Ten years ago I uttered the two most life altering words in my life. Ten years ago I said “I do” to my wife. For our 10th anniversary, it would be relatively easy to recall the pageantry of our wedding. The sights, sounds, people, and the celebration all have remained vivid in my mind. But, as is with most weddings, the bride stands out front and center. Outside of a few suggestions (most of which fell by the wayside), I was intrical in absolutely none of the goings on of that day. Even what I thought would be fun to do, cake tasting, is a deceptive offer for a groom. What sounds like the only thing worthwhile to be apart of, loses its luster after fourteen bites of what seems like the same vanilla cake smeared in various fruit icings. Even my tuxedo style was chosen for me by Alicia (It may have been something to do with wanting to wear the same suit Paul Rodriguez wore in ‘Quicksilver’?). This is not to say I was not a part of the festivities that day but let’s face it, no one was showing up to see how I had my hair done or what my tuxedo looked like that day. Instead, I thought I would give some insight to my day. That is to say, my day leading up to saying “I do” and beginning my life with the woman who has made it such a wonderful life.
If you want to hear about our wedding, ask Alicia. She is forever ready to share the photo albums or video from that day to any willing participant.
April 1st, 2000.
The morning of April 1st, 2000 wasn’t too much different from any other Saturday. That is of course if your Saturday was blocked out to get married. After 18 months worth of engagement, one engagement party, a photo shoot at the Reading Public Museum for the engagement, one purchased and completely renovated home, countless hours planning the wedding, about three hours spent on picking out our registry (where I was abandoned by my future wife, my mother, and my future mother in law somewhere around linens. Something to do with my lack of seriousness about what our bed sheets were going to look like played a huge part of the abandonment.), and one rehearsal and rehearsal dinner, the time was finally here.
I had already moved in to our home on 234 Endlich Avenue, in Mount Penn prior to the wedding. Alicia was still living at her parents’ house (Hey, I’m a traditionalist…a traditionalist and I was scared to death of my father in law.).
My first thought waking up that morning was that it would be the last time I was going to have the entire bed to myself soon to share it with my wife, which made me smile ( I was still blinded by love and what I thought would be a lifetime of spooning and snuggling as we slept…insert your own cynical anecdote to this one). I hit the bathroom but didn’t have to splash cold water in my face to wake up. I was awake. The kind of awake you are at 4 in the morning for no reason at all. No eye crud. No waning effects of sleep. Completely wide eyed and ready to go for the day. I brushed my teeth and ran a razor over the morning stubble on my chin; it was all that remained of my former goatee. I had promised Alicia I would not shave my head, just rid the unconnected strips of hair on my chin and upper lip. As a side note, the year 2000 remains the last year I had any measurable length of hair on my head.
I went downstairs and if I had had any residual drowsiness it would have been eradicated by the sun. That April 1st was quite possibly the sunniest day I had ever remembered waking up to. There were no clouds to filter any of the brightness the sun was offering that morning. It just shone down and reflected in to the entire house. It had also been unseasonably warm. The weather in Pennsylvania, during the month of April, is a bit of a crap shoot which is to say, weathermen in Pennsylvania don’t even try during April. You’d have a better statistical chance of proving global warming exists to Sean Hannity and Rush Limbaugh than predicting the weather accurately in Pennsylvania during April. For whatever reason (prayers, clean living, or pacts made in hell and signed in blood), the weather not only was going to cooperate but it had the makings of being picture perfect.
It was still relatively early in the morning; my groomsmen would not be showing up but not until later. This afforded me the opportunity to make some coffee and soak up some of the sunshine. I took my coffee and my Marlboro’s out to the back porch and set up at the top of the concrete steps leading down from the covered back porch to the lawn. This was the first time, during those 18 months, I had had the chance to think about the gravity of this day. Until I lit the Marlboro Light and took my first sip of steaming coffee, the wedding remained off in the distance. I knew it was going to get here but my mind had no concept that the day could actually arrive (even though Alicia made sure to relay the countdown to me on a daily basis).
I was about to get married.
I was about to get married?
The thought of it instantly began a flashback filmstrip in my mind. It played out in front of me like something from ‘Flash Gordon’ when Dr Zarkoff was having his memories wrenched from his mind by Ming the Merciless. Two plus hours watching ‘Titanic’ on our first date and the butterflies she gave me well in to the next day from it. The softness of her lips from our first kiss. Meeting her parents. Meeting my parents. Our first Valentine’s Day, she cooked Chicken Cordon Bleu. I brought one sweet mixed tape I had made while at school (neglecting my studies for the perfect mix of slow sappy love songs…not the last time I would shirk responsibility for a little love). The first time we both mustered the courage to push aside our apprehension at potentially being hurt to give in to what we both felt so strongly and say “I love you”. Spending a Sunday morning at the Fairgrounds Mall with my mom, with my nose pressed against a jewelry store’s display glass trying to find the ring Alicia had said she wanted. Going to her house while she was at work the night before Thanksgiving and an hour before a gaggle of us were to go out, to ask her mom and dad’s permission to marry their daughter (after making sure I was talking about Alicia, her father slapped down his consent curiously quick…which may have been a warning sign as I was now thinking about it?). Surprising her at work with a ring as I got down on one knee to ask her to be my wife. Buying our house because we knew it was absolutely the right one for us. To last night at our rehearsal as we prepped for the wedding both of us couldn’t believe was upon us. All of these thoughts and images filled my mind playing over and over as I sipped on my coffee and pulled out another cigarette.
The anxiety, nervousness, and stress can build to a boiling point prior to a wedding. And yet, with each sip of coffee and drag of cigarette, I only grew calmer. Despite the fact that my car was only a few short yards away and the keys dangled leisurely in the kitchen, I had no thoughts of fleeing. My body never broke in to the cold sweat of fear. I was on the cusp of marrying the love of my life. Anxiety, nervousness, and stress never entered in to it. There was no fleeing. No changing of a sweat soaked shirt. No second thoughts. I was excited for what lay ahead of me in the coming hours.
My moment of clarity was broken up by the phone. One of my former fraternity brothers called about an alumni event at Millersville (as if the gods discovered my serenity and decided to throw down one more test of my mortal mettle). I had explained that it was not going to be a good day to get together as I had a wedding to attend. We laughed about the timing of the call, he congratulated me, and we hung up.
With my reverie over, I finished my Marlboro, drank the rest of my coffee, and made my way back in to the house. My groomsmen would be arriving soon. I wanted to begin getting ready because I’m sure they would either be carrying their tuxedoes or wearing them in piecemeal (I have been to proms, formals, been a groomsman, and soon a groom and I had yet to figure out how to put together a tuxedo without some help) so time would be of the essence.
One by one they came (in an amalgamation of tuxedo pieces and cargo shorts, dress shoes, and tee shirts). One by one we got ready. My house was filled with the energy of excitement only something like a wedding can produce (it also was filled with deodorant and imitation spray colognes). Not suprisingly, most of us got hung up on the cummerbunds.
At the suggestion of my uncle, who dropped off my cousin but came in to say hello, I quickly ate a bowl of cereal. Uncle Geoff wove tales of worst case scenarios for other grooms who had I not eaten before their ceremonies. It was the only time I did anything out of fear that day. I was not going to pass out because I didn’t eat something (passing out because I drank too much, as a friend told me, would be perfectly acceptable).
We all managed to pull together our cummerbunds (thanks Uncle Geoff). With no need for painting on make up or spraying our hair in ‘Up Do’s’, our prep time was an eighth of what the bride and her ladies was. The five of us, shimmering with handsomeness, jumped in to our cars and headed to the church. On the way there, I made sure to play our song, ‘Time in a Bottle’ (I am such a sap). I parked at the church and sat in my car for a minute. I again reflected on everything leading up to this moment. And as the credits to my flashback rolled, I was filled with excitement of what was to come. It was time and I was completely ready.
I would go on to take my vows and say ‘I do’ with Alicia and begin our lives together.
Fast forward ten years later and she remains as beautiful today as she was then. But a lot has changed in ten years. Kids, a new house, new hairstyles (or in my case the lightning fast retreat of my hairline), and new jobs have all filled these past ten years. What has not changed is the bond Alicia and I share. It has only strengthened over the past decade. She still makes me smile everyday. She still makes me roll my eyes on most days too. She makes me a better husband and father. For the rare times she can be infuriating, is how often she is simply amazing. She is still able to ease the pain of a day with one touch of her hand to my face. She can say “I love you” without ever saying a word.
I said “I do” ten years ago. While I thankfully, have not had to say it again since that perfect afternoon on April 1st, 2000, still today…I do.