Last week, Melody and I celebrated our 11th wedding anniversary. Thank you. It was my pleasure. When asked why I waited so late in life to get married, I always reply that I was just waiting for Melody to come back on the market. I'd been kind of interested in her for some time, but she kept marrying the wrong guys.
I first met her 40 years ago, when she was a young hippie chick working in an Overton Square leather shop owned by my former college roommate. She drove a black VW Beetle and lived in a communal house on Edgewood Street. I admired her spunk and good humor, but mostly I was impressed with her sense of independence. Melody could hang with the big dogs and possessed a quick wit that allowed her to give as good as she got. I quickly began eyeballing her as my potential new girlfriend, but she wasn't studying me. When I was sitting on a tall barstool playing and singing at the Looking Glass, Melody worked in the cloakroom because she was too young to come into the bar. When it was late and the crowd had cleared out, she came in anyway to listen, and I sang the Bee Gees' song "Melody Fair" for her. I got a hug and kiss but still no dice. I probably should have asked her out on an actual date, but that seemed so passé in the freewheeling '70s.
Before I could manage to clearly express my feelings, she got married, but we remained friends. I had no choice, because she married my saxophone player. When they moved to California, we lost touch but for secondhand information. I later heard she was divorced and remarried and living on a naval base in the Philippines, and I was bewildered by the thought. Years passed and Melody faded from memory, although mutual friends would occasionally speak of her. Then, my band played for the 30th reunion of the White Station High School class of 1967, and Melody was there with her sister. We laughed and talked, and I was reminded of how fondly I felt about her, but she was still a married woman.
Several eons later, I was playing in a club with an acoustic trio when Melody and her husband came in with a large group. I checked out the lucky guy. He looked like he could kick my ass. It wasn't that much later when she came back in one night with some girlfriends, and I was told she was separated. We had the obligatory dinner and a movie and shortly thereafter, I concluded that some damn fool had discarded a perfectly good wife.
Our friendship rekindled, I noticed how easy it was to spend time with her and how much we had to talk about. I had just recently escaped an emotionally abusive relationship and was nursing a battered ego, so Melody was like oxygen. After a period of going middle-aged steady and winning the tacit approval of my teenage stepson and stepdaughter-to-be, marriage seemed like the next logical step. I would finally get to hang out with Melody.
We approached the rabbi at Temple Israel and agreed to take Jewish classes in return for his blessing. Melody was charmed by Micah Greenstein, and we both agree that he has so much charisma, if he weren't a rabbi, he could start his own cult. When he asked if we had any personal additions to our vows, I replied that right after Melody said, "I do," I would like the rabbi to say to her, "Now, get back in your burqa." We shared a chuckle and forgot about it until the actual ceremony, where I wasn't entirely sure that I wasn't going to pass out at any moment. I made it through the whole deal before God and everybody and was only waiting for the rabbi's pronouncement when he said, "And now, Randy, it's time for you to get back in your burqa." I guess you had to be there, but it sure made me guffaw. Whenever I see the rabbi, I like to tell him that he married us so good, I believe that it stuck.
At 54, I would never have considered living with a teenage high school boy, because all I had to compare him with was me. As a grown-up, I most certainly wouldn't tolerate living with a teen-aged me. Fortunately, Cameron, my stepson, was already a good guy and the only "dad" thing I insisted on doing was playing catch in the backyard. Melody's daughter was already off at college, but since I never had offspring, I enjoyed teaching a young man how to tie his tie and drive a car. I was delighted to contribute cuff links and cummerbund to his first formal attire and to advise him that a gentleman always wears a pocket square. The rest of the time, he pretty much stayed in his room, and I would see him when he surfaced to eat. I liked all his buddies, and when they gathered, I was reminded so much of my own youth, I had to restrain myself from participating in their frivolity and risk appearing the old fool.
Now that 11 years have passed, everyone's grown and on their own. It's back to just me and Melody once again — if you don't count the three rescue dogs — and she's still happy to see me when I come home from work. We recommend late-in-life marriages. Your priorities change from a half-mad, youthful, libido-driven relationship into one of good conversation and companionship. That's where all that premarital friendship comes in handy. Besides, it's good to have someone to argue with about what to watch on television for the rest of your life.
Randy Haspel writes the "Born-Again Hippies" blog, where a version of this column first appeared.