Sunday, June 7, 2015

2015.06.07 A Love Passed On

Dear Mom and Dad,

Today would mark your 80th wedding anniversary.  Happy Anniversary!

Are you still married? (You see I'm still asking impossible questions.) Or is there no marriage in heaven, as Jesus said. Still, you told me that your marriage was “made in heaven.”  I believed that, even when it didn’t always look so heavenly to me. Heaven or no heaven, I thought you had it all, and I’d stare at your glamorous wedding photos in awe.  

You were married June 7, 1935  at St. Bartholomew’s Episcopal church in New York City. The 1930s was a hopeful time. The Great Depression had passed and Daddy would make money as a “Mad man.” New York City was also filled with poverty, increases in labor riots, strikes, grief, and post-Depression traumatic stress. The nation had listened to President Herbert Hoover spout platitudes about patience and self-reliance while Europe was hissing like a pressure cooker about to explode, and FDR was about to plunge in with wake-up calls to the nation. In that interlude you were married—a tough context for high hopes and happy hearts.

I am so grateful that you, Mom, saved so much memorabilia—silly stuff, I thought, yet simply a sign of your frivolous temperament, so clashingly different from my serious one. And to you, Dad, for helping the project along. Now I cherish it all. It's personal memories that keep us alive. If they're bad we can put them in context and to rest, and if they are good they will enliven our hearts forever.

I have your marriage book, Bridal Chimes published in 1934. The first entry, two days before your wedding, reads:  “The last flower Dee gave me before we were married.”  The flowers, all brittle and brown with age, are still pressed there with this note: “To Peggy darling from Dee, who loved her.”

No details were spared in this record of wedding attendants, gifts, and guests. The romantic headlines and photos of engagement and marriage reveal a culture, a class, and a relationship: “Parents Announce Troth of Peggy Adams, Debutante of ’32, to McDonald Gillespie.” (You even made The New York Times, not then your newspaper of choice.) With sadness I noted that only one maternal parent announced the engagement of her daughter. Your dad died when you were twelve, Mom. Did you wish he were walking you up the aisle?  Did you wish he could meet your handsome groom?  

According to columnist, Cholly Knickerbocker in the Dec. 16, 1934 N.Y. American, this “promised” bride, a popular member of our “junior set,” was “one of the loveliest brides society  has gazed upon.” Oh Mom, how romantic, how lush and you look like a movie star!  And you, Dad,with all your shiny academic credentials from Taft and Yale, were apparently no social slouch, your Morristown, N.J. family moving in  “a very exclusive set.”  Whew!

The wedding announcement itself in the N.Y Mirror reads: “Cupid Scores Again With a June Wedding” The photo caption reads: “ADORING (yes in all caps) is the look which the bride, the former Miss Peggy Adams Gillespie, gives her husband, McDonald Gillespie, as they smilingly leave St. Bartholomew’s Church. Following a reception in the Adams’ home, the newlyweds left for their honeymoon in the Adirondacks.”  Altogether a heavenly-looking couple of the day.