Our Silly Ceremony–10 Year Anniversary

Ten years ago today, I married my best friend. Ten years ago today, Nancy Durant and I pledged our undying love to each other in front of a gathering of family and friends. 

 Ten years ago today, we partied into the early morning hours, ecstatic to have the love and support, not only of each other, but also of my parents, Nancy’s father, her sisters,

my children, our neighbors, co-workers. On that sunny and warm September day ten years ago, there wasn’t anyone in our world—whether they attended our celebration or not—who did not wish us well.

And even though we, and everyone who attended our commitment ceremony, believed wholeheartedly in our love and in our future together, we dubbed our wedding The Silly Ceremony. We made signs that we put up at the venue that said “This way to Pam and Nan’s Silly Ceremony.” We put the signs up in our driveway, pointing reception attendees to our backyard. We welcomed everyone with hugs and a drink and a “thanks for coming to our Silly Ceremony.”

And it was funny (odd funny, not haha funny) because ten years ago not everyone asked “why Silly Ceremony?” Some did. But not everyone. These days, when we refer to the SC (and we do still refer to it that way), most folks look askance, horrified even, and don’t need to say anything at all before we jump in and explain exactly why our commitment ceremony/wedding became The Silly Ceremony. In the past ten short years same sex marriage has become very Serious Business.
Nancy, Pam, and Pam’s parents
So, how did The Silly Ceremony come to be? Long story long: Fittingly, since both of us had careers in IT, Nancy and I met online in early 2000, on PlanetOut.com. We corresponded via email and instant message for several months before meeting in person that July.  Our first date was an Indigo Girls concert on the pier in Seattle. A cliché? Maybe. But, it was also pretty much love at first date.
Just months before I met Nancy, my parents divorced after 38 years together. My father remarried the following spring, and Nancy accompanied me to the weekend-long event. It wasn’t the first family gathering we attended as a couple, and in fact it was our second family wedding (Nancy and I attended my cousin’s wedding in Vancouver in September 2000), but it was the first family event where, I think, our love and commitment to each other was obvious. And, over the course of the weekend, shared meals, long conversations, and non-stop celebrating, Nancy won the hearts of my extended family. She was, everyone agreed, a Keeper.
(my brother, drinking), Nancy’s sister Lynn (left), Nancy

One person (who shall remain anonymous), pulled me aside that weekend to extol Nancy’s virtues and then in the next breath said, “But, you guys aren’t going to have one of those silly ceremonies are you?”
I wasn’t as offended then as I might be now. I was mostly just grateful that I had a family that welcomed not only me but my girlfriend as well. I was thankful that I could attend family gatherings without hiding who I was or whom I loved. I recognized that I was very blessed.
After we had dated for a couple of years, after Nancy (who lived in a lovely condo in Kirkland) moved in with me (me! who had two kids, a recent and acrimonious divorce, shaky finances, and lived in Bellingham!), once it was clear, as one good friend said to me, that we were like a good old pair of comfortable shoes with each other, we decided, indeed, to have a Silly Ceremony.
Seriously Silly Brides

Well, That’s A Lot of Words!

This is my first actual week of being a stay at home writer (SAHW, as opposed to a SAHM—an acronym I learned just this morning). I’ve been thinking about writing a lot these past four weeks, but this is my first week at home since I quit my job at the end of July. I’ve been busy flitting about the countryside. And doing other creative things in an attempt to jump start my writing. I made this linocut thingy last night, dabbling in some of my favorite subjects: religion and psychopharmaceuticals.

INRIRX (copyright Pamela Helberg)
In anticipation and in spite of staying up really late working on whatever this is (I’ve titled in INRI RX), I woke up at five this morning, ready to go. But my eyes were gritty and I couldn’t concentrate, so I tweaked my platform a bit (i.e. I monitored Twitter), played some Gin Rummy on my phone, and gave it another shot closer to 8 a.m.  I got a good four hours of work in, a couple thousand words. But, man, it was a slog.
There’s this thing that happens when I write—I tend to get all Hemingway-esque (or so I’m told) and scrimp on the details. When I am sitting there, trying to tap into my feelings, trying to fill in descriptions (of people, the landscape, the room, my state of mind) I think to myself “well, that’s a lot of words. Who would want to read that much about me or what I think?” It’s so hard, this telling of my story, trying to figure out what people need to know, what they don’t. What makes for an interesting tale as opposed to what has actually happened to me. So, I’ve been practicing just writing it all down, every little detail, as much as I can remember, regardless of how personal, how minute. I figure what the hell, at least I’ll have some material to work with.
I pulled out my notes from a few months ago, from when my writing group critiqued this chapter, the one I’m currently working on. Nearly to a person, my writing buddies all said basically the same thing: that it is really three chapters, not one. This is not 15 pages, more like 50 pages.
So I started grinding out the details the best I could this morning, trying to get my first 100 pages reworked in order to send it out to a prospective agent, and a funny thing happened. This huge thematic thread just opened up, burst forth so unexpectedly I nearly wept.
I was just writing along, trying to make my undergraduate years sound somewhat intriguing, getting the words out there knowing that I could go back and add some shape later. That nagging voice (on one shoulder) was nattering away at me the whole time: “who cares that you were an English major? Who cares that you loved your 19th Century Poetry instructor? Why are you writing that? That’s so stoopit!”
On my other shoulder was this guy: “You were so ignorant then. You really wasted your life. What a shame. Too bad you didn’t get it together sooner. Think of what you could have accomplished.” I shoved them both to the background and continued on, writing (inexplicably really, since I haven’t ever written about this) about my English classes, and I came to Victorian Lit and Jude the Obscureand Dr. Meredith Cary, professor extraordinaire.
Jude Fawley. Sue Bridehead. Scholarship. Religion. Sex. Illicit relationships. Depression. I mean, OH MY GOD! Could my muse have whacked me upside the head any harder?
So this is why we sit our butts in the chair and try to quiet those damn voices, for moments like these, when we have all these impossibly unrelated events and plot points and suddenly it all starts to make sense, to coalesce.
(I can’t believe it took me this long to figure it out. Think how much further along I’d be if I’d done it sooner.)