For fans (and those who would like to be) of the Comedy Tonight/Elliot Freed mystery series: There's a new story with Elliot and his extended family (about to be extended by one) in Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine this month! "It's A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad Girl!"
It was a sunny Sunday afternoon, right about 3 p.m. I remember it was sunny because we'd been concerned about that. It had rained hard for most of the previous week.
But that day just about noon the sun broke through the clouds and shone brightly. It was just about 65 degrees Fahrenheit (we're Americans). There might or might not have been a breeze. The New York Yankees beat the Cleveland Indians 14-2 in Cleveland.
I had spent that morning not eating brunch in the Hilton Hotel in East Brunswick, New Jersey. My stomach wasn't really in the mood for waffles. I don't often eat breakfast anyway. My brother and my cousin, who had invited me to the brunch, probably thought I should partake a little more. I felt otherwise.
About noon I put on a suit, something I do once a decade whether I need to or not. My brother Charlie spent a good deal of time trying to get the pocket square to look right in my jacket. There exists somewhere a photograph of me looking impatient while he does that in the lobby of the Hilton. Why I didn't just give him the jacket and put it back on when he was finished is an unanswerable question.
He and I drove from the Hilton to Woodlawn, the mansion that houses the Eagleton Institute of Politics on the Douglass College (now just a residential college) campus of Rutgers University. The drive took perhaps ten minutes. When we arrived, I remember walking the grounds of Woodlawn, taking in the day, going inside and upstairs to find Jessica Oppenheim just finishing her preparation for the day.
Jess was wearing a white dress with an impressive bow on the back which made her look like the most delightful present ever wrapped. Which is exactly what she was.
It was Sunday, April 26, 1987, the day we were married. And this coming Wednesday, it will be exactly 30 years since that day.
Much of the event itself is lost to an aging memory. There were about 70 guests at Eagleton (where one could book a catered event in those days if one happened to be an alumnus of the university) including both my parents, my paternal grandmother (who would pass away some six months later at the age of 90 or so), friends, relatives, band members, business associates and some people who to this day I can't remember why they were there, but all were very welcome.
Just at 3 in the afternoon I took Jess's hand (I have since given it back to her to use whenever she wanted) and we walked outside to the spot that had been designated for the ceremony. Four of our taller friends held up a prayer shawl (tallis) to serve as a canopy (chuppah) and the rabbi, a very impressive man named André Ungar, who had some years earlier been exiled from his native South Africa for opposing the Apartheid policies of its government, smiled at us and began the ceremony.
I wish I could tell you what he said. Videographers were just beginning to appear at weddings and one would have probably broken our budget. Smartphones with video cameras were simply science fiction speculations. All I really remember about the ceremony is that the sun was directly in my eyes so I look like Popeye the Sailor in all the pictures, and that I was nervous about breaking the glass with my foot at the end of the ritual. I was afraid I'd miss. I didn't. I also recall listening to the rabbi recite his version of the vow to me, not knowing he was finished reciting, and hesitating at the end. I got a laugh from the crowd, who probably thought I had calculated that, but I simply didn't understand it was my cue. I recovered and said, "I do." My lovely bride, who got to hear the vow for the second time, merely said, "Yes."
After that we had a very enjoyable party. Ask anyone who was there. We eschewed most of the embarrassing rituals of large overdone weddings. The setup of the Woodlawn mansion allowed for a number of rooms and not one large ballroom, so the band was playing in one section for those who wanted to dance. Others could actually hear each other talking in conversations. Some of us stayed outside until it was dark. The food, as I recall, was quite good but don't ask me what I ate.
Through it all I marveled that this amazing woman had agreed to marry me and share my life. Here we are 30 years later, under somewhat trying circumstances at the moment, and she is still the one part of my existence I need never question. She is the center of my universe.
My favorite picture from that day is one the photographer, who swore the name given to him on his birth certificate was "Spud," took before the ceremony when he was doing some staged portraits. It's a slightly spontaneous moment of Jessica looking at me and she is laughing at something I said. I look at it every now and again. I like nothing better than making that woman laugh.
And maybe that's why the 30 years have gone by so quickly. Happy anniversary, honey. I love you 30 years more now than I did then. Thanks for letting me share your life.