March 8 might be celebrated around the world as International Women’s Day, but the day holds much more importance and value to me and my husband. This year, March 8 will mark the 50th anniversary of the day we said our marriage vows.
Back in 1969, my husband and I were two young people with stars in our eyes. As we said ‘I do’, we wondered what the future would bring us. It brings me great joy to still have my husband by my side, and in 50 years there have been no major problems for us to face. However, there was a situation right before our wedding that could have seen it all come undone.
On the night before our wedding the priest announced he would not marry us. To our shock and dismay we asked him why. He pointed to my then fiance and said, “He is not a Catholic and you need a permission note from a Catholic priest in his local area to say it’s okay for you to marry”.
We raced across Sydney to where my fiance was living at the time and found the nearest Catholic church. When we told the priest of this requirement, he said he’d never heard of such a thing but he wrote the permission note for us anyway.
We hastily made our way back to my neighbourhood and presented the priest with the permission slip. However, he said it wasn’t good enough. He said we were both underage, my fiance was not yet 21, and we needed our parents to consent to the wedding. We told him that they did. He put another obstacle in front of us by instructing me to go to confession and reveal all my sins. It was as though he was determined for us not to be married.
On the day of our wedding, the priest gave us the wrong certificate to sign. It was most unusual.
Many years later I saw him on a talkback show. Germaine Greer was giving him hell about something. I was happy to see that. However, it saddens me to think he spent his last years in a dementia hospital.
My husband and I have had a wonderful life together. We have five children, all of whom have grown into commendable adults and we are so proud of them. We also have beautiful grandchildren. There have been a couple of health issues along the way, but together we got through those.
In some respects I feel privileged to celebrate my wedding anniversary with International Women’s Day. As Helen Reddy said in her song, “I am woman, hear me roar”.