Friday, July 11, 2008

anniversary

On this day six years ago, Bryan and I woke up single for the last time. Thought I'd take a little stroll down into July 11, 2002.

We woke up on the lumpy bed of our VW Westfalia, which was parked in the driveway of our friend Matt's place in Anchorage, Alaska. I peeked out of the pop-top to check the weather: overcast. Not a good sign, considering we were planning a ceremony on top of Flat top Mountain that evening. I wasn't too worried, though; good fortune seems to follow Matt everywhere, so I figured we had that on our side.

Inside Matt's, we drank coffee and planned our day. Matt emerged from his room. "You guys write your vows yet?" he asked.

Bryan and I looked at each other guiltily. "No," we admitted, swishing our spoons around in our granola. "But that's the first thing on our list today!" I added optimistically.

We'd chosen Matt to perform the ceremony. In Alaska, anyone who fills out the proper forms can be a certified Marriage Commissioner for one day only. Matt had enthusiastically agreed to perform this duty, but we knew our lack of preparation had him concerned. He wanted a speech he could read in advance, something he could look over at work that day. But we were in vacation mode, perpetually procrastinating.

"Don't worry," I assured him. "There will only be a few of us there. You don't have to say anything profound." He looked dubious.

We promised to get on it right away. And we had the best intentions. Matt suggested the coffee shop inside Title Wave books, which had good ambience and decent space. We followed his advice and headed down to Northern Lights Boulevard.

Which is the home of one of the largest REI stores in the U.S. So of course we got distracted. But we didn't entirely neglect our duties: I bought a white technical shirt to wear up the mountain, as well as some white hiking shorts, and Bryan bought himself a black top. There: we had our tux and gown.

And we did finally make it to Title Wave. Armed with coffee, notebooks, and pens, we sat down to write our vows. We knew what we wanted to say, but we didn't want it to sound corny or contrived. Here we were discussing the goals for the rest of our lives a few hours before our wedding. I had performance anxiety. "You're the writer," people always say in these situations. "What would you say?" The pressure was on. I had so many opinions about marriage and relationships, yet at the moment, I was at a loss for the right words. We looked at each other. Why was this so hard?

It was hard because it seemed redundant. When Bryan and I decided to get married, we had known each other for almost ten years, as friends and as a couple, and we were so in tune with each other's values and desires that writing vows seemed like an afterthought.

But we wanted to do this right. So we took big sips of coffee and wrote down our promises to one another.


The clouds drifted away as the morning dwindled into afternoon, and then evening. We met up with Matt and two other friends in the Flat top parking lot at 6:00. We had left a message for our good buddy Jon, a.k.a. "Burly," earlier that day, but figured he was off on a climbing trip, since he never returned our call. The sun, a near-constant presence in Anchorage in July, was still high in the sky. The alpine wildflowers were vibrant: purple, white, yellow. Sasha, our dog, took the lead, watching out for bear scat and moose tracks and other signs of wildlife. Having spent so many hours on the couch in the VW, she was exuberant, and she danced over the rocks like a deer.

We weren't the only ones who had chosen Flat top as a celebratory destination: when we arrived at the peak, around 7:30 pm, there was a child's birthday party in progress. Fortunately, the summit is large enough for several events.

Just as we were about to begin, a tall, lean figure in a button-down shirt came into view, running toward the summit, and then stopping to look around. It was Burly!

"Just got your message two hours ago," he said, out of breath. And then he walked me down the "aisle."

Matt's friend Dean filmed the ceremony. Matt gave a short, unprepared speech about how he had come to know me, and then Bryan, and then we moved on to our own words, recounting the evolution of our friendship, how we had come together, drifted apart, and come together again.
And then, of course, the vows. The sky was open, and the views were stunning: the Chugach range, Cook Inlet, downtown Anchorage draped in the orange rays of the sun. It was a perfect evening, a perfect spot.

After we exchanged rings and kisses, Matt pulled from his backpack a bottle of champagne and a pint of Ben&Jerry's ice cream. The wedding of my dreams.

And afterwards: beer and pizza at the Moose's Tooth, which has a fantastic selection of both. Matt's roommate, Brandy, and her boyfriend (now husband), Ben, had gotten there early to decorate a booth with streamers and bells.

Six years and two kids later, I still feel blessed, and though I probably (okay, definitely) would not have chosen Connecticut as my home, I really can't imagine spending my life with anyone else. Happy Anniversary.

2 comments:

chris said...

Happy Anniversary!! Did you do anything to mark the occassion today?

Kiki@Seagulls in the Parking Lot said...

Happy Anniversary, I hope you celebrated with Ben and Jerry's and beer and pizza!