Where are the Flowers?

It was 32 years since I was in the American Legion Hall in Madison, Connecticut. My first impulse was to look for World War I German helmets, or flowers on the mantle that now held other memorabilia and souvenirs.

My oldest daughter, Lisa and her husband, Matthew, planned to have a lawn wedding at our home, in June 1982. Lisa arranged for personal flowers for the family, but didn’t think that we needed flowers for an outdoor wedding with foliage all about. This was the year of the “hundred year flood”, and we experienced torrential rains for better than one whole week. We had ordered a large tent, for the reception, which fell down on the Thursday preceding the event. The proprietor assured us that if the rain stopped and the lawn dried before Sunday, he would put up the tent.

On Sunday, June 6, it was still pouring and everything was sopping wet. In fact, a neighbor was married in the yard of her home, on Saturday. Everyone took their shoes off and danced in the mud.

We called upon friends who found a dry place for the nuptials, the Madison Legion Hall. I grabbed toilet paper and paper toweling, just in case, when I went to check the hall out early Sunday morning. There was a portrait of President Ronald Reagan hung above the wooden mantle of the stone fireplace that displayed captured World War I helmets. There was a collection of rifles on the walls. I told my daughter that the room was rather dreary and needed some flowers. None of the local florists were able to help us. Lisa called Matthew and he drove up with a station wagon loaded with iris, peonies, and rhododendrons from his father’s garden. Lisa’s friends from Wales, Helen and Terrance, filled vases with flowers for the tables. They hid the helmets and covered the mantle and the entire room with flowers, transforming the space.

We couldn't hide the gun racks.

We couldn’t hide the gun racks.

 

About one hundred members of the family and guests, who were not discouraged by the weather, crowded into our living room for the ceremony. We served cold hors d’oeuvres in the dining room before adjoining to the reception.

The caterer pulled everything together; a tour de force, “The band played on”, and everyone danced. The weatherman provided sunshine, later in the day, and we were able to take pictures out of doors.

In the middle of May this year, on a beautiful spring evening, I represented Killingworth as a delegate to the State Senatorial Convention, held at the Legion Hall in Madison, to nominate a candidate for the State Senate. During the span of 32 years, the hall had undergone renovations and rejuvenation. The room is now is spacious and welcoming. It has the feeling of a community center rather than a shrine to militarism. I could only visualize the hall full of the flowers and helmets!

The delegates were enthusiastic about their candidate, Ted Kennedy Jr., nominated-for-12th-district-state-senate-race son of the late Senator Edward Kennedy. Ted reminds one of his father, minus the Massachusetts accent. Kennedy, an attorney, specializes in Health Law. Although he never held public office, he has actively, promoted improved health services. With his capability and commitment, he should be a strong force on the State Senate.AR-140519435.jpg&maxh=400&maxw=667

The newlyweds were excited about a new life, together, sharing their dreams.

The delegates were excited about the new candidate, who, if elected would see that his constituents had a voice in the Connecticut State Legislature.

 

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Achoo!

Recently, our children helped Marty and I celebrate our 60th   wedding anniversary, with assistance from practically all the grandchildren and great grandchildren.

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The Klein Sibling Quartet

The Klein Sibling Quartet

 

Our children cooked a delicious lunch and Madeline; the family pastry chef supplied two scrumptious cakes that were devoured. They roasted and toasted us. They put on a multi-vintage slide show and ran a black and white silent film of our wedding.

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Although the cast of characters has changed, believe me, some things never change. On the day of our anniversary celebration, Marty and I were fighting fierce colds and I refrained from kissing the guests, especially the little ones. April 4th, 1954 was a blustery, cold day. After running around with bare shoulders I was coughing and sneezing in tune with the band.

On the first day of our honeymoon we drove to Macon, Georgia and visited old friends of Marty’s, Bunnie and Vera Godfrey.

After 60 years Vera reminds me of the beautiful onyx tray that I sent them from Mexico. After 60 years I’m still grateful for Vera’s gift of the box of cough drops that saved my life.

 

 

 

I Now Pronounce You- Married!

For more than 30 years, I’ve served as a Justice of the Peace. The town has 15 appointed Justices of the Peace who have the authority to exercise their jurisdiction throughout the state. Arrests are part of the J.P.’s job description, but I’m happy to let sheriffs and other law enforcement agents does that. Luckily I haven’t had to make any arrests.  I have notarized countless legal documents but by far my most favorite task is officiating at weddings.

Forget the Hollywood image of the Justice, clad in a wool plaid bathrobe and carpet slippers, answering the door at 2:00 A.M to unite an eloping couple in wedlock.  Even weddings that are of short notice are usually well planned. The ceremonies and receptions vary from very simple to elaborate and the principals are in beautiful wedding attire. People of all ages and backgrounds find that a Justice of the Peace serves their needs. Many like to plan their own ceremony and don’t want a religious service. Also, a justice’s fees are less than that of a clergyman.

Of all the family nuptials that I performed, a niece and nephew’s ceremony was indeed unique. Since the bride’s parents were away, they decided to postpone the reception to a date when her parents could participate. They requested a small service with only the groom’s parents as witnesses.  I prepared only the closing statements, and even this was more than they wanted. I was accommodating, and simply pronounced them, Husband and Wife. My sister-in-law and brother-in-law apologized because their children were unappreciative. It was their marriage and I wanted to please them. They did show their appreciation by giving me a gift; a book on contemporary wedding ideas, which subsequent couples have found invaluable. To compensate for the brief service, they recited a lengthy treatise, at the reception, about their reasons for tying the knot.

Usually I meet with my clients a couple of times before the event. We talk about their preferences and I let them borrow books with numerous ceremonies and ideas. I encourage them to be creative, and even conduct the service themselves, if they choose. My obligation is to pronounce them united in matrimony, sign the marriage license, and be certain that the license is filed with the municipality, where the union took place. I present the newlyweds with a printed copy of the service in a folder, along with a souvenir “Marriage Certificate” that I create on the computer. The certificate has no legal status but serves as indication, if needed, that they are married, since it bears my signature. Some couples present me with a printed copy of their ceremony. I save these to show other couples seeking advice on how to write their own vows. After the wedding vows are sealed, I am the first to congratulate each party with a kiss. I admit; I’m a sentimentalist and can’t be trusted not to cry.

I’ve conducted quite a number of weddings at two nearby picturesque locations. One is in front of the water wheel at Chatfield Hollow State Park. These weddings are usually followed by a barbeque reception. Hammanasset State Park, on the Long Island Sound, is another popular choice. I recently performed a wedding on a hill, at Hammanasset, where Long Island can be sited. The bride, in her late 40’s, was previously married and had a family. The groom was a bachelor in his fifties. He toasted his new bride with a promise that they would be able to enjoy a long loving life together, even though they married at a later age. He had the guests in stitches, as he described the medical breakthroughs, which would make this possible.

Connecticut honors same sex marriages, yet I have not had the opportunity to unite couples of the same sex. The examples of same sex ceremonies, included in the newest manual for J.P.s are similar to other ceremonies with a few changes in the wording. As in all weddings, we consider the couple’s preferences. Another Justice, from Killingworth, had performed both gay and lesbian marriages, and described her emotions to me. This is a population that has struggled for recognition and equality, doesn’t take their marriages lightly, but cherishes the rights they’ve won to be married to their loved ones.

A good friend of mine wanted me to do her wedding but she and her fiancé moved to Virginia and planned to be married there.  Disappointed, I explained that I could only work within the boundaries of Connecticut. Her reply? “I’ll figure something out” and she did. She hired a Virginia magistrate, and for $45.00, he signed the marriage license. Although I was accompanied by my husband, down the aisle, I stood at the alter with the magistrate, and the bride and groom. I read the ceremony; he pronounced them “husband and wife”. He congratulated them, wished them luck and left. I kissed the entire wedding party and enjoyed the reception.

My oldest daughter, Lisa’s wedding was a reverse situation. My son-in-law requested the services of a Rabbi, a friend from college. Although Steve was able to fulfill the religious requirements of the marriage he was unable to comply with state regulations because he was still a student and was not yet ordained. . As a J.P. I was legally qualified to perform a civil service, and their wedding license bears my signature.

I’ll never forget my son David’s marriage to Ioulia.  David’s bride was from Russia and she had time limits on her visa. They wanted me to conduct the ceremony; we set the date for May 18th. During April, of that year, my husband and I were in Bolivia, on a poultry project for Aid to International Development. Marty wanted to extend the project and I explained that we had to be home in time for David and Ioulia’s wedding. We arrived home on May 2nd. Marty was already asleep when David asked me if I could perform the service that evening because their marriage license was about to expire. We woke Marty up and married David and Ioulia in our kitchen.

Since Ioulia had no family or friends in the United States, they wanted a home wedding with just the immediate family present and a “Thanksgiving Dinner.” They consented to a guest list including 22 of the closest family members. On May 18th the weather cooperated and we repeated the same service that was performed on May 2nd, under the trees on our lawn. The bride wore a lovely emerald green silk dress. They didn’t mention flowers so I just bought Ioulia a small bouquet. In adherence to the Russian tradition, Ioulia gave flowers to each of the female guests. The formalities were followed by hors d’oeuvres on the patio. Dinner was as delicious as any home cooked meal could be, and David’s younger sister, Madeline, made the wedding cake.  weddingIMG_2765

If you want to get married in Connecticut, give me a call!