Retold with permission.
In January 1985 I got married in Greenwich CT exactly three months before my 21st birthday. This was at the end of the three year drinking age increase that had me legal for 2 months and then legal for 6 months and then maybe I was grandfathered the third time when it went to 21. In any event, I was young enough not to be entirely sure I was legal at my own wedding.
My mother had a very hot date. He was a jump pilot she'd reconnected with and I'm not sure if they were living together at the time or not. He was, at that point, a pilot for People's Air (I think that's close if not quite right) that later became Continental. In any event, they were together and had been for some time. I'm just not entirely sure of the circumstances and she wasn't talking.
A few years passed and I started a cleaning service in Fairfield County that turned out to be a gold mine. Clean a house, collect $50, go to class, clean a house, collect $50, go to class, clean a house, collect $50, collect baby from daycare, go home, do homework, play with baby and go to bed. It wasn't a bad deal all around.
At some point I got the idea to expand the business and hire a crew, which went badly, by the way and didn't last long before I went solo again. While I was in the process of starting this business I was working out of an empty bedroom in my mother's house because she lived in Fairfield County and I did not. The room was upstairs and empty except for a phone and a couple of boxes. It worked for me. New business cards printed up, new ads in the local papers and Sunshine Express was ready to go. I was in the house a lot.
We owned a piece of property together, she, me, my husband and his parents because there was no way we were getting a mortgage for a six acre farm with barn and outbuildings on our own. We did manage to pay the mortgage but my mother contributed in the form of barn rent or something like that and had a percentage split on the mortgage tax deduction.
When it was close to April and we all needed to do taxes we couldn't remember the exact split ratio from the year before so she sent me back upstairs to the other spare room to pull last years return out of a filing cabinet. On the front page there they were, married, filing jointly.
Uh, Mom? You said you were never getting married again, when did this happen? About two years ago apparently. And then I waited for the story. I'm not sure I questioned that she hadn't told us I just wanted the details.
The details involved drunken debauchery in New Orleans that ended up on a dock with a defrocked priest and two prostitutes as witnesses and a marriage certificate. They had been married for two years when I found the tax return.
The story grew and got better as the years progressed but I never questioned the validity of the actual event, circumstances or location. This is my mother, she tells a story so well she believes it herself. That's the best way, I think, to be a story teller.
On March 17 this year I received an unexpected (really, it was unexpected by me, apparently not others) and relatively cruel email from my husband telling me he wasn't coming home. Actually, the email wasn't that precise. He suggested we meet at a local bar where we'd been dating (last date about four days prior) because he had something to tell me and a plan. You know I picked up the phone and called him. I don't just sit there and swallow that stuff without clarity.
At the end of the 20 minute conversation when I'd managed to finally get some air back into my lungs, I sent out a number of emails, one of which was to my mother asking her to come. Now. Come now. I've never done that, not ever and she came. She arrived the following evening at LaGuardia and somehow I managed to drive the 55 miles from Weston to pick her up with Cletus in tow. That was the only day I didn't go to work.
Mom stayed for 12 days, dragged me back to my attorney and kept me distracted and occupied while I wrapped my mind around the idea and then reality of consuming oxygen on a regular basis and keeping my feet on the ground. We haven't spent more than two days together since I left home at 18 if you don't count the fact that we shared horse space for a couple of years. This was living together in the same space and learning to be together again. That part was pretty wonderful, the finding each other again. I like my mother very much.
So the conversation about her New Orleans wedding came up in the context of many things and I believe it got a bit more embellished until she looked at me and asked if I wanted to hear the truth. Well, only if it's as entertaining as the story you've been telling me for the last twenty years.
Mom worked for an insurance company and her husband was seen with her at public functions and so was introduced as her husband because nothing else would have been even remotely acceptable. At some point HR told her she needed to put her husband on her insurance policy since they were married and so she did. At that point they both got nervous about the deception and after a bit of conversation (I have no idea how long this went on) they went to Fairfield town hall and got married. Telling no one.
There was a night in New Orleans and it probably did include a defrocked priest and a couple of prostitutes and that's when they came to the marriage decision; which was difficult for many reasons for both of them.
I don't know which story is better but somehow I've overlapped the two and it works for me.
I tell my own stories until I find one that works for me and keep moving forward. And by the way, I still don't know what not coming home really means. I don't know if he does either. I'm OK with that too.