Memphis, Marriage, and Mocha – the lesson we have learned from these 3 things is to never say never.
In 1982, Jeanne drove through Memphis on her way from North Dakota to Biloxi, MS. She was a 20-something Airman, going for training before her next duty assignment. She had told me the story shortly after we had met (in the fall of 1993), describing what a nightmare it was trying to find a place to stop for the night, and being escorted out of town by a cop who told her she was the “wrong color, the wrong sex, and in the wrong part of town” and to move on down the road to Holly Springs. She swore at the time that she would “never go back to Memphis!”
Fast forward to 1996. She was ready to retire after 20 years in the USAF; I was nearing the end of grad school and ready to return to full-time teaching. She suggested I open my job search to other locations (we were living in the DC area at the time), and that she would find a job wherever we landed. Guess where we landed? Never say never!
We’ve been together now for almost 20 years. For almost 10 years, we were under the assumption that marriage was not something we could plan for. At the time we met, same-sex marriage was not an option anywhere in the States. Then, in 2003, Massachusetts became the first state to recognize it, although at the time, they required residency in that state, so we still didn’t have the option. As other states started following MA in passing marriage equality, we discussed traveling somewhere to get married, but came to the agreement that, while we wanted to make a commitment to each other, we weren’t going to bother with a ceremony until it was legal where we lived. In 2006, Tennessee actually banned it by passing a constitutional amendment defining marriage as between 1 man and 1 woman, so we really thought it wasn’t going to happen in our lifetime. Never say never!
By early fall of 2012, there were 6 states plus the District of Columbia that offered marriage equality. (It is amazing how much progress has happened in the last year – we are now up to 14 states plus DC!) That September, we attended the OutFlix film festival in Memphis, featuring movies geared towards the LGBT community. The kickoff movie, sponsored by our church, was Cloudburst, starring Olympia Dukakis and Brenda Fricker as long-time partners who live in Maine and go on a Thelma & Louise type road trip to Canada to get married. At the end of the movie, even though they haven’t reached their destination, they have an impromptu ceremony when they realize that it is more important to make the commitment to each other than for any legal benefit it might give them. As the lights came up in the theater, with tears streaming down my face, I turned to Jeanne and said “What are we waiting for?” The next day, we started planning a wedding! Never say never!
It isn’t easy to plan a wedding in 8 weeks. We wanted to keep it small and simple, but since we were making it into a road trip of our own, we had to deal with logistics like requesting a marriage license through the mail, finding a church & minister to conduct the ceremony, and shopping for our outfits – one thing I promised Jeanne early in the planning process was that she didn’t have to wear a dress, but I did insist she dress up a bit. Jeans and a t-shirt just wouldn’t cut it!
As we dealt with the details, someone suggested we should set up a wedding registry so friends and family could celebrate with us by sending gifts. After almost 2 decades of living together, including the purchase of 2 houses, we didn’t really see the necessity for that, but this friend insisted people would expect it, so we went to Bed, Bath and Beyond to see what it involved. Their wedding registry process includes filling out a form that asks for the names of “spouse 1” and spouse 2”, which we thought was very cool! They then handed us the scanner and said walk around and click on anything you want to add. So we went to town.
As we walked by the coffee makers, Jeanne begged to put a Keurig machine on the list. She had been wanting one for several years, and I had always said we didn’t need it. I don’t drink coffee, and she doesn’t drink much of it, so it seemed like an expense that we could avoid. After some debate, I agreed we could put the coffee maker on our wedding registry, but I never thought anyone would buy the pricey item. Never say never!
When we opened the present, we both burst out laughing – Jeanne was excited to have her new “toy”, and I was cracking up at having to eat my words. The really funny thing is that once I discovered that they make tea, chai, and hot chocolate k-cups, I started using the Keurig more than Jeanne does!
So you would think that we would learn to never say never. Today, I took a quiz that is supposed to tell you what state best matches your personality. It told me my best match was Utah. Really? I can never see myself moving there. We’ll see what happens… because I should never say never!