I went to a wedding this weekend and saw something I’d never seen.
When my younger brother Joe married Cynthia, their entire wedding party was made up of children (all right, some teenagers, too), including his two sons, and her daughter and son.
It gave an unmistakable charm to the proceeding. I got to wondering why that was — other than that they all looked so good in their formal clothes, and that they all managed to stand still for the duration of the ceremony.
But there also was something of a joy-after-hardship kind of message. It wasn’t the first marriage for bride or groom, and that means that the kids certainly have had trials, too.
But here were all these — new (step) brothers and sisters, and more than that, new cousins for my children, and they smiled and stood and later ripped around the reception and played together. They were living examples of the cliche, “life of the party.”
It wasn’t an accident. When Joe proposed, he didn’t do it at a Valentine’s Day dinner as Cynthia had expected, but in the living room of his home, with all four of their children in the room.
Roger Angell is a favorite writer of mine, and he’s never better than when he’s just talking about his life, from childhood to senior status. Looking back at the remarriages in his extended family — his own step-father was E.B. White — he acknowledged that the way things played out is “not what its members would have invented for themselves as children. But we cannot now unimagine the new fathers and step-aunts and half-brothers or sisters and half-grandnieces that sit around the family tables on a Thanksgiving, or wish for a life for ourselves that did not include unexpected attachments.”
I guess seeing all those new relations up there was an unexpected pleasure.
My brother, Joe, is known as Joe Johnson in Salt Lake City, where he co-hosts a popular morning radio program. He’s never had a straight answer for anything. On one of those interview videos that couples now do — answering questions about their past to be played during the reception time on video screens around the hall — Joe described asking Cynthia out for their first date this way: “I had climbed up on a Ferris Wheel she was on and was just there, hanging onto the bar, and I said I wouldn’t let go until she said she would go out with me.”
So it was moving to hear the sincere vows he wrote, because those of us who know him well know what it took for him to say them. And in Cynthia, we saw a flash of writing talent that maybe we hadn’t expected when she promised to be faithful for better or for worse, “in good ratings and in bad.”
Love stories take all shapes. And perhaps they’re the one kind of story in which fiction cannot outdo fact.
A WORD ABOUT A LOVE SONG
Chilton Price wrote a love song that is burned into the memory of fans from the 1950s and beyond: “You Belong to Me.”
See the pyramids along the Nile
Watch the sunrise on a tropic isle
Just remember darlin’ all the while
You belong to me
Mrs. Price is a native of Louisville, lived here in Fern Creek, played violin for the Louisville Orchestra and worked in the music library and WAVE radio.
And she did something that many of us would kill to do. She created a song that captured hearts. It was a No. 1 song in both the U.S. and the U.K. in 1953. Five years later, it resurfaced on Billboard’s rock charts when a cover version by The Duprees went to No. 7.
Since then, it has been covered by such diverse singers as Patsy Cline, Bing Crosby, Bob Dylan and Tori Amos.
In October, Mrs. Price will receive the long overdue honor of the Governor’s Awards in the Arts for writing.
I met Mrs. Price just once, at my sister Andrea’s wedding. There she shook my hand and was kind enough to encourage me on a bit of verse of mine that she had seen. It meant a great deal, coming from someone who achieved every writer’s dream — a piece so memorable, it will live forever.
Want more? Here’s the last love story I told here.