Today I took an order from a young couple who were carrying a baby with them. As I tapped the buttons on the screen I imagined my mom and dad, who nearly twenty-seven years ago themselves walked around the same area with my infant sister. My parents went to the same school I went to (and near which I work now), and I see ghosts of their early life sometimes. My boyfriend lives a couple of blocks from their first apartment, and he and I go to the same convenience store for sodas where they once went. We've shopped at the very Kroger where my mom bought ice cream when she was pregnant, and from where they walked a half-dozen bags of groceries home because they had no car. Even the now hip, brightly-lit shopping and dining area around the cafe where I work once housed the cockroach-infested bar where they met.
I thought of my parents when I saw the young couple with the baby because, when I looked on each of their left hands, neither had a wedding band on their ring fingers. Over a quarter century ago, my mom met my dad. They dated for about a year, and then she became pregnant. She wore a fake wedding ring to avoid the humiliation of being judged, and because of this I check the left hands of every couple with a baby or woman who is obviously pregnant. I hate to do this, because I don't want to judge or wonder about people who are going through the same ordeal my family once did. It shouldn't be an ordeal anyway.
Growing up, all we were ever told about my parents' courtship and early married life was that the wedding happened when they were twenty, and that it was 1982. Then my sister was born in 1983, and I in 1986. When it finally came out that the wedding was actually in 1984, I wasn't shocked. The math had always worked; the stories had not. Later, I got more details of what really happened: the wedding was small, and the grandparents fussed over making sure my sister didn't accidentally make it into any pictures. I sometimes pass the Catholic church where they had their ceremony. I've expressed regret that everything had to be shrouded in such shame and secrecy, and both my parents have simply said,
"We were just so young."
When I saw the ring-less couple with the baby today, I hoped they weren't ashamed. I hoped that if they were to marry, it would have nothing to do with their old-school parents and that their baby was in all the pictures.
I rang up their total. It was $19.83.