On Wednesday, July 31, Arthur and I celebrated our anniversary. We got married at the home of my Aunt Jan, on Long Island. We planned a reception on the lawn and didn’t order tents, because they’d be too hot under the July sun, but if it rained, all would be ruined. I told my grandmother that I wouldn’t listen to the weather report because what could we do about it? She replied,
“Oh, they can report and predict all they want and then the Lord just goes ‘Poof!’ and the weather changes.”
The morning of the wedding dawned cloudy and gray. As I walked out with Jan a few sprinkles fell on us. She looked up at the sky, shook her fist and said, “I haven’t been tithing [giving away ten percent of her annual income] all these years just to have rain today.”
I stepped away from her, knowing she was about to be struck by lightning. But the sun came out. That’s the irreverent but sincere relationship Jan had with God. I picture Him sitting on a cloud saying to the cherubim,
“She’s pretty cheeky, isn’t she? But you know, she’s not asking for herself...Oh, what the heck, let’s blow those clouds away.”
the Lord said, "Poof!” and our wedding day was glorious.
It’s been forty-three years—forty-six if you count from the day we met. How have we survived and flourished? Here’s a story that goes back to before our beginning.
After I moved to Vermont my friend, Susan, back in Port Washington, started going out with Dan, the coolest boy in the school. Everyone was moved by the Civil Rights movement but he actually did something. He started SAM, the Student Action Movement, and organized trips to the “poor neighborhood” in our town to help kids with their homework. And he was cute in that early sixties clean-cut style of short hair but not too short, khakis, tan bucks, and button-down shirts.
He and Susan would take the train into the city and visit The Museum of Modern Art. He once sent Susan a postcard that said,
“Giacometti is dead. the world will revolve a little slower.”
I was sick with envy. It was so romantic--so glamorous...so cultural. I could never hope for such an elegant boyfriend. What could I offer a boy who wrote about Giacometti? I didn’t even know who Giacometti was. There was so much I didn’t know and my failures in school made me think I’d never learn.
Life went on.
Last February Arthur and I took the train to Washington to celebrate his birthday. He wanted to visit the Holocaust Memorial Museum; I complained that it was too dreary. “Can’t we see something pretty?” But it was his birthday, so we went.
As we started through the exhibits we got separated and I, feeling contrite, really paid attention; I read every label and spent more than two hours absorbing the whole experience. Arthur, knowing my impatience, rushed through it and waited in the cafe, calling me repeatedly on my cell phone, which sat in my pocket in the coat check. It was kind of like the Gift of the Magi.
Then we visited the East Wing of the National Gallery. Entering that great soaring lobby and seeing the gigantic Calder mobile hanging from the skylit ceiling always makes me catch my breath.
First, we went to a room full of small Calder mobiles. I said to the guard, “I really want to see these move. Aren’t you ever tempted to give them a little nudge?” He answered, giving me a stern look, “There are cameras all around.”
Then we found a room full of Mark Rothko’s large color fields.
I waited impatiently as Arthur walked slowly around the room, drinking in all that color.
“Rothko leaves me cold,” I said. (I look at art with the thought of stealing something for my own work, and Rothko doesn’t give me much, although I do like the colors in this one.)
“I don’t want to hear that,” Arthur said, “these paintings move me. I feel it, deeply, right here,” and he touched his heart.
“Okay, you stay here and I’ll go look around.”
I walked out of the Rothko gallery and bumped right into Giacometti’s life-sized walking man.
Ah, Giacometti. All the envy and yearning you inspired. Now here I am with a man whose heart fills up at a painting by Mark Rothko. The memory of that old story made me wish I could go back and speak to my young self. I’d say,
“So now you know what you want. That’s the first step. It will take hard work and you’ll have to make some leaps, you’ll have to leave behind some things you thought were important, but don’t worry. You’ll get there.”
Then, full of love and gratitude, I rushed to the gift shop and bought Arthur a Mark Rothko coffee mug.
Isn’t it a beauty?