Perhaps, like the shapely (round) body I’ve been gifted, the Matrimony Gene skips a generation. All I know is that my grandmothers also loved to marry, and are two of the women I admire most.
As I’ve said here before, I’ve been married thrice.
Once to the father of my children (your requisite late-teen starter marriage); once to a man I barely knew (what happens in Vegas sometimes follows you home and wants to live with you); and once to a friend for health insurance and stability (we tried getting naked a handful of times, but it’s never a good idea to bone a friend, friends).
But, I come by my love of matrimony honestly.
While my mother and father have been married to each other for 41 years, each of their mothers are like Elizabeth Taylor–more in their collection of husbands than jewels.
My father’s mother stands at four (though the number is up for debate among family members, who remember relationships of different lengths, but not if a ring was or was not involved). But I missed out on the good stuff. My paternal grandfather, the man who spawned my father and his six siblings, passed away when my father was small, and my grandmother’s paramours were taken, for the most part, before I was born. Or, at least, before I remember.
Since I’ve known her, the woman we call Grandma-Mom has been an independent, single lady. Too early for Beyoncé, but had the Andrews Sisters written anthems about such inspiring ladies, they surely would have composed one just for her. A cocktail waitress with seven tiny mouths to feed, she was that thing before it was cool (or given a reality show).
But, she grew into it.
My mother’s mother, the lady I just call Grandma, was married three times, that I recall. She and my grandfather split up when my mom was just a teen, but she gave me two supercool step-grandpas, while I was growing up.
My first step-grandpa (we just called him Ray) was a hard-drinkin’, partying man, with a bawdy sense of humor. He had a riotous laugh and wasn’t shy about slapping my grandma on the ass when she walked by. They both employed by the USPS and I remember them having parties with their coworkers that were like something out of Mad Men: beer rather than scotch, laughter, vinyl LPs & dancing, jokes that made my grandma gasp “not in front of the children!” I’m not sure what happened between Grandma and Ray (I was only 11 when they split up and not at all adept at figuring out how relationships work), and I don’t think it would do me a bit of good to know. What if he wasn’t as great as I remember? What if she was getting her letters stamped by another postman? Some things are better left foggy with warm fuzzies attached.
After Grandma and Ray divorced, she moved from our hometown of San Diego to a tiny town in South Dakota and married a man who was Ray’s exact opposite. My second step-grandfather, Melvin (much to our amusement, she had gone from being married to a mailman, to being married to Mel Mann), was a sincere, folksy man who wore overalls and worked for the railroad and hadn’t an ironic bone in his body.
Grandma and Mel’s house was charming. Tiny and homey, with a big garden where my grandma grew vegetables that–thanks to canning–we could enjoy all year, and comfy chenille bedspreads with interesting knot patterns whose dots could be connected and counted by a little girl with budding OCD. I loved visiting them because their town was like Mayberry, a small, simple place where everybody knew everyone and kids could still run the streets on summer nights, clad only in shorts, tube tops, and mosquito bites.
When Mel died a few years later, Grandma was devastated. Though she’s met nice men since, she’s maintained the independence that she had to build after being left alone. Her strong woman anthem would be sung by Doris Day.
It’s been ten years since I was married to anyone, and, while I believe in true love, I don’t know that I’ll ever be walking down the aisle, again. The strength that I’ve gained from a decade of building a life for my two children and me is not terribly flexible or permeable, making romantic relationships difficult. I know there’s a possibility of the walls coming down when the kids are grown and I’m free to relax a little, but I’m not holding my breath.
So, I guess, really, I come by two things, honestly, both my love of matrimony and the resulting fierce independence. Quite a legacy, and one of which I couldn’t be prouder.