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"What are you doing here," asked Dianne Worthen, my Karate Sensei, with a spreading smile of surprise. She was incredulous that I would show up for class just a few hours before my wedding was to take place. Indeed, the truth was that I had to be there. I was so full of excited energy that I needed an outlet to safely tap off a bit, lest I be reduced to a gibbering wreck.
It was a crisp day, slightly overcast with the silvery-gray glow that comes early with Texas winters. In its plastic cleaner's bag, my tuxedo hung over the back of one of the long-legged chairs that cozied up to the breakfast bar in my apartment. The images of wide-collared, pastel tuxedos with contrasting piping hanging in the halls of friends and family cemented my decision to go with a classic and timeless style that wouldn't induce groans when viewed years later in a dusty photo album.
Purged of my excess energy, I drove to my my parents' home to wash up and get dressed. My grandmother had arrived the night before from New Orleans to attend the wedding, and greeted me at the door with a barrage of kisses in a swirling cloud of rose perfume. After I showered and doused myself with my own cologne, she was a good sport and didn't tease me too much as she braided my eight inch rat-tail, an affectation popular in the 1980's and the only outward sign of subversiveness in my otherwise button-down image.
With an hour to go before the ceremony, I drove my 1978 Datsun 280Z to Plano Bible Chapel and strategically parked it in a spot I thought would make for a fast getaway later. It was my dream car – fast, nimble and sexy. It's only faults were to be found in its cheap Earl Scheib mocha brown paint job and its propensity for electrical problems. I had given it a very thorough cleaning, inside and out, in preparation for the day. After all, it was to be the carriage in which I'd take home my bride.
Inside, I found that some guests had already arrived and took a moment to visit with them before hiding myself away in the Pastor's office. Jim Lewis was a passionate preacher with the sort of face that rarely hid his mood. Intimidating to look at when he was set upon by righteous anger, today his eyes twinkled with an excited joy. "Are you nervous yet," he asked me with a mischevious grin. I wasn't.
For almost eight years I had dated my bride-to-be. We had known each other since 6th grade. She was the best friend of my then-girlfriend, Carrie. When Carrie and I amicably parted company, she suggested that perhaps her best friend would be a better match. She had no idea how right she was at the time. We became friends and would attend events together when my parents would let me invite a friend along, but it wasn't until a trip to the Japanese Gardens in Fort Worth that I realized how much I'd come to love the gentle spirit and radiant beauty that she posessed. There, standing on the arched bridge that stretched across the koi pond, sun highlighting hair that danced lightly in the breeze, she turned to face the camera I held in suddenly shaky hands. The viewfinder framed an angel, and at the tender age of 13, I was forever lost.
All through high school and college we dated. We developed that comfortable familiarity that long-married couples share, and indeed, even among our families and friends there was no doubt that someday, when the time was right, we would wed.
And so it was, 22 years ago today that I stood calmly in my Pastor's office. I wasn't nervous, because there were no doubts, no lingering concerns, no uncertainties about what I was about to do. I wanted her with an aching in my heart that threatened to crush me under the weight of my longing. My older brother served as best man, and together with the pastor, we walked solemnly out to the designated spot we had rehearsed just the night before and turned to face the entryway to the sanctuary in anticipation.
The music swelled and was joined by the staccato rushing of my pounding pulse as the gathered friends and family rose. It was then that they beheld what I had seen all along, as my angel glided into the room and took final posession of my heart.
Can't see the 8" rat-tail though. Thanks for posting the picture. Now we want a picture from today with your wife to mark the moment. You can do a new one again in 22 more years.
You know, the haircut I got the day before I got married was the last for 7 years. I had hair down to my waist for a brief while... sigh.
BTW, do you do something super romantic every anniversary?
Alas, not so much since the kids came along. We wanted to do something for our 20th, but now are thinking in terms of some big to-do for our 25th.
We are dropping the kiddos at my in-laws tonight, so we can go out to dinner tonight, but since there are early plans for tomorrow, any hot plans have to be dialed down to a simmer…
I'll see what I can do about a photo. I've got to get the camera out this weekend, anyway …
You are a great writer HC. My anniversary with my wifey (we're not married though) was just yesterday. We've been together for 14yrs and have lived together for 11. Our big night last night was apple crisp, ice cream, a couple Netflix movies and won't tell you the rest 😉 Tomorrow I am getting up to hop a plane and celebrate my grandmas 109th birthday. She still walks and talks...Ya gotta love life!
(Dude ... it was like 1983, for heaven's sake...)
I won't lie, I get a little teary-eyed every time I re-read the story I wrote years ago and recycle every year. It serves as a reminder that the emotions and certainty I held those years ago are still very fresh and meaningful for me. I may not look the part any longer, but I still feel every bit like the love-struck teen in the story above.
Suresh has effectively commissioned a new story for this year's anniversary, but I doubt I could top the one I already have written above. In every fairy tale, the best ending is always left unwritten - instead opting for the perhaps overly-optimistic "...and they lived happily ever after."
My wife and I are living in our "ever after," and while it has not always been easy or prosperous - even coming close to being cut tragically short, we are certainly living up to the "happily" part.
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