'You're old enough," my younger daughter told me. "You can do whatever you want." I'd asked her, in a tactful, roundabout way, whether she had any feelings on the subject of the hows and whens of Elaine's and my intended marriage. Should we do it now or later, in Maine, where I lived? Or on Long Island, where she was selling her house? And whom should we invite? Everyone or no one? Or something in-between?
We had gone so far as to try to pick out wedding invitations, but after looking through two huge books, Elaine gave up in despair. Only the year before she had done this with her own daughter. "It just doesn't feel right," she said. I would have put it even more strongly: All we wanted was to be married. The rest was inconsequential.
We canvassed the other children, but they weren't any more help. They couldn't seem to put their minds to it. So one day we decided to sneak off to a justice of the peace. We would announce the event to the children the next day: Christmas.
"What do we need to bring?" I asked the clerk.
"Your wedding license," she said. "Two witnesses, and $25."
"We want to keep it quiet," I said. "Can't we just get a couple of people out of the county jail?"
"No," she said. "You'll have to trust two of your friends."
Mary Grace and John agreed to stand up for us. "We'll have lunch afterward," I said. "Just a small, informal affair."
Ms. Boggs, the county clerk, was a medium-sized, pleasant-looking woman who exuded efficiency and charm. She led us from her office to a small courtroom down the hall. "This is where we usually do these things," she said.
"Do you get many people like us?" I said. "Older types?"
"Not many," she said. "Mostly kids, who can't afford an elaborate ceremony," Then she lined us up and the service began.
"'Dearly beloved ...."
WHEN it was over, and she pronounced us "man and wife," I became conscious that Elaine, like me, had tears in her eyes. I thanked Ms, Boggs and complimented her on how well she had delivered the lines.
"Well, I'm a bit of a romantic," she said. "I try to give it all I've got."
I almost said, "Well, what you've got is a lot," but I settled for a smile. And a warm handshake. And forked over the $25.
What's odd is how irresponsible we felt. "No parents to deal with," I said.
"No responsibilities," said Elaine.
"And double the income!" We laughed. "We're worth it," I said, mimicking the ad. It was like being an adolescent again - a spoiled one at that. But without the complications of being young.