Marriage changes you, they say.
I spent my Saturday running back and forth between the bride's room and the groom's room, playing wedding photographer-imp in an aging green dress, shoes tight and clacking mercilessly against the tile floor. By virtue of my sex I was allowed in the bride's room, and through marriage and friendship was allowed to hang out in the groom's room.
Sequestered, Rick played with his cell phone to stave off the deadly combination of boredom and nervousness, and all we could do was watch. Some life events come with a required dose of nervousness and anticipation, no matter how well we've prepared for them.
We'd played poker for jelly beans the night before, stealing and eating Geof's whenever he turned his back on us, and grinning like fools when we were caught. We laughed and traded insults precisely because the matters of tomorrow were so important.When Rick smiles it is boyish; I look at the grown man he is now, with eyes that crinkle when he smiles, and it's not very hard to imagine a boy that used that wide, charming smile to get out of more than a couple of scrapes.
While the groomsmen (my husband included amongst them) were out having their photos taken with Jessica, Rick and I chatted. "Don't let anyone tell you that marriage changes you immediately," I said. "It doesn't. You're going to wake up tomorrow morning and the first thing you're going to think is, 'Oh, I'm married! - But wait, I don't feel any different.' That's normal."
"I know," he said - and smiled.
I wished I could capture that look with my camera, that achingly shining look of such expectancy and hope that caused my breath to catch. Do we all look like that on our wedding day, our hopes and wishes lighting us from within and transparent for all to see? I said nothing, and didn't attempt to catch the moment with a photo; some things only embarrass when they're pointed out.
But later, I thought, walking from the groom's room back to the bride's room, perhaps I'd said it too simply. Marriage changes you in ways you don't even realize. Not immediately, but subtly, insidiously almost, you do change - and if you're lucky, you change together, in tandem. It's difficult not to share a house and a life with someone and not be unaffected by it. Two individuals, no matter how stubborn, solitary, and independent, bend. Accommodate. Learn.
Often without even noticing.
* * * * *
All circular hay balers are not alike; a poorly-made bale sits differently upon the field than a well-made one. Poorly-made bales sink and flatten under their immense weight, often with loose bits of hay falling out of the bale. Well-made ones are tight and round, even at the bottom; instead of sinking toward the ground they look ready to roll away with the slightest nudge.
I don't remember when this knowledge became part of me. All I know now is that it came from Jeff, the son of a part-time cattle farmer, and it is as much a part of me now as the memory of Arkansas' freeway system. If I drive past a newly-baled hay field, my eyes slide over the contours of the bales, making assessment as I drive past.
Sometime in the past eight years, it became part of who I am now.
* * * * *
I discreetly hid myself in the far corner of the church to take photos as Rick and Jessica solemnized their long-extant relationship. I realized early on in the ceremony that my camera was nearly out of battery power, and put my camera down for all but the most essential of shots.
I wondered how their life together would change them. As surely as it changed Jeff and me, it would change them, in ways they could not even imagine while standing in their bridal finery amidst their well-wishers.
After we got home, Jeff packed up his rented tuxedo and gave it to me. I returned it to the store the next day, two hours before the return deadline. I called him to tease him about my 'deciding' not to drop the tuxedo at the side of the road instead of returning it.
He laughed at my silliness and we chatted, idly, as I drove back home. After I hung up, I caught myself staring at the rows of hay bales dotting the landscape and thought, "Hmm. Good baler they've got there."