I remember as if it were yesterday. I woke up at 6:00 AM to the phone ringing. It was her. It was not like I needed to be awakened, I hardly slept the night before. I wasn’t allowed to see her but no one said I couldn’t talk to her. We were like children on Christmas morning but when it’s too early to come out of the room to wake up our parents. The anticipation building up to this day, however, was greater than any Christmas I can remember. We were giddy but she was also nervous and I asked why. “These people are our family and friends.” I said, “They have seen us at our worst, now they get to see us at our best.”
The Saturday was as perfect a day as I can remember in America’s finest city. The sky seemed more striking blue than any time I can recall or maybe I just never noticed until today. I rolled up to St. Michaels Catholic Church with my best man, Greg Henderson, who had to give me a last minute ride because my new car decided not to start on this day, of all days. It did little to affect my demeanor, nothing could bring me down.
I wasn’t nervous at all. I was meant for this day. This was the direction I saw my life going from when I was young. Bachelorhood and playing the field never really fit me. I was a serial monogamist, you might say. I either had a girlfriend or I had no one and I was fine with either. I did not dream of this day like she dreamt of it but I always expected it to happen to me and I looked forward to it.
The minute I got out of the car my senses were overwhelmed. It was literally a blur and every minute of my time was occupied by a task or a person. I was a celebrity for a day but in a supporting role for sure. I do remember, however, my mother and how beautiful she looked in her dress and how handsome my dad was in his tuxedo.
Time flew at surreal speed and before I knew it I was standing in front of the altar with my guys behind me, waiting. I recall my nephew Vincent, the ring bearer, walking down the aisle with Mariah Counts by his side as the flower girl. They were yin and yang. She was light as air, smiling and enjoying the attention and he was staunch and rigid, calculating every move to perfection. He was in charge of the rings and he would see his duty through. I had to smile. He took his place with the groomsmen and I looked back to see my mom, in the first pew, wiping away a tear. Right then and there it hit me, their little boy was a grown up now. In that moment I was the man I needed to be because in the next 60 or so years someone will be counting on me to be there. It was no longer about me, it was about us. I cannot let her down, ever.
As I pondered this, the music started and everyone stood up. The next 30 seconds sapped me of my breath and filled me with an emotion I have only subsequently experienced twice in my life, on 12/13/1999 and 12/08/2003 to be exact. There she was walking with her dad down the aisle, the sunlight from the back of the church illuminated her like an angel or maybe there was no sunlight at all. To say she was beautiful would be akin to calling the Grand Canyon a ditch or Mount Everest a gentle slope. She was over the top gorgeous and every step she took contained a flair of elegance reminiscent of Audrey Hepburn or Princess Diana. It just solidified what I, and probably others, thought all along…she was way out of my league.
I met them at the front of the aisle where her father embraced me, whispered into my ear, “Welcome to the family” and gave me her hand. I regret to this day I never asked him for permission to have that hand. At the time it seemed like a dumb, outdated tradition, just a formality. I will see to it my boys do not make that same mistake.
We had a Catholic Mass wedding and to everyone attending it probably felt like 4 hours but to me it was 5 minutes. I have no idea what the priest said or what songs were sung or how long pictures took, I only remember her.
The day I picked up my wife for our first date is a scene forever etched into my mind of this beautiful blonde sitting on the porch of her house, drinking a beer, wearing a gorgeous dress. Three years later, on our way to our reception we shared not champagne but a beer and I could not help but be taken back to that first day, captivated by this beautiful blonde, drinking a beer, wearing a gorgeous dress. It was my perfect day.