Part IV of V
The biggest snafu hit on July 28, our wedding day. Historically, this date is one of four weekends with the least chance of rain. In the morning, when I awoke, gray clouds filled the sky.
Big Papa and I had spent the night before our wedding apart. I was in Seattle, and he was in Port Townsend, relaxing with Tom, his closest childhood friend and best man. My friend Jessica was slated to arrive at noon, take me over on the ferry, where we would enjoy a little wine tasting before heading off to the hair salon.
That morning, I’d treated myself to a massage. When I got home, there was an odd garbled e-mail from our Susan, our officiate, saying something about an accident, but “not to worry.” Jessica called to find out what had happened. Susan told her she’d been in a fender bender and would arrive at Morgan Hill, with our wedding license, a bit later than originally planned. We tucked a copy of the wedding ceremony in Jessica’s purse, along with a few pictures and sketches of how the tables and grounds should look, so that Jess could make sure the site set up stayed on track. Off we went.
Jess and I were sitting in the Eleven Winery Tasting room in Winslow on Bainbridge Island listening to Sarah, the owner, describe a delicious Malbec when Jessica’s cell phone rang. She stepped outside. I could hear her say, “What should I tell Beth?” Moments later, this is what she said to me, “That was Big Papa on the phone. Susan won’t be able to officiate your wedding.” It was shortly before 2:00 p.m. Our wedding was scheduled to begin in three hours.
Sarah immediately offered to pour me a glass of whatever I wanted. I sat silent, in shock. How could this be happening? I was 48 years old and had finally found the man I wanted to spend my life with. We were ready to love, honor and cherish each other for the rest of our days. Only there wasn’t anyone to make it legal.
Fifty guests from all across the country were on their way to Morgan Hill. What were we to do? Suddenly Sarah said, “I’m a member of ‘IslandMoms,’ a Yahoo chat group. Let me write a post. The post read, “Urgent! Officiate needed.”
Jessica and I headed off to Billy Shears Hair Design. Upon our arrival and a quick retelling of the events unfolding, I found myself with another glass of wine in hand. Todd stood behind me, doing his best to turn me into a vision of loveliness, even while I felt like the sky was falling in. As he styled my hair, Jessica’s cell phone rang twice. Two officiates offered to step in and marry us. The first wanted to charge an obscene amount of money. I said no. If that’s our only option, then we’d ask Tom to perform the ceremony, and go down to City Hall after our honeymoon to make it legal.
Then second caller, Debbi, said she’d just come back from of political canvassing. Her feet hurt and while soaking them, she was scanning the posts of IslandMoms. She was a new member. Debbi told Jessica that she had only performed only one other ceremony, but she was willing to do ours gratis. She wanted to be sure we got hitched. I gave a cautious ok, but requested the right to back out at the last minute if she turned out to be a crazy lady. We’d spent many months trying to find the “right” person to marry us, yet here we were, with less than an hour to spare, and someone we’d never met would lead us in saying some of the most important words of our lives.
We drove in near silence to Morgan Hill, clouds unfurling in every direction I looked. By the time, I sat in my dressing room, waiting for Suzanne, from Ambrosia, to apply my make-up; tears were streaming down my face. I spewed a few unsavory words about our ex-officiate just as Rebecca, our photographer poked her head inside to take pictures of the bride-to-be.
I was so angry, and worried that I would carry ill will with me to the alter where it would color this moment I’d waited half a lifetime to savor. It was 5:00.
A moment later, a woman appeared in the doorway. Her calm demeanor belied the chaos in my brain. She was dressed in a long linen gown with an embroidered challis thrown over her shoulders. Our photographer turned to her and exclaimed, “Debbi, what are you doing here? Do you know the bride and groom?”She smiled warmly and said, “I’ve never met them, but I’m here to officiate the wedding.” She took my hand in hers and told me everything would be alright. I melted. A floodgate of tears, this time in relief, burst forth.
Debbi ran off to study our ceremony. I pulled on my wedding gown, a vintage Mexican wedding dress I’d purchased from ‘Brides Against Breast Cancer,’ and fastened a pin at my waist, a token from my dear friend Dee, who was too ill to make the trip. I picked up my bouquet, a potpourri of flowers that looked as though I’d just run through the fields gathering them up. It was filled with lavender, Bachelor Buttons, little seed pods and, roses. Nestled throughout were my favorite, Sweet Peas, Big Papa’s term of endearment for me.
At 5:30 the sun began to peek out from behind the clouds. I could hear the ‘Mood Swings,’ our all-gal jazz band, playing Louis Armstrong’s “What a Wonderful World.” My niece April, our adorable flower girl, was scattering petals down the path where I would walk. I knew Big Papa was waiting for me under the old cedar tree by the pond.
I looked outside and saw the smiling faces of so many near and dear to my heart, and felt my spirits lift. Everyone was here to celebrate our love and good fortune in finding each other. Despite the odds, we’d made it! And, in the end, it’s all about the marriage, not the wedding. In that, I knew I’d grabbed the brass ring. Big Papa and I would have a happy life together. No one could cancel our love. If I could be by his side, on this day, and from this day forth, life would be very grand indeed.
Jessica turned to me and put her hand on my shoulder. “They’re waiting for you.” I took a deep breath and pulled myself up tall. My hands clutched tightly around my bouquet, I stepped out into the light.