Friday, November 17, 2006

Tales from the Basement, Conclusion

Al sure was sneaky. He told me to invite our families over for my 39th birthday, when what he was really doing was arranging our engagement party…a surprise to not only me, but to everyone else as well! Just several hours after he placed that beautiful ring on my finger, we were announcing our engagement in my living room to a dozen or so stunned relatives. Everyone was thrilled, and to our happiness, so were our children. Life was just wonderful, and I wasn’t even aware that it was about to get better.

We decided to get married as quickly and as reasonably as possible, and began our search for a place to do so immediately. Although I had had the whole nine yards for my first wedding, Al was married at his parents' house by a justice of the peace, and they all went to a local restaurant afterward. This time he wanted a big shebang, complete with tuxedoes, gowns, a great reception hall and a DJ and dancing! After visiting a few unexciting halls and outrageously-priced caterers, we visited a local catering facility on the recommendation of Al’s mom. When we sat down to talk to the manager, he snapped his fingers and a waiter brought us a fine array of Italian fare from appetizers to desserts. All this, and he poured us a huge glass of wine each! He sat with us for quite some time, speaking to us as if he’d known us for years. The price fit our budget, and we signed on the dotted line for September 1, 2002.

In the interim, I felt strongly about having a spiritual ceremony and being married by someone religious, so I went to my Catholic parish and met with a deacon who performs marriages outside of the church (a deacon is sort of like a priest who’s able to get married and have a family). We clicked with him immediately, and he was going to be able to incorporate some of Al’s Jewish traditions (Al was raised in a Jewish/Catholic home). We had to do some research first, as Catholic rules state that on my original baptismal certificate, there had to be no mention of my first marriage. Since I was originally married by a rabbi with just a priest present to say a prayer, I was hoping that this wouldn’t be a problem…and when I went to the parish of my childhood, not only did the baptismal certificate make no mention of my previous union, but neither did the church’s official “marriage book”. We were in the clear!

Those eight months were the fastest of my life, and before I knew it, we were arriving at the church rectory for our final meeting with the deacon to tie up any loose ends concerning the ceremony and to confirm our Scripture quotes. I knew something was wrong the minute the deacon came down to greet us. His face was ashen, and he could barely lift the corners of his mouth to form a smile. When we got into the office, he sat us down and told us that somewhere, somehow…even though he didn’t mention it to my original parish…the priest who came to my first wedding went right to the Diocese (the big cheese of churches in our area to which whom all other churches report to) and recorded my first wedding there. The deacon sadly said that he even got into a fight with the secretaries at the Diocese because it stated in the record book that I married someone with a different first name than my ex-husband. But it was to no avail. He looked as if he was going to cry when he told us that he couldn’t marry us unless we got an annulment…something that was going to take a year to process and had a price tag of several thousand dollars. I did not share their belief that the only way I could be forgiven by God was to “buy” my forgiveness. That night, 3 days before my wedding, I walked out of the Catholic church forever.

It was the Friday before our Sunday wedding. Al and I were frantically searching through the yellow pages for someone who could marry us—who just happened to be available in 48 hours. We finally found a woman who was free at 12 noon on Sunday…she was half-preacher/half-justice of the peace. She convinced us that she could perform an interfaith wedding just fine, so we held our breath and jumped. She would just have to do.

Before we knew it, the big day arrived…pouring rain and all. I was so happy that morning; I wouldn’t have cared if there was a tornado! We tried to stick to tradition as best as we could, given our very untraditional circumstances, so Al, his son and my son slept at his parents’ house the night before and got ready there; the two girls and I stayed at my place. I had splurged on a hair stylist to come to the house and make us gawgeeous, and she did a wonderful job on all three of us. We were supposed to be picked up by my cousin and her family in their caravan at 11:00, but due to unforeseen, “too many people trying to use one bathroom” circumstances over at her house, they didn’t pick us up until 11:30. I was just a little panicked, as we still had to take pictures and the ceremony was supposed to start at 12, but I kept my composure. I knew they must’ve felt bad enough, and to tell the truth, I don’t think that there was anything that could have gotten me down that day, I was so elated. Our photographer, thankfully, was way more organized and had taken pictures of all of the groom’s family before we got there (it actually was amazing that the groom’s family was even there first, as they are usually running more on Pacific time)! We took some more pictures and then headed towards the ceremony room where we would meet the preacher/justice of the peace for the first time.

The first thing I noticed was her hair. It was blazing red, shoulder length and halfway between curly and frizzy (again, it had been pouring, so I chalked it up to the poor thing having a really bad hair day). Her makeup was garishly done as well; she was a cross between Lucy Ricardo and Mimi from the Drew Carey show. She was very serious, but also very animated; it was strange, because every time you thought she would at least crack a smile, she didn’t…like maybe she couldn’t, because of too many Botox injections, although she didn’t strike me as the Botox type. Miss NoSmile told us in a very bossy way what we were to do and when…and all I could think of was that I couldn’t think of anything and my mind was going blank…how was I going to remember all of her instructions? She said good-bye, and that she’d see us at the altar. The time had come. I just hoped I didn’t make a fool out of myself.

Our kids walked down the aisle to the beginning strains of “From This Moment” by Shania Twain. Shania had started singing by the time my brother walked me down the aisle, and the words from the song fit the moment beautifully. Al looked so handsome in his tuxedo; I locked into his gaze and strayed only for short moments that required me to light a candle or place a ring on his finger. Before we knew it, Miss NoSmile had married us and we were walking back up the aisle with people clapping and cheering!

I don’t think I ever smiled so wide in my whole life.

The reception afterward was so much fun that it completely flew by; five hours seemed like five minutes, and everyone had a wonderful time. The highlights of the wedding were my now-stepson making a tearful, heartfelt toast to us; and my then-12 year old daughter and her cousins singing beautiful three part harmony acapella to “Longer” by Dan Fogleberg. I remember looking around at one point and reminding myself to appreciate everything that was going on…to really acknowledge that my two cousins from California were here and having a fantastic, if not inebriated time…that my mom’s sister and her family were there, people whom I love dearly but never see because of the distance factor. I truly never felt so happy in my whole life. And I was about to get happier!

My now-in-laws set up an amazing “after-party” at their house, so my new husband, our kids and me loaded our bodies into our mini-van and left the catering facility to head over there, along with about 25 other people. I almost think the after-party was more fun than the reception! There was impromptu dancing, singing, lots of drinking and just a plain, old great time being had by all. My cousins from California were bonding over the bar with my husband’s brother. My predominantly anti-social brother was smiling most of the time and actually chatting it up with people that he most likely would never have talked to on any other day. My cousin T, who’s like a sister to me, was actually doing shots for the first time in about 10 years, which was a hoot to watch! At one point, my brother and my cousin S from California were talking for about an hour straight…really a rare sight, because my brother is the oldest cousin in the family, S is the youngest, they live 3,000 miles apart and hadn't seen each other since my first wedding! The party continued until the very wee hours of the morning, and everyone reluctantly said their good-byes and went their separate ways.

Al and I climbed into bed together as husband and wife for the very first time, and well, I don’t remember much after that. I do remember the next morning, however. Our kids came into the room and jumped on our bed, everyone laughing and just feeling indescribable joy. I also remember thinking how lucky I was to be blessed with this loving new husband, this amazing new family and to be living in this incredible new moment—I truly felt as if I had it all. And it’s been a wonderful, interesting journey ever since.

(Postscript: Al's "cave" downstairs in the basement is now being occupied by his son, who just turned 20. Although we miss our little "escapes" down there, nothing beats having your partner to keep you warm every night and to make you smile every morning when you wake up to their sweet face.)


E said...

many happy wishes for you, Al and all the kids well into the near and far future!

Thanks so much for sharing. It's a great story and that much better 'cause it really happened.

Lisa said...


Thank you so much for your kind wishes.

That's one thing that I always stress about my blog...unless I state that I'm writing fiction, everything is true and has actually happened! I have had some really weird things happen in my life! Although sometimes people find that hard to believe ;)

BTW, I was perusing your site late last night and saw the recipe for the no-bake oatmeal/peanut butter/chocolate cookies...YUM!! I'll have to try those sometime!

Take good care,

Anonymous said...

Lisa, actually came on earlier, but company dropped in, wanted to tell you what a nice series this was. continued happiness for many years to come.

Kacey said...

Lovely, just lovely! Hang onto him forever. My darlin' youngest daughter made us a DVD of our lives for our 50th anniversary. One of the songs was "From this Moment" and another one was "I Don't Get Many Things Right the First Time". Our runaway wedding was a far cry from your day, but I hope your next 46 years will be as happy as ours.

Lisa said...


Thank you so much for the kind words. I know that you share my feelings when it comes to being married to "the one"...may we all be blessed for years to come!

Take good care,

Lisa said...


I should be so lucky as you have been for the next 46 years and beyond!

What a wonderful present from your daughter! I actually never heard of the second song, but from the title, it seems as if it's a country tune that tells a story (I love that about country music--it's so much better than listening to lyrics about "booties" all the time)! You must have laughed, cried and felt every emotion in-between when you viewed that DVD. How precious!

Take good care,

Anonymous said...

what a nice post Lisa, i enjoyed reading it a lot. the best thing about it that it is real and you are living it with your lovely family. wish you lots of hapiness forever and ever!

Lisa said...


Thank you so much for your kindness. I just commented on someone's post a quote that my dear, departed mother wrote in my high school yearbook:

"May you have all the happiness you can stand, and only enough sorrow to know the difference."

I know every day that I was blessed with a wonderful husband. And that really was just about the most wonderful day of my life!

Take good care,

Misty said...

Thanks for stopping by and leaving such a wonderful comment, and such wonderful timing.

Thank you for sharing your 2nd Chance and Happily Ever After story, it gives me (and I'm sure many others) hope.

Lisa said...


You'r very welcome! I don't mean to give the idea that we never have our ups and downs--we certainly do, just as everyone else does--but we are both not comfortable with being upset with each other, so usually problems will get resolved quickly! In my first marriage, I don't think either one of us ever let the anger go, and it just kept building up into a huge mountain of resentment. I'm just glad that I'm with someone who hates confrontation as much as I do!

Take good care,

Anonymous said...

First of all let me say a hug Congrats. Your post is truely inspiring and very nicely written. Reading it, made me realize that there still "HOPE" out there a tunnel of happiness, waiting for everyone.

"Love has been posted to you, but its being delayed in the post" . This is my slogan these days!

Lisa said...


After frustration over some unsuccessful blind dates and an unfortunate dating experience with a co-worker, I prayed really hard one day at my mother's grave that the next man that God sent into my life would be "the one"...that he wouldn't break my heart and he would be my partner for life.

I can't explain it...but I always knew that I was supposed to be with someone special forever. When I first met my ex, I thought it might be him, but there were red flags all over the place that I just kept making excuses for, and red flags for him which he just kept trying make livable by forcing me to change. I always felt as if there were something missing in my life, and I felt guilty because of I had a beautiful house, beautiful children, a hard-working husband...what was wrong with me? But it wasn't me, and it wasn't him. It just wasn't meant to be.

There is hope for everything...I truly believe that everything happens in God's perfect timing. Good luck to you, and thanks for visiting!!

Take good care,

abu_shakuush said...

Just wanted tp drop bai and say hai.