Saturday, May 30, 2009

that's what you get for lovin' me

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 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.



Unknown said...

Was not expecting to have my heart ripped out so early in the morning...your story is very sweet and sad and familiar. My first wedding was in 1976. I wasn't yet 21 years old. I was just as uncertain, or , more like you, I knew in my gut and didn't listen. To be fair, didn't know what I wasn't listening to.
The marriage didn't last. The first love part of it has.
I used to blame myself very harshly for this failure...till my own daughter was twenty, then 21, and I see how incredibly young she still is and unprepared for marriage, so I have been able to forgive my twenty-something self for those mistakes of love and the hurt I caused others. I don't think that HE has, but that's the stuff of poetry and songs.

Robin Easton said...

This little post and video moved me in a very special way. The post is beautiful but then when I watched the video I was stunned. There is such an innocence to it that simply made me feel "clean or pure". The same way nature effects me. I even felt as if I knew you before or just knew you. The photos impacted me on a very deep level. Your spirits are so light and love filled that I was taken aback by it. You really have a huge light around you. So beautiful. Thank you for sharing. Hugs, Robin

Anonymous said...

Dear Lydia, What a sweet sad story, and what a wonderful wedding ceremony you planned and managed to pull off. I'll bet it doesn't seem like 34 years ago! That PP&M song is one of my all time favorites, and oh my, the youthful innocence in your photos, how it aches to look back at it all. Makes being "on the other side of 50" seem like not such a bad deal after all! ;) Thanks for sharing.

Looking to the Stars said...

Lydia, WOW, you are a truly amazing person. Thank you for sharing. Your first wedding was very unique, I enjoyed going down the path of memories with you. I hurt when you were hurting, I cried when you and your 1st husband cried, I enjoyed the beauty of your wedding. You are a dear heart :)

YogaforCynics said...

A very touching post...

Gotta say, though, based on the pictures, it looks a bit like a beauty and the beast kinda dynamic...

Erin Davis said...

Lydia, I feel privileged to have read this. You have described a tender and painful time in your life with such grace and beauty. You show us your wise soul and your wonderful writing talents in this post. Thanks, too, for sharing the video. What a beauty you were (but I have a feeling you are even more beautiful now).
I grew up listening to Peter, Paul & Mary...even saw them in concert a few times. When I had my first son, my dad bought the Peter, Paul & Mommy album for me, and my son loved it. Gordon Lightfoot wrote "That's What You Get for Lovin' Me," and my dad was a HUGE GL fan, so I grew up with that version as well, and I loved it, too.
Thanks for sharing this important part of your history with us.

Anonymous said...

Oh! So many things come to mind while reading this post. First, that you went through with something you knew you didn't want. And *then* made a go of it for six whole years. That's impressive.

The wedding itself sounds like it was amazing. Funny though, that you can write that it was a glorious day, when you knew better...

But mostly what speaks to me is the kindness of your mother. Brave, loving and wise, she sounds like an absolute gem.

Thanks for sharing your story and pictures.

Lydia said...

***Thanks much, everyone, for your special comments. Once again, you've enhanced a post here.....

@Distracted- To be fair, didn't know what I wasn't listening to. I had an ah-ha moment when I read that line of yours. Exactly! I loved your story, too, and am so glad your daughter's young life has provided a mirror of sorts that allowed you to forgive yourself. As well you should. Thank you for your beautiful comments.

@Robin- The way you described feeling as if you knew me meant a lot to me, because that's how I felt when I discovered your website and YouTube video. I'm heartened that you were touched by the photos and truly honored by your reaction and expressions.

@Mibsy- ...and managed to pull off -- you said it! That it was 34 years ago is shocking and it has made me appreciate the long marriages of those who wed young. I had tears in my eyes when I read your ... how it aches to look back at it all, as you are so right about that.

@Looking to the Stars- O, thanks for saying I'm a dear heart. That's an expression I love and don't use lightly. :) Too bad you weren't at that wedding; I think you'd have really appreciated it.

@YogaforCynics- What an hysterical comment...nothing new for you, but here it was super because some comic relief was in order! I was tempted to reply, "T.J. woulda loved your comment because he thought he was beautiful, too." But I won't say that. Instead, I'll just say, "The guy oozed charisma in person."

@Erin- Thank you so much for your compliments on this post.(and, if I'm more beautiful now it is only on the inside, where it counts in the end)...
You're fortunate to have seen PP&M in concert! If I knew that GL wrote For Lovin' Me I had forgotten that. What's strange is that I downloaded two songs from ITunes the night I was working on this post: the one here and Lightfoot's Minstrel of the Dawn.....

@Svasti- Happy to share this with you. I do know that it wasn't a glorious day in the real sense, but in a surreal sense it was because the show at the Planetarium was so special. It set the tone for much joy, in spite of my personal undercurrents.
I so appreciate that you found the essence of my mother in these words. She was an absolute gem and her two peony plants that I transplanted in our yard after her death in 2000 are full of big buds now, bringing her close to me.

Batteson.Ind said...

WOW!.. I'm blown away by this story!.. If only all humans were as wise, peaceful and open in their parting and differences.. maybe the world would be a better place!... Thank you for sharing such a personal story.

Erin Davis said...

Lydia, I love Minstrel of the Dawn! I haven't heard that one in quite a while.

Unknown said...



Down and out
Up and coming

A journey both

Necessary, perhaps
To get you to a better place
Make you who you are today

This piece strikes close to home
But I will not here
Unloose the ocean
That is the sorrow of my first marriage
Lest I drown in it

Another time perhaps

Yet I appreciate your strength & courage
To take the time to remember and to write about it

Life it seems
Is filled with departures
And separations

A difficult lesson
Learning to let go
This I know

This I knnow...

robin ann mcintosh said...

oh Lydia...

I will be stewing over this post for the rest of the day... you at 24 - I am 24 right now - again you amaze me with your wisdom and grace. it's so perfect, beneath the artificial yet breathtaking skies of a planetarium, hopeful and too perfect.

<3 happy non-wedding anniversary, friend.

Hattie said...

Very interesting video, which captures the mood of the times perfectly.

Sage Ravenwood said...

I read the eloquence in your words, emotions brought into play so early in your life. Loving someone so much you want it to be true...finding the difficulty in admitting it wasn't to be. The knowing - yet hoping you could carry it off anyway. The beauty lay in the hope...

The video brought it all home...

I loved the idea of the planetorium for the wedding. It's too bad they won't do them anymore.

Friko said...

You are brave and wise and very sweet.
You painted a bittersweet picture of a time when so many of us were full of hope and youth and good intentions. Alas, I didn't work for me either.
Like you, I found I knew better the second time around.

Thanks you for a lovely post.

Roxanne said...

Lydia, I'm always so amazed at how you delve into life's most sensitive moments with such bravery and fearfulness ... and the lessons you share are a reminder of why it's good to do that. Thanks for sharing with us.

Lydia said...

@the watercats- I'm glad you like the story and I truly appreciate your comments. :)

@Erin- I agree, it's a great one that deserves to be dusted off...

@Citizen of Earth- Again, my friend, you have left a gift in comments. Don't know how you this, but it is unique, wonderful, and appreciated.

@robin- Just think how different your life at 24 is from mine at 24. Let's see: Sober and on your way to a prestigious art school for advanced studies in one of the countries great cities...or Functioning alcoholic, selling insurance to assist a guy through law school only to learn afterward that he thinks we should move to Texas, a place you know in your heart is not the place for you.....YOU WIN!!!

@Hattie- Thanks. It really is a glimpse back to the styles, music, tone of the time.

@Indigo- You are right: the beauty did lay in the hope that it would work out. There are times in life when you have to just go for it, and I think that any marriage at any age has in its periphery certain risk involved, but more so for the young ones.
I also think that planetariums are a great place for weddings. I did send an email to the current Fleischmann Planetarium director with the link here. Who know, maybe it'll happen again. :)

@Friko- We were "full of hope and youth and good intentions," weren't we? Thanks for putting it that way and thanks for being here.

@Roxanne- My bluntness used to get me into trouble in my youth. At least I've learned to corral it into an honesty that good people like you understand and appreciate. :)

earthtoholly said...

Hi Lydia,

What a beautiful recounting of such a bittersweet time for you. And the video and your story all came together so nicely. I can identify with your feelings of "should've known better" but unlike you, don't have the guts to go there...yet.

Don't Feed The Pixies said...




brilliantly written. so personal and touching. Thank you so much for sharing this xxx

The thing is - whatever you gained from this experience has helped you to build the love that lasted - whether you knew it or not at the time

Lydia said...

@earth to holly- Thanks for looking at this post. I'm so happy to learn that you are taking your life in your own time!

@Pixies- Your comments were fun to read and an honor to receive. Great observation at the end...thanks for that too.

Melinda said...


This post just blew me away! And you made me cry (I am such a sentimental fool).

It was beautiful, loving, and so sad (even tragic) at the same time. It makes me realize how important it is to feed and nurture our relationships--they don't remain strong on their own.

I think I will do something special for my beloved husband today . . .


Lydia said...

@Melinda- If I made you cry and come to a determination to do something special for your hubby today then my job with this post is completed!

j said...

Wow. What a beautifully written post (and what a fantastic sounding wedding -- even with the emotional underpinnings of doubt). "Tumultuous sexual frenzy and intellectual archery" works for a little while, anyway, and can masquerade as the real thing for a while.

You really tried, too, which is more than I can say about my first marriage, where I had a lot of doubt going in and ended it without much angst 2 1/2 years later. Well, ok, there was a lot of angst, but I think it was more about my emotional stability than about trying to make the relationship work.

Lydia said...

@Jennifer- Thanks so much for the comments. It's interesting how many of us here have empathy for one another in this regard.
Lisa at Lisa's Spot (in my blogroll) has the saddest post today. Her husband just walked out on her...When rotten things like that happen to such lovely people I get all riled up.

Nancy said...

You and I have so much in common! I was married young - right out of high school (Hug '71 BTW), saved one bottle of champagne, which we drank on the night of our divorce five years later. Tears.

Who knew you could get married at the Fleischman Planetarium??

Lydia said...

Just left you a comment with link regarding Hug...lotsa fun!
These similarities are quite special indeed. :)

koe whitton-williams said...

Lydia - this posting and all of the comments are, taken together, a work of art. So touching. I'm sorry you had to live it in order to tell it. It's so hard to believe. I'd never heard the peter, paul and mary song before - When I hear it again, I'll always think of what you've written here.

Lydia said...

@koe whitton-williams- After receiving your comment I read through the post and all the other comments again. You're right that it worked as art because there is so much heart shared here. Thank you for you thoughts that add to the entirety in a meaningful way.

Ben said...

I didn't know that about your story. That must have been really tough. I'm sorry you had to go through all that.

Lydia said...

Ben- Well, here you are at another one of my older posts! Thank you! This one is a favorite of mine and I'm glad your comment is now a part of what made it meaningful.

Roxana said...

i came here to this old post, and i am overwhelmed with... can i say beauty? there is a strange beauty in this, not only in the writing, but also the gentle and melancholy yet accepting look back, at another self of our self, which now still lives inside our present soul and mind, yet is already different, and somehow rendered 'fictional' by the introspective ways of memory... so much here to identify with... i don't know how to say thank you ---

Lydia said...

Roxana~ Your comment means so much to me. Certainly you said thank you with a beautiful sentence that contains this stunning phrase:
. . . somehow rendered 'fictional' by the introspective ways of memory
I will not forget those words.

Anonymous said...

I came to read your Mag and spotted some heading, which may have been here a while but I hadn't noticed them before.

You have told a very sad story beautifully. Hey I hope you get an e-mail notification of this message.

Lydia said...

jane~ Lovely surprise to have a new comment, and especially fun that it came from you. Thanks for finding this post and for your kind comments.



Related Posts with Thumbnails