"Garsfontein, I don't trust Garsfontein. Ghastlyfontein, that's what it is. Klinkerbrick and vicious dogs, that's Ghastlyfontein for you. I don't want to get married by someone who lives in Garsfontein."
In spite of his grumbling, my love is being good natured about the Saturday morning drive to meet an unknown pastor that we found on the internet.
We wanted an old family friend of B's to do the ceremony. Someone he knew well as a teenager. Unfortunately, with two adopted autistic children to look after, the old man is not able to make the journey.
The ad, if there was an ad, should've read: Wanted: Lutheran marriage officer with strong Buddhist leanings, must possess own 4x4.
We were starting to get a little jumpy about the fact that this was still a big blank on the excel sheet. (yes, we have an excel sheet. we do not have a wedding planner. We are the wedding planner). The kind faced man who could have done some of it in German - not available. The Irish fellow who seemed to have a twinkly sense of humour - not available. My tentative attempts to enlist a certain pagan ritualist - not meeting much humour.
It's a tricky one. B chose this date because it is the anniversary of his father's death. His father was a minister. (the only man, who could ever teach me, was the son of preacher man...) B wants his mother, who is still stolidly faithful to her husband's memory after 20 years, to have a joyous association with this date. To freshen it with love and renewal. I'm so aware of the presence of this man I have never met, in the silences, the things that are unsaid. I feel the sway of his invisible influence. How would Papa have done the ceremony? is thick in the air, unspoken. Oh, on the surface, we know we want to make it our own, and we know that all weddings will ultimately represent a meeting point between two family's value systems, but... I was starting to feel that the date was lending the event all this extra significance.
One night I dreamed we were on the water, on a boat. One of the Seka actors, Simon Banda, fished up a head from the water. He thought it was a large mango or coconut but it turned out to be a head - I didn't get a look at it, but they told me it was my beloved's father. Still intact - not gruesome at all. My dreams have had base notes of kindness, with twists of anxiety and sudden flames of rage, but this one was ponderous and matter of fact
So a late night fever of filling out internet request forms and the only one who calls me back is the strong-voiced man from Garsfontein. He spams me with forms and glowing testimonials from brides and mothers of brides. Why am I suspicious of glowing praise? Where does that come from in my biography? Er, you don't have to answer that.
So we head out on the N1 to Pretoria early on Saturday, the green Merc crammed with expectations and doubts and jokes and family pressures and also just the gentle reminders to each other of what we want (and what we don't want) and what's the secret sign that we will use to communicate to one another that this one Won't Do.
B will touch his mala beads. I will flick my sunglasses on my head a couple of times. Ok.
Garsfontein is indeed klinkerbrick followed by facebrick followed by more klinkerbrick, and the roads are named after breeds of dog. Seriously. Mastiff, Borzoi, Boerbull. We are relieved the minister does not live in Pitbull drive. We are relieved to see that he has three very cute daschunds. We are relieved to see the twinkle in eyes framed by deep smile lines.
B does his thing - explains the intricacies of what we want and don't want, the traditional Lutheran order of service, the additional vows we want in there, and our anxieties, and our wish to know what he is comfortable with, or not. The oddness of sitting on a beige couch in a stranger's house, awkwardly trying to articulate the complexity of syncretic traditions, symbols and beliefs that have accrued to us over our years together. Trying to pin down an order of service that won't make his mother clutch her crucifix in bafflement, but will leave room for us to express ourselves. I think we did a good job.
"I am an inter-denominational marriage officer," he explains. "I have married Pagans, I have married Christians, I married a Jew and a Muslim last week. I have married Buddhists. I will include whatever vows you like. I won't do Pagan practice. I won't chant." He shares a story about two "nature worshippers" who chose to marry outdoors, "in nature". "Nature was kind to them," he smiled. "It poured with rain. The bride's mascara ran down her face, the guests were soaked...Oh, it always rains in April," he cautions me.
He has a big strong voice, he has a sense of humour. He is relatively open-minded. We hope he won't be sexist. He is prepared to travel. He can do all the legal stuff, so its an all in one go affair. He has spirit. Or, I suppose he would say, he is guided by Spirit. B says he will be sparing with details to his Ma about the man's Pentecostal leanings. He is obviously a tad theatrical and can work a crowd, so at least it won't be boring. There is no need to stroke the mala beads or fiddle with sunglasses. He'll do.
He won't chant, but he'll do. I wonder if he'll wear an Elvis suit?