Memoir

From May through September: A Memoir by Aimee Bender

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By Aimee Bender
Sunday, July 12, 2009

Six years ago, I got married in May on the beach in Malibu. We used a kite-making kit, and hoped for whale sightings, and read homemade vows that made the guests laugh aloud. "Publish them!" said our friends, as we ate the appetizers -- fresh goat cheese spread on pepper crackers, prosciutto wrapped around cantaloupe -- as we walked along the beach, homespun paper kites trailing, flying. Before the dinner, the photographer asked us to stroll along the shore, hand-in-hand, and after a few of the usual poses, he, the groom, requested a photo of the two of us standing by the big rusty beach drainpipe. The photographer thought he was kidding. No. I thought it was funny at the time -- fancy people, corroded drainpipe. We posed and beamed. "You'll have great-looking kids!" said the photographer, clicking away, which I bought. And, "Great dress!" said the photographer, grinning, which I also bought. I didn't care at all that they had the worn-in feel of lines he'd said hundreds of times, to hundreds of brides twirling in white.

I loved the dress I'd found, a designer model bought for a reasonable price from a consignment store. "Historicity," my groom had said, quoting Philip K. Dick, as he'd picked out his ring from an estate sale collection. It's good for the object to have history, is what that means. That the history clings to the object and gives it depth, and this is why our corporate culture wrecks the soul, because with the historylessness of all the objects we can order in any size-shape-or-color, we are no longer engaged with any gravity of the past. He did not know where the ring had been, but as he turned it over in his hand, it felt weightier, in a good way, than the brand-newly forged ones at the jewelry store in Westwood we'd gone to the day before. Where had my dress been before? A friend of mine asked: "Aren't you worried? Why was the dress at a consignment shop at all? What if the dress has a bad history?"

"Oh, it's not the dress that gets married," I said, waving her off.

At the reception, my sisters bounced their new babies. The guests danced and clapped. Everyone looked so good in suits and dresses and scarves. Fleets of fresh paper kites, decorated by pens and washable paint, flew in the sky.

The plan was to move into my grandmother's old, elegant house in North Hollywood in the fall and begin to try to have a family.

***

I had gotten engaged, in the first place, with a certain overconfidence. My boyfriend and I had been involved for many years, with various ups and downs, sure, but I was in my early 30s, and I remember very clearly telling the manager at the wedding site during the food-tasting session that once in one's 30s, the decision was more mature. I had been in plenty of therapy. I knew what was what.

"Once you're through your 20s," I said, tasting a bite of chicken piccata, "you pick differently."

The manager, Tom, nodded, inputting our meal choices into his laptop. Outside the windows, the Pacific Ocean stretched before us, a deep and stately blue.

While we were distinguishing between the acidities of lemon and raspberry vinaigrettes, my fiance told Tom about his idea for a kite-making table during the cocktail hour: The restaurant was not a fancy place, and it was right on the sand, and his thought was that while guests sipped champagne and ate those goat cheese crackers, they could also decorate paper kites and fly them in the air, at the beach. We'd need a table outside to put the materials upon. We were both delighted by the idea -- it would be a natural continuation of the craft parties we'd been having for years. Puppet-making on New Year's Eve. Diorama-building, on a Saturday afternoon. Ikea sells appealing, deep wooden frames, five by seven, and across our living room, we'd set up glue guns and paintbrushes, tree moss and miniature animals, invite people over and build scenes for hours. Our friends with kids found it all bizarre, but I liked the gatherings, in part, because I could see people, be together and not have to focus on updates. How's your relationship? they might ask, at a regular event. Well, I might say, if I'd given it any thought, there's a lot of stuff we haven't dealt with, but we're going to get married, anyway.

Instead, we could just glue quietly side by side, in older-aged parallel play.

"We want to have a kite-making table," my fiance explained, picking at a lettuce leaf. "We'll set it up at a table, and while people drink champagne, they can fly kites."


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