“No way! Oh my God, she’s too young—she can’t marry before I do!”
Bridget’s initial reaction was typical among those of my friends. The pending engagement of my teenage daughter Rachel seemed impulsive and premature. My friends were just as surprised as I had been.
Bridget, being Bridget, offered advice on how to approach Rachel gingerly on practical matters. How would the marriage impact on college and other immediate concerns? Are they planning on children in the near future? If so, how would they organize school, work and childrearing?
She also reminded me that marriage is not an irreversible action. If they find that, for whatever reason, they had acted in haste, the young couple could divorce.
“Like a practice marriage,” I nodded.
“Exactly,” she said. “Of course, a practice family is another matter . . .”
“Dear Lord, no,” I winced.
“Poor Snookums,” Bridget consoled. “So, do you have a date for the wedding?”
I told Bridget I’d have to get back to her on that.
“Ha!” Mitzi laughed. “Old man Jefferson! Your daughter is getting married? Seriously? It won’t be long before you’re a . . .”
“ . . . a grandfather!”
“I’m sure of it,” I sighed. “I’ll be a grandfather in my forties.”
“That’s going to seriously cut into your action, old man.”
“I dunno,” I hemmed. “I mean, I’ll still be me . . . and there have been lots of hot younger grandfathers . . . like, John Cougar Mellencamp, he was a rocker grandfather . . .”
Mitzi laughed. “John Cougar Mellencamp? Oh, Jefferson, you really are ancient.”
Okay, so I could expect some ribbing from my friends. I mean, let’s face it—few people in my current circle have children, much less any old enough to contemplate nuptials. If I was already an older fellow, this revelation pushed me closer to geriatrics.
“Oh my dog, are you serious? Are you okay?”
Madeline’s first thoughts were about me.
“That’s sweet of you,” I said. “I’m fine, just, you know, taken aback by the suddenness of it all.”
“She’s so young . . .”
“He’s how old?”
“Shit, I think I have a t-shirt older than that.”
“My leather jacket is about that age,” I realized.
“It’s young . . .”
“Well, Rachel is very smart . . .”
“ . . . and she knows her mind . . .”
“ . . . and she’s very loving, so I’m sure she’ll . . . Jefferson?”
“She’s so young.”
Madeline could share this moment of shock with me. She knows Rachel—they’ve met, and they correspond—so she could appreciate the reality of facing my daughter’s future as a young bride and, possibly, mother. Madeline is also a parent; I was sure she was doing mental calculations to project a moment when her own babies might marry.
Yet even stunned, she thought to ask after me. Madeline is like that.
Rachel, getting married? GREAT!
Wait—not to me???? WTF!!!
Marcus’s reaction was unique. He’s known Rachel for a long time, and she adores him. Before she mentioned Ray’s possible proposal, Rachel had only ever spoken of marriage to Marcus—assuming I didn’t nab him first.
I sent Marcus a note with the news, attaching a picture of Rachel and Ray. In the photograph, she smiles, her braces gleaming under her pink cheeks and white blonde hair, as a dreamy-faced boy with pudgy cheeks rests his head on her shoulder.
They looked happy, very much in love and, to repeat a refrain, like children.
Of course, Marcus was going to have his fun with me.
Tell Rachel I was waiting 'til after we tied the knot to have sex with her. I . . . I thought it was the proper thing to do. And now . . . she's gone and thrown herself to that cheap boytoy. Ugh, he looks . . . absolutely . . .
. . . hunky.
Oooh, Jefferson, I'll bet you're already creamin' your pants. You know you cant have sex wit' yer own, but, th' in-laws, well, that's 'nother story, right?
Boy, you keep that thing in yer pants, y'hear?
I would LOVE to help her celebrate her marriage. But I do wanna get to know him first. It's only right that I sleep with him.
Oooh, I’m so happy for her, if she is really, truly in love, and if he is really a good guy, and if they are not giving up too much of their future for this at such an early age, and if . . . God, I sound like her father.
Still—YAY! for Rachel!
Only Marcus had jumped past anxieties about their youth, past jokes about my future as a grandfather, and past the initial shock to remind me that this was good news for Rachel.
Marcus reminded me to say mazel tov.
On the day after Halloween, Rachel called to let me know that Ray had proposed the night before.
“He was so sweet, Dad,” she breathlessly reported. “We were at a party with our friends; we had been drinking beer and getting high, and it was fun. Then he got down on his knee and proposed in front of everybody. I’ll have to send you pictures.”
“And you said yes?”
“Of course! I love him, Dad.”
“Then I am very happy for you, baby. Very happy. You should be so well loved.”
“Thanks, Dad. Are you still going to break my teeth?”
“No, you can keep your teeth. You’ll need them to hold diaper pins.”
“Thanks, I’m kind of attached to my teeth,” she laughed. “I’m getting the braces off soon, actually.”
“Good, then you won’t look thirteen in the wedding pictures.”
“I know,” she giggled.
“And how’s your mother taking the news? And Bill, and the kids?”
“Everyone is very happy that I’m so happy. They like Ray. You have to meet him, Dad. He’s so great.”
“Y’all need to come to New York so he can meet me and the kids. Speaking of the kids, do you mind if I tell them the news? Or do you want to break it?”
“You can tell them. I’m so busy telling people, and I don’t really know what to say to them.”
“I haven’t told my parents yet.”
“I already phoned Honey, this morning, and sent her a picture. She said Ray looked twelve.”
“Nah, with the sideburns he looks at least fifteen and a half. Anyway, if my mother gives you any lip, you remind her that she was already married and knocked up at eighteen.”
“That’s true, wow.”
“And my parents have always been reasonably content. So it can work to marry young.”
“I guess so.”
“Hey, listen, if I tell the kids, that means I have to tell their mother. Or do you want to tell Lucy?”
Rachel paused. “Would you tell her, Dad? She’s going to be mean. Anyway, I haven’t talked to her in a while.”
“I’ll tell her.” I had to say a few things more. “You know, baby, you are awfully young to get married . . .”
“I know, everyone says so.”
“You can always wait until you graduate. You could just be engaged.”
“I know, but we want to get married, and we love each other, so . . .”
“Baby, you don’t owe anyone any explanations. It’s your life. You can marry the man you love, and we can all be happy for you.”
“Mind you, this doesn’t mean you have to rush to set a date.”
She laughed. “Next summer, Dad. I don’t know when.”
“Next summer? So, like, in nine months I get a new son?”
“I hadn’t thought of that,” she laughed again.
“I have a son in the oven!” I exclaimed.
“I’m glad you are so excited,” she giggled.
“It’s exciting. Now, I may need to reserve a pew for the ceremony—you know, for my kids and my dates. Let’s see, that’s Bridget, Madeline, Marcus . . .”
“Oh, I guess you get to marry Marcus now. I hadn’t thought of that either.”
“Snooze you lose, baby. No worries: it looks like you’ve got a good substitute.”
“Yeah, he’ll do.”
“Baby, I love you very much. I’m proud of you for taking a chance on love and marriage. And I can’t wait to meet the newest member of our family.”
We made plans for her to bring Ray to New York for New Year’s Eve.
We gave each other love and signed off.
I felt glad for Rachel. She was so thrilled at the prospect of tying the knot with her man. She had such passion for loving Ray, and such a great capacity to love and to be loved.
To her, any other objections were merely obstacles to be overcome.
I checked in the kids. They slept soundly. I tucked Lillie’s leg back under her blanket, and moved Collie’s teddy bear from his face.
The next day, I would call their mother with the news.