Monday, November 5, 2012

The Back Story of Our Wedding for Mitra: Story Telling Sunday

Just spent an overnight at my parents house and enjoyed hanging with the 'rents. I grew up with many grandparents due to divorce and remarrying, so I'm always impressed that my parents have managed to overcome the odds and are still deeply in love after all these years. This is perfect story for Story Telling Sunday, a really cool event that Sian hosts. Yes, I know it's Monday and I'm just posting this now. At least this week I have the day right!

The Back Story of Our Wedding for Mitra
by Bruce H. Mero

          Not being able to find an acceptable apartment for your Mom to live her last year at SU, your Grandmother Lotz purchased a multi-family house in a nice neighborhood on Ackerman Avenue in Syracuse. Apartments on the second and third floors of the new house were rented to grad students at Syracuse University. The first floor apartment was to be your Mom's apartment, but Grandma insisted that she not live alone, so I became her roommate.  We'd essentially lived together for the last year, first in a tiny apartment near the University, then in the house we shared with others in Merida, Venezuela. It was natural that we lived together this last year, though Grandma was not readily convinced. Eventually she relented after I'd been there for a month or so. She was not scandalized by the fact that we were living together, more the fear that someone at her place of employment, Morrisville College, would find out and her standing as faculty member and a woman's dorm director might be jeopardized. I agreed to keep the place in good repair as a condition of my habitation there. I also paid Allegra $50 a month. There wasn't much fixing to do, mostly keeping the tiny lawn mowed and the snow shoveled.

          Our last semester in the School of Landscape Architecture (LA) was extremely busy. Our class was the first to be required to complete a new curriculum...the school was expanding to a five-year program and offering multiple bachelor's degrees. At some point prior to the start of the last semester, the faculty realized that there were a few courses they would need to add to our course load before awarding us the Bachelor's of Landscape Architecture, so they squeezed-in a couple of new requirements to our already filled schedule. Contract Law was one of them, I remember.

          At some point early in the last year, your Mom encountered a stray dog at dawn one morning in the Marshall Hall foyer and adopted it on the spot. She named it George in honor of two professors in our school, both Georges...Curry and Earle. George attended class with us every day, but was especially funny in the 8 AM Contract Law class, taught by the Dean of the school, Bradford Sears. George would roll over on the floor under the desks and groan mournfully, several times during the hour. Classmates would laugh and Sears would ask pointedly if the subject was boring to George. Dean Sears knew the stuff he was jamming down our throats early each morning, three days a week, was dry. He didn't like it either, but he drew the short straw when the faculty was deciding who would teach the course. He'd convinced us that it was important that we be exposed to the concepts he was presenting, so we all suffered, including Sears. He promised us all an A in the course if we attended every class and did the assigned reading. No final Exam. Sears gave George a B. He'd not done the required reading.

          A couple of weeks before the start of our last year, Sears and several of the Professor Georges asked me if I would be interested in an internship at the National Headquarters of the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA) in Washington, DC. It would require that I attend meetings of university student groups affiliated with ASLA around the country and provide updates at monthly meetings at ASLA. I know that your Mom was pissed (she's still pissed) that she was not asked to do the internship, she was certainly more qualified than I for the position. The all male faculty, however was chauvinistic and just a bit paternalistic and felt a man in the job to be more appropriate. They were all fond of your Mom and feared for her, exposed to the male world they all knew well. The faculty offered me an A for six credit hours, each term if I'd do it, which I did. I flew all over the country to meet with LA students and to DC once a month for meetings at ASLA. I made a huge number of connections doing the internship and met and spent time with the most influential folks in the profession I was planning to join, however I was able to parlay those connections into only one job offer, a part-time slot at the National Park Service in DC, which I declined. I'd had enough of Washington by then.     

          The job market for LA grads was horrible at that time. Your Mom and I spent days writing, revising and mailing resumes...over 30 each, I recall. We never got called or the courtesy of a single rejection letter, nothing. No jobs.

          It was late in our last semester when George Earle introduced your Mom and I to a former student of his that had just returned to the States from a tour in the Peace Corps in Iran. During the course of a multiple-hour conversation and several pitchers of beer, our new acquaintance learned of our disappointing job hunt and suggested that we apply to the Peace Corps. From there you know the story. They offered us both positions in the Peace Corps in Iran. We would be leaving the US ten days after school ended in June. The Peace Corps insisted that we be married before we joined them as volunteers if we wanted to be assigned the same country. We'd already planned to be married, the time schedule for that became much more truncated once the Peace Corps offering was accepted and confirmed.

          We made arrangements with a Catholic Priest I'd known for years, Father Tosti, to marry us. He nervously laughed when we asked him if he'd do the ceremony on Joshua's Rock at Lake George, eventually convincing us that a wedding in the Catholic Church in Canastota was more appropriate. Your Mom found a pattern she really liked and sewed her own wedding dress those last couple of weeks, while finishing classes, finishing final projects, studying for and taking exams and accompanying me on my last few trips as an ASLA intern. Her dress was inspired by a lacy, handmade Mantilla that she had purchased while in Spain as a 15 year-old exchange student. That Mantilla became her veil.

          Graduation day at Syracuse University was June 10. We skipped the graduation ceremony and got married that day instead. SU was not amused and withheld our diplomas for months. Our George was at the ceremony, so were the other Georges, Brad Sears and other of the faculty who had become our friends over the years. Bamberger was our best man. Caryl was your Mom's maid of honor. Two LA classmates were ushers, Steve Dauber and Fred Noetcher. Fred was also the photographer.

          Grandpa Harry walked your mom down the aisle. Your Mom was a little shaky just before the ceremony. When Grandpa Harry clasped her arm to begin the walk, he whispered that he had his car running outside and they could skip town before anyone was the wiser. She asserted vehemently "No, I want to marry  Bruce, I 'm just a little nervous."

          We paid Father Tosti $50 for his services and had planned to pay the organist the same amount, but she fell asleep before the end of the ceremony and was still sleeping, slumped on the bench at the organ when we left the church. I tore-up her check.

          Steve drove the "get-away-car" from St. Agatha's to the Landmark Inn in Bouckville, where Grandma Lotz had arranged a reception. We were still in front of the church and well wishers were still throwing rice at the car when Steve lit .....

[author's note: times then were different and your mom and I and our friends were considered Hippies, and as such, we sometimes partook in a recreational inebriant which was popular with our generation at the time, however it was also illegal.]

          ... and passed it to your Mom in the back seat. Needless to say, the ride to Bouckville was a trip. We asked Steve to stop several times on the way to take photographs. The first stop was at a park project I had worked on a year earlier. Fred got some nice photos if us in front of a little waterfalls. The second set of photos was on a knoll in an alfalfa field up the road a little from the park.

          Our wedding reception at the Landmark Inn was unorthodox.  We had no money to hire a band, so except for the occasional dime in the juke box, there was no music and consequently no dancing. No open bar, either. No bouquet toss, no garter belt, no posed photos. At least the chicken was good, not rubber chicken! Mike offered a toast, but neither of us was drinking (no need) to toast with and his words are lost to memory. Much of the reception was a complete blur. I remember Steve motioning us to go outside with him at one point and both of us refusing. All three Georges were there, I only know that because we have a photo.

          Your Mom and I spent our first wedded night in a cheap motel, The Birches on Route 5 near Clinton. We had to show the inscriptions on the inside of our wedding rings to convince the ancient lady at the desk to rent us a room...that we were really married and not just shacking up for the night.

          Four days later we were in Philadelphia for our official Peace Corps indoctrination, three days after that we landed in Tehran.  So began a spectacular, whirl-wind of wedded life, now progressed to 40 years!


  1. I always enjoy settling down for an absorbing read with your stories! How lucky you are that your dad has taken the time to share all thses wonderfully written details of your history for you..I think lots of us probably wish for a similar gift!

    Thank you for giving me something to enjoy over my lunch today - perfect timing I think

  2. Hahhahaha..passed out pianist...what a riot! Such a treat to read the bits n' bobs of your parent's wedding day. I personally don't understand all the hoopla as I can't remember ANYTHING but the pastor being long winded....
    LOVED this story and tell Dad thanks for sharing another winner!
    Lisa xx

  3. Made me LOL...good start to my day...ooooh, those naughty hippies back then!!!!!!! Thanks to your Daddy-oh....isn't it GREAT the hippies are still married? Must've been that happy stuff they imbibed!!!!!

  4. Hippy parents!! Great story, love the organist fell asleep - maybe she had been indulging as well...

    thanks to your dad for sharing, lots of fun.xx

  5. Your dad always write interesting stories.

  6. Sweet story - thanks for sharing :) I grew up with hippie parents, no longer married to each other but each happily married to someone else now.

  7. Another cracker from your sounds a riot of a wedding day!
    Alison xx

  8. What a charming story, Mitra! Loved every little detail you shared :)))


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