T.J. and I never should have, but we got married 34 years ago today.
We lived together a block from the University of Nevada, Reno, for one year prior to the event, time enough for me to know better. And I did. I knew better the week before, when I called my best friend from high school from the bank of pay phones in the basement of the Club Cal Neva in downtown Reno. I called him in Salt Lake City..... crying, drunk. By the end of the call I must have calmed down enough for him to believe that plans would go forward because he flew to Reno and witnessed the day with other friends, and my family, and T.J.'s family.
I knew better that morning, when T.J. left our apartment to get ready at his best man's house and my mother and sister were with me as I dressed. I fell apart. My strong mother said, If you want me to drive right over to that Planetarium and make the announcement that you have changed your mind, I will do that. And I blubbered, no, I couldn't do that to the people who had flown in from other states to be there (my brothers from Minnesota, all of T.J.'s family from parts of Texas, and the minister from California), and not after all the work that had been done for the show.
By that time guests were all there milling around the lobby of the Fleischmann Atmospherium-Planetarium* on the university campus, the building that had been the site of one of my favorite and most difficult classes, Astronomy 101, which is why it came to mind when T.J. and I first began discussing what we'd want our wedding to entail ......
When I said I wanted to be married both under the stars and during a sunrise, and realized this was possible under the dome of the planetarium, we decided it was worth asking about. We spoke with the planetarium curator, Art Johnson, describing our plans in detail. He was so young, not much older than T.J., and new in his career there, and he said he would produce the show if we provided him with the songs we wanted on reel tape and made a $25 donation to the planetarium. We had two rehearsals, one with just the three of us and then one with the wedding party......
So I shushed my mother and sister, and stuffed my sense of wrong and dread and went on with the plans. That was who I was at 24.
While those of us in the wedding party waited for our entrance the guests inside were treated to a night sky with the Milky Way, a comet, and shooting stars while Smetana's Vltava (The Moldau) played. The wedding party entered the dark room with a simple little song called (I Would Marry You with a Ring of Bright Water by a local Nevada artist named Louis the Basque Sheephearder. Dr. Johnson brought up the lights just barely while we exchanged vows, after which Here Comes the Sun by the Beatles began to play. With that he produced the most stirring sunrise on the dome of the planetarium. Breathtaking.
Ah, it was a grand and glorious day! The reception was outside at the best man's house under a cloudless blue sky, the honeymoon at Lake Tahoe followed. There, in a cozy cabin, we sat in front of the fire and, because we hadn't really heard any of them as they were spoken, T.J. read the minister's words that he had typed and tucked into our marriage certificate envelope. It was the one and only time I saw T.J. cry in the six years we were together. I wouldn't see any kind of sweet emotion in him again until we parted.
When it all fell apart in Oregon, after a reconciliation that followed a half-year separation, we were both drained of everything. There was the strangest formality that replaced the tumultuous sexual frenzy and intellectual archery we'd made of our marriage. What a bizarre kind of mutual respect emerged, almost to show us what mutual respect looked like (take this, and try it on for size with the next love...). We had saved one bottle of champagne from the wedding and we shared it while diligently working out a list that split our possessions and pets. I got the cats. He wanted the dog, but she wound up back with me some months later. He helped me pack. He rented the U-Haul and loaded my stuff for the drive to my mother's house in a town not far away, where she had recently retired. (I was to stay with her for four months before moving on with my pets only 15 miles away.)
Ever the amazing soother, my mother greeted us tenderly and offered fondue and wine. T.J. said he would just unload and go, but she insisted that we part in a fashion deserving of the ways we'd tried to make it work. So we drank wine. We ate fondue. I think we had some laughs.
My records were packed so my mother selected some of hers for mood music. I was raised with mood music. Along came a Peter, Paul & Mary album, Ten Years Together, released in 1970, five years before T.J. and I were married. When For Lovin' Me played T.J. and I stood in the kitchen next to the fondue buffet with our arms tightly wrapped around one another, and we sobbed. We played it again and sobbing changed to weeping, then softened into sniffling and nuzzling, and finally into whispering goodbye ..... then letting go.
*Learn more about Fleischmann Planetarium & Science Center at the University of Nevada, Reno (formerly known as Fleischmann Atmospherium-Planetarium).
Dr. Arthur W. Johnson, Jr. told us afterward that he would never do another wedding at the planetarium (it was time-and-emotion intensive and certainly not cost-effective.....in other words, a one-time-only-kind-of-event). I read in the online Reno Gazette Journal a few years ago that he retired as Director, and I certainly do wish him well.