Cue the Violins

For day 21 of NaBloPoMo I found inspiration at the Daily Post‘s suggestion for a writing topic today:

Cue the Violins

If your life were a movie, what would its soundtrack be like? What songs, instrumental pieces, and other sound effects would be featured on the official soundtrack album?

While the prompt is interesting, I thought I’d take inspiration from it and go in a different direction (one that’s still fairly self-indulgent admittedly).

I of course started shuffling through my vast knowledge of musical theater to think about what would play out in the soundtrack of my life, and I was reminded of a time that I actually completed this assignment.  My husband and I went through a rough stretch a few years into our dating life, and as part of the processing of patching things up, I made him a mix tape that I billed as the musical soundtrack to our life.  It included liner notes that provided a little synopsis of the plot, listing who sang which songs when.  I can’t remember exactly what was on it, but I know it included “Who Are You Now?” from Funny Girl and “How Did I End Up Here?” from Romance, Romance.

A few years later in 2004, we were contemplating a different type of soundtrack as we planned our wedding.  Just six months prior, the Massachusetts Supreme Court had issued its decree that the state had six months to prepare for issuing marriage licenses to same sex couples.  I was only 26 at the time, and my husband and I barely talked much about the decision except that it was good news in the long-term.  Neither of us really thought it would stick though, so we didn’t think too deeply about getting married…and of course marriage was never something that was on our minds since we legally couldn’t do it.  To then be confronted with the idea we suddenly could do it meant that we did the only sensible thing any young unmarried couple would do: we ignored it.

Then in May as same sex marriage became legal and the news showed footage of countless couples getting married on the courthouse steps, we independently began considering the option.  We were also in the market to purchase our first house, and as we walked down the city streets heading to an Open House one Saturday shortly thereafter, I broached the subject with my then-live-in-boyfriend:

“So what do you think about this gay marriage stuff?”

“It’s pretty cool.”

“I know, right?  I’m sort of nervous they’re going to take it away though.”

“Me, too.”

“Maybe we should think about getting married while we still can.”

“Maybe we should.”

And that is the romantic story of our engagement.  We had already been together for eight years, and for all intents and purposes we behaved and lived as a married couple.  We even wore matching gold wedding bands, although we never even had an unofficial ceremony.

That conversation quickly morphed into the gay version of a shotgun wedding.  As teachers, we had the summer available for the festivities, and as public school teachers trying to buy a home, we had little to no money available.  We checked out a few venues, fell in love with the Hampshire House, a beautiful old brownstone in Boston’s Back Bay just across the street from the Public Gardens, and we chose a lovely Thursday afternoon in August for the date since the food and beverage minimum was substantially cheaper than other other evening or weekend slot.

During the following six weeks, we planned all aspects of the wedding, and it was a whirlwind.  In hindsight, our youth, pocketbooks, and time frame kept us from making the wisest of choices.  We didn’t hire a photographer, opting instead for disposable cameras at each table (we have no photos from our wedding as a result), and we used a Justice of the Peace suggested by the Hampshire House (I barely remember the fairly impersonal ceremony).  We did have some great food, a beautiful location, and best of all the perfect soundtrack for the day.

With a Thursday afternoon wedding and no opportunity to send out a “save the date,” the attendance was small, only about fifty people.  We thought that a DJ and dancing with so few people would be strange, so we opted for a recital instead.  So many of our friends are singers and performers that we thought we’d put them to work making our big day fantastic.

A great friend provided the piano accompaniment, borrowing time on a friend’s piano to rehearse each number and racing through a recital rehearsal the day before the wedding.  We asked friends to select a song to perform, and each picked something meaningful to our relationship with them.

First up were two friends from my college days (one I’ve known since middle school).  These two ladies sang “Marry the Man Today” from Guys & Dolls, an apt song celebrating the union of two men.

Next, my husband’s childhood friend sang “When You Say Nothing At All,” the beautiful country song made famous by Keith Whitley and later by Allison Krause.

Another friend from my own childhood sang “They Say It’s Wonderful” from Annie Get Your Gun.  She introduced the song as important because when she performed in the show in college, I was so in love with the leading man that we literally stalked him, driving by his house and honking in the hopes that he’d come out so I could catch a glimpse of him in real life.

Then the “Marry the Man Today” girls were joined by a third super talented friend from college to sing “I Want It All” from Baby, a song from a show that we all loved about women who want career, love, and a family.  Little did I know I would be yearning for having it all just a few short years later.

Then my husband’s college friend sang a classical piece: Brahms’ “Von Ewiger Liebe.”  She explained the romantic translation of the German song, adding a touch of class to our mostly musical theater afternoon.

The second half of the performances included my husband’s middle and high school music teachers singing “What Would I Do?” from Falsettos.  These are two men who got married just a few weeks after us, decades into their lifelong partnership.  They served as role models for my husband growing up, both as happy gay men and as fabulous teachers, so it was incredibly special having them sing such a poignant tune.

Then I took the stage with my aforementioned fellow stalker friend to sing “Suddenly, Seymour” from Little Shop of Horrors, a favorite of ours when we lived in New York City together and would spend every Saturday night at the Duplex in the Village.

A friend from graduate school then pulled out her guitar to sing the folksy “Give Yourself to Love,” before one of the ladies from “I Want It All” sang the touchingly hilarious “Taylor” (the latte boy).

The penultimate song was sung by a dear friend from high school that I introduced as “my last attempt at heterosexuality.”  She sang “Unusual Way” from Nine through joyous tears.

And finally, my husband and I stepped up to the piano and sang “All the Wasted Time” from Parade.  The song in the show is sung by the doomed Leo Frank and his wife while he waits in prison for a crime he didn’t commit shortly before an angry mob lynches him.  Not really the most romantic of contexts for a wedding song.  Still, we both loved the music and as we were putting together the ceremony and reception, we realized that the lyrics could easily be reinterpreted for our long wait to walk down the aisle.  Reading the words with the fight for marriage equality in mind, the song took on new meaning, and it still means as much today ten years later:

I will never understand
What I did to deserve you,
Or how to be the man
That I’m supposed to be.
I will never understand
If I live a thousand lifetimes
Why you did the things you did for me.
Just look at you –
How could I not be in love with you?
What kind of fool could have taken you
For granted for so long?
All the wasted time,
All the million hours,
Pushing you away,
Building up my walls;
All the days gone by
To glare, to pout, to push you out,
And I never knew anything at all
I never knew anything at all.

I will never understand
How all the world misjudged you
When I have always known
How lucky I must be.
I will never understand
How I kept from going crazy
Just waiting there till you came home to me.
Now look at me
Now that you’re finally here with me –
Now that I know I was right to wait
And everyone else was so wrong
For so long

All the wasted time
All the million hours.
Years on top of years
Still too proud to crawl –
All the days gone by
To feel that I don’t satisfy
And I never knew anything at all
I never knew anything at all

All the wasted time
All the million hours.
Leaves too high to touch,
Roots too strong to fall.
All the days gone by
To never show I loved you so
And I never knew anything at all.

I never knew anything
At all

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