My parents were married at 2pm on 21 January 1951, at the Russian Eastern Orthodox Cathedral of the Ascension, in New York City. The wedding reception was held immediately afterward on Park Avenue, at the home of my grandparents. It was a Sunday. The day was fair, although windy and at 2pm the temperature was a brisk 4.5C. There was no snow.
My father wore a slim black suit. My mother wore a white dress made of French silk. It had long sleeves and a full skirt. Years later she altered the dress to fit me for my wedding. After my father died and I cleared out his house, the dress was lost. It must have been in one of the trunks I gave to the second-hand shop.
There are hardly any photographs of the wedding. My mother told me a friend of theirs, who was a professional photographer, was meant to take the photos. For whatever reason he passed this responsibility to his son on the day of the wedding. The son was not a professional photographer. The photos he took were either blurred or too over developed to be useful. So my parents had to rely on the photos taken by their friends.
According to a small notebook my father kept, which documented his life in point form from his birth to the year before I was born, my parents first met on 29 October 1950. It was just over a year since he had landed in America, an immigrant escaping what was left of Germany after the war. My father told me they were introduced by mutual friends. He also told me that my mother was determined to marry him. Whatever happened, they were engaged five days later.
My father had been engaged once before. In 1947 he had proposed by letter to a girl he had met seven years earlier in Berlin. Her family had immigrated to Canada. They had kept up their correspondence and my father had thought that getting engaged by post would be both interesting and different. In 1949, just as he began his new life, he broke the engagement off.
Five days. Every time I think of it I have to pause. My parents knew each other for less than a week before they were engaged. What were they thinking? And what were my grandparents thinking to allow the engagement to go ahead? Just over two months after their engagement they were married. My father was 31 years old when they were married, my mother was three years younger. By today’s standards, their ages would not matter but at the time one can assume my mother was considered an old maid. Was her age a factor in my grandparents agreeing to the marriage?
To give them their due, my parents remained married until death did part them in 2005, when my mother passed away in a nursing home. Theirs was not always an easy marriage, they had plenty of rocky patches. Nor was my mother happy at all times. I know that on at least one occasion, my father threatened to leave. I imagine the only reason they stayed together was because my mother did not believe in divorce. Nine years after they were married I was born.