Grief is a sacred journey

My Hippie Wedding: May 18, 1968

My mom gives me $100 to cover my wedding expenses. I make a lacy yellow mini-dress and pull my straight hair back with a yellow ribbon. We choose a silver wedding ring that says in Hebrew, “He is my beloved and I am his.” Vic’s mother Virginia complains when we don’t invite her extended family, but Vic and I want our day to be intimate and homemade.

We hoped for a golden outdoor ritual in the forest owned by our friends Evelyn and Richard, but the fog is so thick that our twenty guests get lost on their way to the rural hilltop in upstate NY. When cold drizzle turns to rain, we retreat to a wood-paneled living room, overheated with anticipation.

Our moms: Iva Ware & Virginia Pepitone

Virginia brings a case of champagne and a box of long stemmed glasses, fearing we’ll drink moonshine out of Ball canning jars if she doesn’t take charge. I cover a flimsy table with a lace tablecloth and arrange the food in ceramic bowls and on wooden boards—homemade breads, nuts and dried fruit, cheeses, nut butters, and grapes.

Our mothers would prefer a long white dress with at least the pretense of virginity. They long to hear church vows and the wedding march, but they surrender to our happiness anyway.

After the last guest arrives, our bearded friend Joe plays a jazzy riff on his flute. My brother Jim walks me to the fireplace where Vic waits with open hands and a nervous grin. I look up at Vic with trusting eyes as he reaches out for my hand. We stand in a closed triangle with the befuddled Unitarian minister who leads us through our short ritual and simple vows. We end by reading our favorite love poem by Walter Benton. Our mother’s sniffles punctuate the stanzas.

…I need love more than ever now…I need your love,
I need love more than hope or money, wisdom or a drink

Because slow negative death withers the world—and only yes
can turn the tide
Because love has your face and body…and your hands are tender
And your mouth is sweet—and God has made no other eyes like yours.

While Vic and I hold each other and seal the day with our kiss, a friend who stood behind me slowly slumps to the floor in a slow motion faint.

“I’m fine,” she assures us. “I just need some water.”

We decide her swoon is an omen that our vows have taken like a lifetime vaccine, so everyone drinks champagne and dances to the Temptations. When the food table collapses and bowls slide toward the floor, we pick them up and keep right on dancing. Today, everything is a good omen.

Vic and I know something about the uncertainties of marriage. His father deserted when he was a baby and mine died when I was a teenager. We know that everyone and everything we count on will be swept away in time, but today we look the other way, toward each other, toward love and our future. How could anyone commit to marriage otherwise?

As the party winds down, I lean into Vic’s shoulder and receive a kiss on the bridge of my nose. My body says, “Protect me.” His body says, “I will.”

***

For other stories about young love in the 1960s, see “Civil Disobedience Against the Vietnam War: 1967, “Until It’s Time for You to Go,” and “Our First Home.”

20 Comments
  1. You are both so beautiful, Elaine. I love your love.

  2. Oh my, oh my. What an outstanding post: satisfying as bread, fruit and nuts, intoxicating as champagne, sexy as dancing to the Temptations. You certainly know how to capture a microcosmic moment with macrocosmic meaning, my friend!

  3. Wow, Vic looks like Anthony in those pictures!
    Your post pours love into my heart, thank you.

  4. This is so beautiful. I love the pics. We sure did put our mom’s through hell with our Hippie weddings, but in the long run, it was good for them to see how it can be done so simply and lovingly.

    • Hi Diane, you can see from the photos that our two mothers thawed, wept, and joined the love fest. Then they kept right on worrying. I guess that’s what moms do. Thanks for your response, Elaine

  5. Very sweet. Interesting that you were both aware of love’s and life’s uncertainties at the outset. Dodi li v’ani lo. Right? You can finish it with “Haroeh b’shoshanim” (the shepherd among the roses).

    • Thanks for responding, Ruth. Yes, those are the Hebrew words from the Song of Solomon, as I remember them. I don’t know Hebrew and I’m not Jewish, so I appreciate your help. I have heard it translated in two ways: “He is my beloved and I am his” or “I am to him as he is to me.” I don’t understand “the shepherd among the roses.” Can you explain? Is this part of the biblical verse. I’d love to know more about these words and their context since I wore the ring for 41 years. It now sits on my altar and I slip it on occasionally, but then take it off again since I need to figure out this not-married life.
      With appreciation, Elaine

  6. dear elaine, you always activate my heart chakra and bring tears to my eyes. so simple, direct, and touching. your redemption, yes?

    by the way, a must see film: “the other one.” lots of questions, no quick answers. subtle, heart-wrenching, yet healing. best film i have seen since “of god’s and men.” flawless! hope you will see it.

    love, gayle

    • Thanks Gayle for your encouraging words. Yes, my redemption. I will check out this film. I’m having horrible hearing problems, so can’t see movies that don’t have subtitles. I wait for Netflix, but recently, as hearing worsens with tinnitus, I want silence as much as possible. Isolating and sometimes alarming development, but I’m taking the opportunity to focus in and finish my book. At the same time, I’m searching for hearing solutions in a variety of ways. Always something!
      Sending love your way,
      Elaine

  7. Once again, another beautiful story that put a smile on my face and calmed my sick heart . Thank you for sharing:) Liz has been so blessed

    • Martha, I appreciate your kind encouraging note and am glad to put a smile on your face and calm your heart. I feel that my family is blessed by Liz’s presence.
      Wishing you well in all ways, including a healing of the heart,
      Elaine

  8. It was beautiful! I wish I could have been there but your words brought me pretty close. Thank you.
    Robin

    • Thanks for showing up at my wedding just a few years late, Robin. And thanks for your encouraging words.
      I look forward to hearing more of your memoir,
      Elaine

  9. How beautiful, Elaine. I love the picture you paint with the written word…. I can envision everything about your special day. Hold those wonderful memories close to your heart, always.

    • Thank you for your encouraging words, Ann. My good life in the past sustains my good life in the present, and I’m grateful.
      Hope you and your mom have a calm weekend. What does Hospice say? When my mother died after so many years with Alzheimer’s and four or five years in a nearly comatose state, I was at a Marion Woodman Body/Soul workshop in Canada, 10 hours away. I could not get home in time, so Vic who was having a respite from cancer treatment and symptoms sat at her bedside in the nursing home 10 miles from our home. He meditated with her as she left. It was good for him to witness her peaceful death since his was a year away.

  10. Elaine, this whole story is beautiful poetry. I could feel the love coming through it. Thank you.

    Lynne

    • Thank you, Lynne. Love was there and I’m surprised how persistent it still is. I feel it as an inner love now that is about loving myself as much as loving Vic. It’s still nourishing and strengthening.

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