A few little kids who were passing by on the wharf shouted out, "Aloha!"--the greeting of love, symbiosis, grace and peace. There were a number of strangers we came into contact with us that day, and all of them beamed with happiness, wishing us "congratulations" in one way or another.
We boarded the boat to "Roller Coaster of Love" playing over the boat's loudspeaker--especially apropos since the roller coasters of the Boardwalk were in full swing in the distance as we pulled out to sea. That song segued into a whole set of songs Annie had burned onto a CD, including "our song":
When the boat came to a stop near the harbor, everyone gathered at the stern. Our friend Mary Beth, who was deputized for our ceremony, was truly inspirational as she called attention not only to our relationship but to the power of all love. Birds were singing and circling. As soon as Mary Beth talked about transitions in life--how we'd been through so many, how a healthy relationship grows through those transitions--Annie's brother and nephew played on their guitars and beautifully sang the Green Day song "Time of Your Life" (but changing the lyrics to "I hope you have the time of your life").
Afterward, Annie and I said our words to each other, our reasons for loving and marrying each other. Finally, a glint grew in Mary Beth's eyes and she said, "By the power vested in me, I now pronounce you married!" At that moment, we kissed and the captain blew the horn.
I hugged my mom, and we both sobbed.
When we got back to the wharf, everyone went to their cars to drive to the restaurant. Our friends Michele and Van chauffered us along West Cliff Drive up to Natural Bridges for a little downtime with nature. Everyone then gathered at our favorite Italian restaurant to eat on the outdoor patio. The air was so soft the heaters weren't needed.
Celebration swirled with food, wine, hilarious and poignant toasts by long-time friends Janelle and Brenda, clinking of glasses to signal us to kiss--and it all culminated in the cutting of the massive carrot cake. We hadn't planned to cut the cake and feed it to each other, but we decided to give the audience what they wanted!
Afterward, a group of about 10 of us met back at Annie's and my hotel suite overlooking the ocean. From the deck we watched the sparkling lights of the Boardwalk rides in the night. Four of our women friends stripped and jumped into the hot tub. The only man there, our friend Bobby (who's a very youthful 66), said, "No one will never believe this!"
People drifted off one by one, leaving us with our two dear friends, Carolyn and Mary Beth, who sat with us in the dark on the patio. We talked and listened to the lapping sea and barking sea lions until 1 a.m.
We didn't exchange rings that day. Instead, Annie and I both wore our wedding rings that we've had for years--and she also wore a ring that had belonged to her Mom, and I wore my dad's Chico State ring that he wore every day of his life. When I showed my cousin John I was wearing the ring, he kissed it, a gesture that took my breath away.
It is at times like these that the presence/absence of those who have gone before us becomes more immediate. My cousin Linda reminded me that 7 years ago at her son Randy's funeral, "Time of Your Life" was played. So he was present in spirit.
Also, My sister Ann tells me that my cousins Jeri Lynn and Leslie were thinking of their mother, Bonnie, that day--and that Jeri Lynn had said Bonnie would have loved the ceremony. (Annie never got to meet my Aunt Bonnie, since she died before Annie and I met, but I'm sure they would have loved each other.)
And then, at the wharf they saw this:
As Ann said, Aunt Bonnie had the best seat in the house.
I will be posting a bunch of pictures in the next few days. We are awash in love and gratitude. Aloha & Mahalo to all.