We learn these priceless life and love lessons through individual experience or by watching others pass through them, sure. What’s important is that we understand those lessons so as to elevate ourselves above our hardships in love and life and not bear the same burdens twice. What has love taught you so far?
My wife and I happened to pull in the driveway one afternoon around the same time. She got out of her car and headed to the curbside mailbox. I waited for her on the stoop.
Approaching the front door, she shuffled through the mail. Since we started paying our bills online, we rarely get anything other than junk and store ads.
But this time, she stopped in her tracks about five feet from me. She looked puzzled, holding a rather thick white envelope in her hand.
I said, “Whatya got there…thousand dollars a week for life…IRS audit?” She kept her head tilted down but lifted her eyes, “No Mr. Smartypants (you can tell our age). It’s a wedding invitation, and I have no idea who from.”
We went into the house and opened the envelope on the kitchen counter. Those wedding invitations sure are packed with tissue paper and cardstock. How many trees died… just kidding (not kidding).
So we read through everything and still “nothing.” Our names and address were correct, but we didn’t recognize who was getting married. And judging by the expense of the invitation, it didn’t seem like a marketing scam either.
So my wife took the next logical step. She went right to Facebook and searched the names of the bride and groom to be. And sure enough, she found them in an instant.
Neither of their pages were private. We were able to see all their posts, pictures, and friends. And still, nothing rung a bell.
Then my wife decided to read some of the comments about the upcoming union. And there it was. ”Honey, isn’t this your buddy Tommy from the softball team?”
She handed me the iPad for my confirmation, “That’s him alright…What the heck’s goin’ on here?”
I grabbed my cell and dialed him immediately, “Dude…yeah, good to hear you too…Dude, do you have any idea what’s up with the wedding invite we just got?”
“Yep…They’re my rich distant relatives, and they said I could invite anyone I want…So, I picked you guys.”
I started to laugh, “You knucklehead…I know you’re single…but they were talking about a girlfriend or your mom maybe.” I laughed harder.
He laughed back and countered, “I know that…What do you think I’m an idiot…Don’t answer that. I actually have a new girlfriend since around the end of last softball season, and we’re getting pretty serious.”
“And…I naturally thought of you guys…so I gave her your names and address”
“Naturally…What does that mean?”
He replied, “Dude, do you remember the blast we had at my brother’s wedding?” I responded, “Dude, (we Duded each other a lot that call) that was fifteen years ago.”
He giggled, “Yeah, but you and your wife were a hit at the reception. You got everybody out of their seats, drinking and dancing and having a grand old time.”
He continued, “I want to go to this wedding…just like Wedding Crashers…you know, the movie…open bar…unlimited bacon wrapped scallops.”
“Dude, I think I remember the movie…I’ve only seen it about a thousand times…half of them with you.”
“Well then, what’s the problem? Tell your wife to pick out a fancy dress…and…tell her it’s gonna be at some amazing historic church…and the reception will be at some crazy romantic lakeside resort…with swans.”
At that point, I’d had enough, “Dude, I’ll think about.” I hung up.
I put my phone down and turned to my wife, “You won’t believe what that crazy Tommy tried to get us into…He actually…”
My wife interjected, “Let’s do it.” Perplexed I said, “Do what?” She continued, “Go to the wedding.”
“But how did you…?” She explained, “Listen, Hun, from all your years in construction, you practically yell when you talk, and Tommy’s no different. I heard the whole thing…and you know what…he’s right…we do have a blast at weddings, and I sure do love those big old churches. I looked it up while you were jabbering…Gorgeous!”
Needless to say, after a few minutes of normal husband/wife debating, we agreed to go to the celebration, including the ceremony.
On the day of the wedding, we had to travel two hours, way out West and a little North. Anyhow, we kept getting further and further from civilization.
And when we thought we were lost…there it was. A gigantic bell tower, with a beaming gold cross, was peeking over the trees.
We followed winding roads for at least another mile, always with one eye on the glowing symbol of Christianity, like a guiding star in the night.
Finally, we started to see a break in the forever forest, revealing dozens of converging cars. It was a logjam of luxurious imported leather and metal.
Patiently we squeezed in line and began a slow crawl down a narrow road to the church.
Apparently, however, this place of worship was not accustomed to having so many followers. Before we could make it to the parking lot, we were flagged and detoured to makeshift spaces in the grass.
After we parked, I instructed my wife to put some “hustle in her bustle.” Of course, she wasn’t wearing a bustle, more like a $300 designer dress that was…well worth the money, because it was classy and made her feel beautiful and sexy – her words.
Even still, with her new digs and high heels, she knew what I meant. We had to walk very fast to have any chance of finding a seat. She, being her cool self, took off her shoes and fearlessly blazed a barefoot path.
And it paid dividends. We passed droves of spectators, ascended the worn granite steps, and entered a candlelit scene straight out of Christmas Mass at The Vatican. In every direction were priceless paintings, marble statues, and illuminated stained glass windows depicting the glory of God and His Only Son.
My wife was in awe. I was in awe. And she was in fanatic fan overdrive. She wasn’t about to be directed to a row, she wanted a clear line of sight to the altar.
She grabbed my hand and pulled me down the main aisle. With her head on a swivel, she scoped out all potential squeeze-in-spots. And eureka! She noticed a slight build elderly man leaning over to talk to his young grandson.
She jumped into the pew with me on her tail, and before the startled grandpa knew what happened, we were all settled in, ten rows from the front. It really was starting to seem like Wedding Crashers.
The Mass itself was heavenly. Even the slower parts were invigorated with an angelic choir and Scriptures read in Latin.
And the exchanging of vows was beautiful. The bride and groom had detailed a journey of love and courtship straight from a dime store romance novel.
All that remained to make the knot secure was the presentation of the rings and the first kiss as husband and wife.
Well, that’s what you’d think…but the celebrant, the seventy-five-year-old priest, who had rockstar status in the parish, had something else in mind.
When he turned to the Best Man and asked for the rings, the groom’s childhood comrade started patting his pockets. He began with the breast of his tux and ended with his pants, then the front and back and up again to his jacket…no rings.
There was a growing murmur in the crowd, and the Senator was getting restless. Let alone, the intensity of the eye daggers being thrown at the first mate from the bride and groom was palpable.
For a moment, the priest appeased the mob, “Robert (Best Man), I think you left the rings back in the sacristy.” Robert reacted with a suspiciously dramatic palm slap to his forehead. I started to think something was afoot.
After three minutes of patiently waiting, while the priest entertained everyone, “Did I ever tell you the one about the priest, the rabbi, and a donkey go into a bar…?Shucks, maybe later…” Robert reappeared.
Everyone was rolling in their pews, not just for the comic relief, but because Robert was returning with a giant velvet ring box. You could fit a bowling ball in it.
Again the witty priest, “Geez Kevin (groom), you must do pretty well…Maybe I’m in the wrong business.” The laughing was contagious.
Robert walked up to the bride and opened the box…
She looked quite nervous like a novelty snake was going to spring out. But nothing happened.
She reached in and pulled out two cheerleader pom poms. Confused, she looked at her groom. He was equally clueless.
Then the priest began, “I bet you’re wondering what’s up with the pom poms?” Not just from the wedding party, but from the whole church gathering, there was a collective head nod.
He continued, “Well, Maggie (Maid of Honor) told me that Susan (bride) was quite the cheerleader back in high school, actually the head cheerleader. Maybe she could give us a cheer for old times sake…but…not any cheer…one for Kevin.”
Obviously, Susan had no problem being the center of attention, because she really hammed it up. In her wedding gown, train and all, she jumped up and down with all the energy of a championship game.
She shook those pom poms so violently, I thought they were going to unfurl. And she chose the classic “Kevin, Kevin, he’s our man if he can’t do it, no one can! Yay! Kevin!” Everyone applauded.
Then the priest said, “Great job! Now hand the pom poms to Kevin…It’s his turn.” We were all in hysterics. Kevin’s face turned bright red.
“Uh, Father, I was the quarterback in high school.”
The father replied, “And I’m sure you were a great one…but today you are a cheerleader, just like your wife to be is.”
“Ok, here goes nothin’. Susan Susan, you’re my girl, if you can’t do it…no one…in the world can.” There were laughs and even some heckling from the back of the church. But all in all, it was a valiant effort, especially under the circumstance.
The priest smiled at Kevin, walked over, grabbed the pom poms and relieved him of his duties…for now.
Then the priest explained, as he held the pom poms high for all to see, “A cheerleader’s pom poms…for as long as I can remember…and I’m pretty old…have been a symbol of support and encouragement for athletes of all sports. Hear those two magical words again…support and encouragement!”
He lowered the pom poms and addressed Susan and Kevin, “Kids, in a moment Robert is going to pull your wedding bands out of his pocket, and you will be forever joined as husband and wife…but first I want you to remember this…Without support and encouragement, those rings are just two pieces of metal…Love each other and be each other’s cheerleader…and never let those pom poms collect dust.”
What a ceremony! The floodgates were open, not a dry eye in the house.
I turned to my wife for a kiss, and before she accepted it, she said, “Gonna get you a pair of those pom poms.” Then she chuckled, “Just kiddin’ Honey! You’re the best!”
At that point, a festive wedding reception would be icing on the cake. And boy did it deliver as well.
For starters, the appetizers were like going on a world tour that began in Texas, continued through Alaska and Japan, and docked in Italy…Delicious!
And the band…looked like a fusion of The Rolling Stones and the London Symphony Orchestra. Imagine “Paint It Black” with full brass and strings accompaniment.
Then sprinkle in a mouthwatering salmon fillet, full dessert bar, unlimited top-shelf refreshments…Uhh, that means “shots”…and my wife had one too many!
She always thinks dancing and sweating gives her a special tolerance. But the alcohol had crept into her bloodstream and the serpentine trek back to the car confirmed she was human.
She crashed in the passenger seat, out cold.
About 20 minutes into the ride, I heard a startling “Thump!” Her neck had tired from support and released her head into the window.
“Honey, you alright?”
She mumbled, looking up at the stars, “Whatta pretty sky…” I jumped in, “Honey, you bumped your head…Are you…” She cut me off, “cream puffs were…so…good…I would be great baker…gotta get just some dem pom-poms.”
Then she passed out again.
What just happened? I know a thing or two about my wife and drinking. For instance, she loves to do shots, and alcohol is a truth serum. If she’s drunk and still speaking, she’s saying exactly how she feels.
She was practically incoherent, but I was able to connect the dots for sure.
About 10 years ago, she had come to me, all excited, holding a brochure for evening baking classes at the community college. In typical me fashion, I quickly dismissed her dream citing, “Who’s gonna help with the kids…homework…baths…and what about dinners…and…and the money? You got a good thing going with your job Honey…maybe in the future or something…I was thinking hamburgers on the grill tonight.”
What a jerk I had been, total narcissistic behavior. So many times I switched careers, started a hobby, chasing a dream, and well… she always had pom poms in hand to cheer me on.
One thing she asked in all our years of marriage, and I countered with a dinner request.
Needless to say, that was a long ride home. My eyes blurred and heart ached.
The next morning, she didn’t remember a thing, but I had a new focus on our relationship and had hatched a plan.
Monday, while the kids were at school and she was at work, I went to the greeting card store, the florist, a sporting goods store, and the community college.
When my wife came home, at the dining room table were a dozen roses and a card.
Baffled, she asked, “What did you do now?”
I snickered, “Oh stop, I wanted to say I love you and I appreciate all you do for me and the family.”
Still unsure, she grumbled something like, “Weird…but uhh…ok.”
She then opened the card revealing as much of the bakery class information that I could possibly squeeze inside.
She knew what it was. With head still down, a tear fell on the application.
That was my cue. I reached under the table and pulled out pom poms.
In typical jumping jack fashion, I cheered, “Honey Honey, your happiness is a must…and for now on…my pom poms won’t collect dust!”