I was initially going to entitle this entry FORTY-FIVE, but I thought too many of you would think it’s about Him.
So I came up with something else.
Today is Eileen and my forty-fifth anniversary, and I wanted to write something to commemorate this achievement.
When I wrote A Bronx Boy’s Tale, I intended to chronicle my life from the day of the Kennedy assassination when I was in the eighth grade until Eileen, and I got married.
My story ended much as it had begun with me leaving 1261 Leland Avenue and taking in the glory that was The Bronx. When in 1963 I was on my way to Blessed Sacrament School, I was now on my way to Blessed Sacrament Church to get married.
Aside from a conclusion about our kids, that is how A Bronx Boy’s Tale ended.
Today, I am writing an Epilogue detailing the day Eileen and I got married.
Well, I finally got to Blessed Sacrament, and the place was mobbed. It seemed everyone in the neighborhood was there. All my family was there, brothers and sisters and all the nephews and nieces. Mom and Dad were there decked out in their Sunday best. Eileen’s family was equally represented by brothers and her sister as well as in-laws and nieces.
My brother Mike was already at the front of the church, and I went to him right away as I waved at the rest of the church. Mike was my best man. Thank God I didn’t have to worry about the rings.
It was all I could do to hire the limos and find an apartment…both of which were accomplished only a few days before.
I still had a nagging concern about the band for the reception.
We went to see them when they played for another wedding in Brooklyn, and they were terrific. They agreed to do our wedding, and we shook on it.
That’s it! We shook on it. No contract. No letter of attention.
I had a nagging concern about the band.
Eileen had taken care of everything else to do with the wedding ceremony, including writing our vows and getting a folk group to play the music at the service.
Before I knew it, Mike was poking me and brought me back to the moment at hand as the Wedding March blared from the organ perched in the choir loft.
Eileen came down the aisle.
She must have been with other people, but I only saw her.
We joined at the head of the altar, but instead of Father Rafferty officiating as had been the play, Father Pat Carrol was there smiling and welcoming us.
I made a quizzical look at Eileen, and all she said was, “Don’t ask and read this when the time comes.”
I looked in my hands where there were now three index cards.
I didn’t see or hear the folk group yet, but I was so relieved that we weren’t having the usual Ave Maria sung by our old music teacher.
The service went off like clockwork. Well, almost.
As we rose to exchange our vows, Eileen again told me to read the card when it was my turn.
She spoke her vows beautifully, and it was a magical moment…for a minute.
Now, it was my turn, and I began Reading, “Grant us O Lord THREE wishes.”
It was like I was talking to a genie hoping for fame and wealth.
Father Pat had to put his hand over the microphone because he laughed so hard and loudly.
In reality, I was supposed to say, “Grant us O Lord THESE wishes.”
Then came the candle lighting ceremony, where we both had a long lit stick and joined our flames to light one candle—a symbol of our union as a married couple.
Then we sat down and meditated to the glorious AVE MARIA sung by our old music teacher.
I looked at Eileen, and she said, “Don’t ask.”
A few minutes later, we were kissing and picking rice out of our hair.
Then the wedding party was off in the gray limos that I had arranged for. I didn’t ask for gray, but they were there waiting for us outside the church, so gray was okay with me.
Our reception was going to be in a catering hall in Queens. We would be going to the photographer’s studio for pictures and then to the hall. But first, we had to stop at the bodega down the block from Eileen’s house.
You see, in 1976, limos did not come stocked with beer, so we had to get our own.
The rest of the day is a blur.
When we got to the hall after the photoshoot, we were encouraged to shake a leg as people were dying for the bride and groom. I actually believed him.
We had an open bar, and there was food, but more than anything else, there was MUSIC by the most terrific band you ever heard at a wedding.
I could finally relax.
Pop, my father, sang his compulsory rendition of Five Foot Two Eyes Of Blue… and the band loved him.
Then there was dancing, and before you knew it, the final minute arrived…not so fast.
I had a quick talk to the caterer and checked with the band, and we announced that there would be an extra hour of merriment if not out and out mayhem.
You would have thought that would have been enough for any newly married couple.
You would, of course, be wrong.
Eileen made arrangements to get us a ride from our good friends Pat and Paul to take us home to Eileen’s and then to a bar owned by her brother’s friend.
Now, I was very relaxed by this time and thought I should close my eyes for a second, so I laid in Eileen’s driveway still wearing my tux, and waited for Eileen, who I thought was changing.
No, she got our suitcases because Pat and Paul would be taking us down to the Plaza where we would be spending two nights before we flew off to Bermuda.
So, we are now off to the bar, having what probably was a drink well over the suggested daily amount for a newlywed couple.
It seemed like a good part of the wedding crowd was joining us and making merry. But finally, it was time to go, and Pat and Paul drove us down to the beautiful Plaza Hotel.
I was not so relaxed that I missed the magic of entering the Plaza. It was just magnificent.
I went up to the room with the bell cap, who carried our bags, and then came down to get Eileen and our friends.
“Paul, you have to come up! The room is magnificent. The bed is like an aircraft carrier, and there is a phone in the bathroom.”
I guess Pat and Paul thought that joining us on our wedding night was something they could do without.
The next day having the hangover to end all hangovers, Eileen and I struggled signing all the checks that our wonderful family and friends bestowed on us. We then crossed the street on Fifth Avenue to Schrafts and had the best cheeseburger to cure our hangovers.
It was a fitting beginning to our life together.
Anyway, we had a glorious time forty-five years ago today as well as for the last forty-five years.