twice in a lifetime
It was a mad dash of a wedding in some ways, and yet it was so right and so perfect, and exactly what both of us would’ve wanted, even if the arrangements were predetermined due to a pandemic. I cooked, he cleaned. Yes, a few people inquired about my desire to cook our wedding dinner—did I really want to put that pressure on myself?
All I could think is “why wouldn’t I want to cook our wedding dinner", which also coincided with the first Shabbat of 2021. It was the most special dinner party of my life, with just us, our daughters and one of my dearest friends in the world who became an ordained minister online to perform our ceremony.
At this moment four years ago, we didn’t know each other existed in the world. Our first encounter would be via online dating messaging the afternoon of January 21st, 2017…”greetings from the other side of the river” is how his message to me began. Something about his words made me smile from the get-go, as I traveled back home on Amtrak that Saturday afternoon. On the surface they probably wouldn’t seem special to anyone but I sensed a warmth and kindness.
We soon switched to text messaging and continued that way for two weeks until we could find a time to meet for coffee. It was just supposed to be coffee is something I’ve said for a few years now, but the truth is the moment I got out of my car on Warren Street in Hudson and saw him standing there, life forever changed. I felt home for the first time since August 7th, 2011 when we hugged hello—I knew that was a hug I wanted to keep enjoying the rest of my life.
This all sounds fairytale-like and beautiful but I assure you easy is the last word I’d use to describe the last almost four years. We’ve had a lot of real-world challenges—we both have two children (four daughters in total, ages 12 to 20) and we live 68 miles apart, for starters. And then there’s the apprehension of “what if”—what if he dies? “What if this marriage doesn’t work out”—something I know he pondered a lot having been divorced.
And gosh, how we miss each other when we’re apart. The distance is not something easily remedied due to school and work responsibilities. But instead of “what if” I suggested “why not?” as we began trying to figure out the right time for a wedding after getting engaged last summer.
Sure, we’d still be living apart for at least nine months, and very possibly a year and a half, but why not get married now? Why wait to legally take the vows we’ve been practicing in the way we built our relationship over these last few years—in sickness and in health, to honor and cherish, for better or worse.
Why not leap? And so we did. I wore a simple red dress, took care of all the flowers and we planned the meal together. Matthew mostly said “whatever you want, dear” even though I kept stressing this was his wedding, too. He cleaned every crevice of his apartment, and then as dusk fell on the first day of 2021, we became husband and wife right in front of that window above.
I prepped most of the food the night before and morning of our wedding day. On the menu was salmon en croute filled with a garlic-herb butter, beef tenderloin, fondant potatoes (my first attempt and while not perfect, who cares!), garlicky chili sautéed spinach and braised lentils, a nod to my Italian roots and symbol of prosperity for the new year.
There was cake. An Italian sponge cake made into a Swiss roll, filled with chocolate mascarpone buttercream and fresh raspberries draped in chocolate ganache. There were some imperfections on the outer frosting layer but you know what? I didn’t give a hoot. It was my wedding day. I knew the cake would be delicious and a little ganache heated and poured over covered up the imperfections. The challah was a marvelous center piece baked by one of Matthew’s daughters.
Then, just like that—poof, it was over. Matthew’s daughters and David headed home to get ahead of some snowy weather heading into the area. Matthew washed every.single.dish. I dried and together we put everything away before tucking into bed as husband and wife.
As I write this, he’s in Great Barrington and I’m in Olivebridge, the invisible thread tugging both our hearts, longing to be near. Having watched many relationships, those of my parents, friends, the experience of my first marriage, I can tell you this:
absence does not make the heart grow fonder
but nearness is also not the key to a successful relationship
it is the way in which you treat and value each other
that makes for a happy marriage
It sounds simple, and yet we both know it is far from easy or simple. It takes commitment to working every day and recognizing ourselves as individuals within a union. My grief didn’t disappear the moment I took my vows. My love for Michael is no less now than it was before. It’s similar to having more than one child. You don’t love one more than another—you just love them all so deeply and differently.
After Michael died, many people told me I was lucky to have a once in a lifetime love. I’m glad they were wrong—