The New York trip wasn’t one of those that you take to see theatre, eat in exclusive restaurants or run around Manhattan looking for the best chocolate. It was a quick trip, go on Wednesday and return on Friday. I didn’t think we needed to stay longer since I wasn’t in the mood for traveling and I had much to do at home. It was more like a “take care of business” trip because after forty years of M and me being together it was time to become a legal couple. In fact, our accountant strongly encouraged us to move forward on this so that we could use joint tax returns. It also allows a little less worry that our wills are safe from being contested after the first one of us dies. For years we both felt that a piece of paper meant nothing….that the bond begins and stays in the heart. Unfortunately, that isn’t too practical when you can do something about it now. And so we went!!
Our friend in New York, punctually picked us up at La Guardia soon after we landed. Our plane arrived early which gave us more time in the afternoon than we thought so we headed off to the city clerk’s office to get a license. The Clerk’s office was on the lower level of the building and as we rounded the corner and entered the room realized we were a part of countless other couples waiting to do the same thing.
M became agitated after an hour wait and felt we should leave and do everything the following day at another clerk’s office in Great Neck. I strongly suggested that we stay and see it through. Finally, a clerk called us, looked over our papers, printed the needed license and requested the thirty-five dollar fee. He suggested we start early the next morning since we needed to get a waiver from a judge so that the ceremony could be within twenty-four hours.
The next day we were up early to get the waiver signed first. M’s sister, our witness, drove us to our first stop. Once there we found little parking and the huge government building didn’t have any parking lot. While his sister found parking we began asking where we had to go and found that we were too early and had to wait for the office to open. In a room labeled “help desk” we found waiver forms. Once filled we needed to go to the fifth floor of this large city building. There were 6 elevators in which 4 were inoperable. M rushed forward, got into an elevator and by the time I got there the door closed.
After a fifteen minute wait the second elevator arrived so that I could go upstairs. A turtle goes faster than the elevator. Nearly 10 minutes later I arrived on the 5th floor. M was waiting for me. The judge’s clerk told me to sit. While waiting M said his elevator didn’t have lights to show the floors before the door opens. On each floor people had to pile off the elevator to see the floor they were on. He also said that the clerk said we should have a better reason for needing a waiver than the one listed. Down stairs I said to write that I needed to return to Florida the next day for ChemoTherapy. He didn’t think that was necessary, although, the clerk told him he should state my condition and it would be recognized as a valid reason to return. It worked. Next we needed to go back downstairs, get the paperwork signed by a notary and then return to the first office and have it stamped with the city seal.
As we drove to the courthouse where we got the original certificate we hoped the wait time for the solemnization ceremony wouldn’t be long. When we entered the little waiting room we saw it filled with many couples, many more than were there the day before. We waited for a clerk to call us to check all of our paperwork was complete and then pay the $25,00 fee for the ceremony. At that point there was nothing else to do than wait and wait and wait and wait for a call telling us it was our turn.
There were all kinds of couples waiting. One expectant bride, a very pretty, very tall woman had on a chiffon micro dress with a tiny belt that tied behind her waist. If she had only asked I would have gladly gone shopping with her!!! Then another couple brought a bouquet of beautiful flowers to use in the ceremony. They had the flowers in a glass vase. Security said the glass vase was unsafe in a public building since someone could break the vase and use it as a weapon to slit someone’s throat!! The flowers, taken out of the face, then wrapped in a towel began to wilt as time passed. Looking at them wilting reminded me how I felt I looked!!
Once, while we were waiting, a woman came out from the back with a long black dress on and a velvet shawl secured by a very sparkly rhinestone pin. She called out a name and then chastised the couple for not responding to her or for not noticing their names flashing on a large TV screen signaling it was their time for their ceremony. Since she was the officiating judge for the ceremonies we all thought she was not very polite nor understanding because the room was noisy and that none of the TV’s were on showing any information. Shortly after this she took a break, with dozens of people waiting, and remained unavailable for a very long time.
When she returned she called out for another couple. By chance M heard her and told her that it was us that she called. First she looked at M’s sister assuming she was the other part of the couple, but then Martin pointed to me. A look of confusion formed on her face. As usual M needed to clarify that my surname ends in “cis” and the same name for a female end in “ces“. Quickly, the look of confusion changed to a warm smile and she whisked us into the chapel (?) a room completely barren of furniture except for her podium. While we were with her she made sure we were comfortable, knew what she was going to do, figured out that M’s sister was the witness and was very successful at making three ordinary minutes special and worthwhile despite the memory of the long times we spent waiting!
It is amazing how much time it takes to get all the necessary papers together to have a three-minute ceremony to tie a knot that will wrap up the deal!! My advice to everyone is to hire a wedding consultant, pour glasses of Champagne for yourself, kick off your shoes, lean back and wait until everything is ready for you!!