July 29, 1981. It was almost thirty years ago.
I was sitting in the first house I had ever owned, with my wife of almost two years. We were happy. We were sitting in a small family room in a sunny house in Palm Bay, Florida, watching a small black and white television screen showing the royal wedding of Prince Charles and Lady Diana. The pomp and circumstance that only the British can muster, the glorious music in the huge cathedral, Prince Charles looking handsome in full regalia, and Lady Diana looking impossibly beautiful and far too young to be married.
I looked at my own wife's face. She too still had the peaches and cream complexion of the very young. Her blonde hair crowning her head. We were still very much in love.
She wanted to watch the wedding. She had declared this in a matter of fact voice. She did not need my presence. It was just a declaration of fact - she was going to do this, just so I knew. I was a bit mystified by the allure, being a man to whom other peoples' weddings were not a red letter day. But I was intrigued that she wanted to watch it.
And so we sat on the floor, and watched the wedding. She sat between my legs, my arms around her waist, and my face buried in her hair. Then we watched the pageantry begin:
Royalty and business tycoons, important people, filed in wearing finery of silk and satin, but nothing too ostentatious. The commentators pointed out important people in the government, foreign dignitaries, and assorted dukes and earls and so forth. Then the wedding began - and the music played, and I began understanding what was so magnificent about a royal wedding. The important people and their clothes meant nothing to me, but the music did. It was Handel, of course, something with brilliant brass and tympani and a crash of cymbals. The magnificent organ. The music took my breath away.
Somewhere under the music, the Queen appeared, and then Prince Charles, tall and handsome. Then Lady Diana's long walk down the long aisle, in a white wedding gown with the longest train I have ever seen. The music arching over her, like the stone arches of the cathedral roof above her.
The marriage vows. (I know I am skipping around here, but this is all I can remember.) Did they kiss? I think they did. The presentation of the new couple to Great Britain and the world. Then the long walk to the back of the church.
It will all happen again this morning, in a few hours. The names will change: he will look handsome, and she will be beautiful. The music will probably be the same, or similar. The pomp and circumstance, the sheer correctness of the ceremony will be the same. The British never vary from their sense of propriety much. Marriage vows will be exchanged. He will kiss her. They will walk out together, arm in arm, as did his father and mother, 30 years ago.
The house in Florida is owned by someone else now. The thirteen inch television, a hand-me-down from her parents, has long since been given away. The marriage we had is over. It's been over for six years. I sit here in Virginia. She is somewhere in Africa. Do I miss her smell? Her wavy blonde hair? Her beautiful face? Her gentle demeanor? Yes. Does she miss me? It's impossible to tell.
We will watch this new wedding on separate televisions, separated by an ocean. Separated by years of mistakes, regrets, and sorrows.
That's how it goes sometimes. You watch a happy couple, while remembering your own happiness so very long ago.