Last Saturday my wife Michelle and I attended a wedding. That’s not an uncommon occurrence for most people, but we hadn’t been to a wedding for some time. These things seem to come in cycles; about the time of your own wedding, many of your friends are also getting married. Then there’s a lull, during which time you and your friends are establishing a home and raising children. Then comes the second wave, the expensive one involving your own children, then another lull until the grandchildren start pairing off. This last one is the most enjoyable, for, as in many social obligations, nothing much is expected of the grandparents except that they show up. Even then, their appearance is more of a courtesy than a duty. One of the perks of age is the lack of expectations.

The couple taking their vows last week fit the modern norm in that they had been living together for some time before deciding to “make it legal.” I use those terms because I grew up in an era when living together without the “benefit of marriage” was called “cohabitation,” a crime for which people were arrested. I was eighteen, an age of defiance and questioning, when I found myself agreeing with an essay by one of my favorite writers, John Ciardi, in which he questioned why the law should be involved when a young couple fall in love and decide to live together. Even now, I wonder why they should have to purchase a license to marry. Of course, it’s traditional for churches and governments to observe what people do naturally, then charge a fee for a license to do it – or tax the activity.

It’s been nearly a century since my Uncle Charlie and Aunt Julie met and became young lovers. Eventually – and perhaps inevitably since this was before “the pill” – Julia became pregnant. Charlie wanted to do the “right thing” and marry her, but he was a devoted Catholic; she was not. He insisted she take instructions and convert to Catholicism. She agreed, then reneged by walking out on the priest during her first session, commenting that she had been asked to accept “. . .some of the dumbest things (she’d) ever heard.” So, they were never married but “lived in sin” for nearly fifty years, producing four sons, all of whom were raised in the Catholic church.

All the weddings I’ve attended in recent years have involved couples who had been living together long before the ceremony. Two of the weddings were between couples of different races, another tradition-defying act that, until recently, was illegal in many states and socially-unacceptable in all. In contrast, my sister commented following the most recent inter-racial ceremony, “It was just lovely and a sign that the future generations are going to be all right.” Harkening back to my youthful thoughts, at age eighteen I assumed that by this time, interracial marriage would be so common that many U. S. citizens would resemble Hawaiians, that is, an attractive mixture of many races. I still believe it will happen eventually, despite all the protests of the racial “purists.” Humans undoubtedly began as one race; all these divisions came later.

Often modern couples choose to forego the traditional marriage altogether. On the other hand, a pairing between males and females of child-bearing age is nature’s way of continuing the species. The instinct to reproduce is said to be second only to the instinct of self-preservation – neither of which need a license.

As for the ceremony, I think the Stage Manager in Thornton Wilder’s “Our Town” got it right when he comments after the Act II wedding scene, “ ... once in a thousand times, it’s interesting.”

Chuck Avery is a retired teacher who grew up in Connersville’s Bucktown neighborhood.

Chuck Avery is a retired teacher who grew up in Connersville's Bucktown neighborhood.