand new shiny patent leather shoes, swinging a basket of rose petals. (A cautionary sign near the glass door forbade her to throw them...) Two tall handsome men in dark suits smiled for a camera while struggling to hold a wiggly dark-skinned toddler in layers of petticoats. Tired and cranky, she had no idea how lucky she was that these men chose to make her part of their extraordinary family.
Up in our designated alcove, the ceremony began. Rick wore a jade green shirt with a blue silk tie, and Kevin wore a blue shirt with a green silk tie. Rick surprised Kevin with custom wedding rings in red boxes that snapped crisply open and shut. His sister brought a bouquet of stargazer lilies and hydrangeas wrapped in blue tissue and cellophane.
Rick’s father’s eyes were just like his son’s — the color of a lake twinkling blue in Sierra sunshine, the curved eyes of a painted German Christmas angel. They were moist at the edges as he watched his son marry a man who had become another son to them over time. Rick’s petite mother reached up to embrace me, and then thanked me for accepting them and being “good enough to come.”
Good enough? Even four years later, I’m still unsure I was worthy.
What I really want to say is that everyone should have the right to take a shot at “happily ever after.” Everyone who wants one should have a beautiful and memorable wedding, surrounded by supportive family and friends.
And everyone who thinks that same sex marriage is a bad idea should get to know people like Kevin and Rick, or Perry vs. Schwarzenegger plaintiffs Sandy Stier and Kris Perry. And if they aren’t fortunate enough to know Kevin, Rick, Sandy, Kris or someone like them, perhaps if they stood quietly in an alcove at City Hall for just a short time, surrounded by simultaneous weddings — love emanating from every shadowed corner, off every limestone balcony — they might just change their minds.
I hope that our young heterosexual friends, married in the midst of the SF Pride Celebration weekend, get their well-deserved “happily ever after.” Because after over 30 years of marriage I can tell you that there’s a reason they make you take those vows — “for better or worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health.” Being married can be damned hard, and no one is guaranteed a happy ending. As a matter of fact, it’s a long shot.
But everyone should have an equal chance for a shot at it. That’s all.