Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Our Wedding Day

I came across the following "essay" written by Teresa shortly after our wedding which details everything that happened that day, from her perspective. Enjoy!

From the Bride’s Perspective

On July 24, 1999, I awoke at around 8:40 at my mom and dad’s house. I had actually slept fairly well the night before, although I didn’t go to bed until 2:00 a.m. or so. I was finishing shower thank you notes. I think the late sleep was a result of sleeping on the couch bed for the past two weeks.

Any way, I woke up with not a lot of time to spare before breakfast. I took a shower and used vanilla wash, Eric’s favorite. When I was clean-haired and clean-faced, mom and dad and I went to breakfast at Shoney’s in Wheaton, the scene of so many breakfasts when it was Big Boy during my childhood. We sat in the “greenhouse” area and all ordered the breakfast bar. I ate pancakes with strawberries on top and other fruit, and I ate the whole thing. Dad talked me into a large orange juice, which comes up later in the story. Most of our conversation centered around how we would get where for the rest of the day. When we thought we had it figured out, it would change!

Finally, we left Shoney’s, dropped Mom off at her hair appointment at JC Penny’s, and Dad dropped me off at home. I puttered around a little bit before heading to Laurel for my hair appointment with Vonda. Only upon arriving in Laurel did I realize I had left my veil at Mom and Dad’s. There were a few agonizing moments while I tried to decide if I should go back home or not. And I finally did. I called Dad and told him to be ready to run the veil out to me, and I called Kristen and asked her to call JC Penny’s and tell them I would be late. When I arrived at my parent’s house, Dad ran the veil outside; I thought he would trip! On the way back down 95, I called Kristen and let her join in the agony of the large orange juice of which I desperately needed to be relieved!!!

At Penny’s all was well, and I even had a little wait. Vonda worked on my hair for about an hour, and I wasn’t completely happy with it at first. She did put in soft curls and a French twist with curls at the top, and looking back, I really did enjoy it all day. When Kristen arrived it was time to put on the veil. She asked Kristen’s advice, and Kristen got a little panicky…it was set just right! I had been so relaxed for that hour, and as I left the adrenaline kicked in big time!

I had one errand to run (in my veil and button-up cream shirt and denim shorts). I had to go to the Most machine. After retrieving some money, I noticed a lot of people looking my way with a bit of amusement. As I drove down the road I was singing and smiling and little girls who peeked out their car windows at me. It was great fun.

When I arrived home, there was no one there. This was a little disconcerting. As I said, we had many plans for the day, and at that moment, I couldn’t remember exactly which one I was supposed to follow. My dress was gone, along with my other accessories and bags. Finally, Dad showed up and followed me in my car to the Claridge Room. I parked the car out front, knowing there was no escaping from the fate it would face during the reception. We walked into the Claridge Room and Tim (a Mt. Hebron colleague) was there setting up the most beautiful cake I had ever seen. There were lattice hearts and roses that looked as real as the ones Janice S. was placing all around the room…in beautiful tall vases with candles in the top. The cake topper was a Wedgwood bride and groom that Mom and I had found in Rehoboth Beach a few weeks before. The room was starting to look very elegant.

I let Dad know that we needed to get on to the church, or else I would run into Eric, who would be stopping by to drop off his suitcase in my car. We took off and met up with Kristen, Elizabeth and Jennifer in the parking lot of Montrose. Kristen looked about two inches taller with her hair up, and all three girls looked elegant with their hair, but still in shorts…it was a hot day!

We walked through the all-purpose room and down the rotunda of the family life center. Mom and Linda H. showed up with lots of food for lunch and we spread it out on the table and started to eat. I had a sandwich, chips and M&Ms (only a few!). Soon after, Alexis arrived, along with Angie and some McDonalds’s and Cherice. Tammy came, and we decided it was time to do some make up. Just about that time, however, someone had other plans.

The lights in the rotunda went out. At first, I wasn’t worried; I had been calm all day and that didn’t really change. Mom was very worried! I though it was a fuse in the building. Then things started to get blurry. Rhonda C. came down and said that someone had hit a transistor with their car. She had called the electric company and told them that Montrose needed power for a wedding. It should be on in an hour and a half…that was at 2:00. I was still okay, and the girls started doing their make-up in the hallway by sunlight. Then Rhonda came in and offered to take us to her place to get ready. I wasn’t ready to give in. I even wandered back into a classroom where the emergency light had gone out.

I sat in the back of the room and started to cry. Slowly, but surely, the tears came, and I was trying to hide them. I remember still being practical and trying to figure out how the wedding could work without electricity. At one point we asked Rhonda if there was a boom box around to play “New Day” on, but I wasn’t convinced…no organ, no slides, nothing. As I sat in the dark, slowly my bridesmaids came in to join me. I told Elizabeth all the things I would miss without electricity, and they each tried to reassure me. Finally, Cherice said, “Let’s pray,” and she prayed a beautiful prayer. A few minutes later, the lights popped back on and we all let out a cheer! Then I told Alexis we needed to pray again to thank God for the power. Kristen led that prayer. Then it was time to get dressed!

We worked on make-up first, and Tammy made us all feel so glamorous. A picture was snapped of Corey watching Tammy put make up on me. Then everyone was getting their dress on. Janice came down with flowers and bouquets. Jody called me over and handed me a hanky that she said was Granny’s (my great grandmother’s). She and I both started to cry. I took the hanky and pinned it to my slip, along with my new hanky and the cross that Mrs. Penny N. had stitched for me. Then I remember looking at everyone in their dresses and saying something like, “I think I’d like to put on my dress, now.” Everyone started scurrying; it was pretty funny.

I put my dress on first, then we pulled the slip on underneath. Angie started to cry a little when she saw me. I was so pleased with the fuller slip and look of the dress. Cherice helped me with my earrings and then I remembered, I didn’t have on shoes! Someone took care of that (Kristen and someone else), and then the photographer and videographer took shots of Kristen and Cherice putting on my garters. That was fun!

Before I knew it, it was time to go. We all headed out to the limousine, including all the girls, Alexis, Mom and Jody! We hopped in and the driver took us up to the front of the church. We made jokes and took pictures. When we arrived at the top of the hill, all the girls jumped out, and I was left in the limo.

I waited there and watched latecomers arrive and wondered what was happening inside. At one point, Dad came out to find out how I was doing and wait for me. He said the slide show had gone well, and everyone had laughed when the picture of Eric and I in our hats came up, and that now Jo S. was singing “How Beautiful.” “Are you not going to walk Mom down the aisle with the candle?” “Am I supposed to?” “Well, you did last night.” “Oh, is that next? She told me to come out here!” and he hopped out of the limo and into the church. (He made it in time.)

Finally, the limo driver came and fetched me. (I was so glad; I hate to miss anything!) Alexis was sobbing in the back of the church, and Rhonda and the limo driver were trying to console her. I remember thinking, “Oh, well, whatever happen.” “The New Day” started and miraculously, everyone went down the aisle. I was ready and Dad took me up to the wall. I smiled at the people in the back, including my Uncle Jerry. The song ended and Alexis was still in the aisle, but just a moment later, Trumpet Voluntary started and Joanne sent us down the aisle.

I remember thinking at the time that the song sounded perfect. Dad seemed very calm. It turns out he shook Fred S.’s hand on the way down the aisle! I remember looking into the faces of many people coming down the aisle and seeing them…like Leigh Ann E. and Elizabeth R. I looked up at Eric, and he looked so nervous. I smiled at him, and he just looked like words can’t describe…so handsome! When we arrived down the aisle, Dad leaned over and said something to me about the music still playing. When it stopped, I looked at Ray, but Kristy had come up to read 1 Corinthians 13. She read beautifully. Then Ray prayed and presented the gospel and explained that Eric and I can only be together in a right relationship because we had committed our lives to Christ. Then he asked both Eric and me if we had, and we each in turn said, “I do.” Then he suddenly looked at my dad and asked, “Who gives this woman?” “Her mother and I,” he said, with no trace of jest or humor. He hugged me and I told him that I loved him, and then he hugged Eric for what I noticed was a long time. Then I took Eric’s hand and we walked up the steps to Pastor Hope. Jun began to sing, “I Will Be Here,” and Deborah M. and Mike M. plated keyboard and guitar. I looked at Eric and said, “Are you all right?” He just sighed. I squeezed his hand and began to sing along with Jun. Pastor Ray smiled at us reassuringly.

Towards the end of the song, Eric asked me, “What’s next?” I told him that we said our vows next. When the song was over, Ray began with the vows. I passed my bouquet to Kristen and turned back to look Eric in the eye. He spoke his vows to me with such feeling. I was so overwhelmed. I remember him stressing, “I will forsake all others.” I then promised to love, honor and obey him and that “Your people will be my people, and your God, my God.”

Next, we exchanged rings. Eric looked me in the eye and placed the ring very securely on my finger. I remember thinking, “I don’t have to take this off!” Kristen handed me Eric’s ring and I placed it on his finger. Then Ray said, “Let’s pray.” I knew what was coming…

Jun sang the most beautiful rendition of the Lord’s Prayer, I have ever heard. When he hit the high note, I smiled. It was magnificent, and after the “amen,” Eric whispered, “That was great!” Reverend George A. appeared and said a few words about the unity candle. Eric and I walked around to light the candle and waited a minute there before moving back to our spots. Jun and Tammy began to sing, “Love is the Reason,” a song I have wanted in my wedding since the eighth grade. I watched them as they sang and smiled and sang along sometimes quietly. Then Ray pronounced us man and wife and gave us a charge as a couple.

He told us to read our Bible, pray together, and be faithful to our church (“THIS church” he said). I could hear Alexis crying behind me and Cherice talking to her. Then he told the audience about Joshua, and how we wanted to make a statement like he had. Ray began to sing “As For Me and My House,” and Eric and I turned to face the audience. It was fun to look out and see everyone singing along. When Ray sang the last verse, he looked at us and changed the words from “Any storm we can weather” to “Any storm you can weather, trusting in God’s word.” When he sang the line, “We need each other, fathers and mothers,” I smiled at my new in-laws, and at “sisters and brothers,” I looked over at Darren and smiled, and he nodded. I also remember looking at my mom and dad then.

When the song was over we turned back toward Ray and he said a few more words before the kiss (which was delightful!). Then he introduced us for the first time and we took off to Mendelssohn’s Wedding March. At the back of the church, Eric took me behind the welcome center and gave m a kiss. The bridesmaids and groomsmen started to show up and started to head toward the back of the church. Eric called to me just in time for me to see him pay Gary a dollar for a Coke! He had quickly taken care of the tradition that the first person to buy something after the wedding is in charge of the finances!

Eric and I went downstairs into the viewing room and found a Bible and read Psalm 1 together. The Eric thanked God for blessing our day and bringing us together. He told me how beautiful he thought I looked. It was a nice quiet time together.

When we walked back out, we were greeted by family and bridal party who were all anxious to give us hugs. Eric was so relieved!

We headed back up for pictures and enjoyed posing for a zillion of them. Everyone was very patient. When the pictures were over, we restaged the recessional and headed across the way to the all-purpose room. There were people from church there, and we hugged them all, as well as Virgie P. (Mom’s aunt) who thanked me for sending her a sympathy card this past week at the loss of her husband. She seemed truly touched by our wedding. It was a nice moment.

As we headed to the limo, the kids pulled out a huge congratulations card that they had made for us in the childcare! They blew bubbles at us, and Eric threw little gold-covered chocolate coins at them. Then we hopped in the limo and stuck our head out of the sunroof. We waved to everyone and then took off for a relaxing and longer than expected ride to the Claridge Room. The limo was making a terrible noise, but Eric and I just talked about how beautiful everything was and how happy we were.

When we arrived at the Claridge Room, there were more pictures and then an impromptu receiving line formed. Nancy C. and Shannon M. came over to talk to me. Then the girls began to bustle. This was the only time I really became nervous during the whole time! The bustling was just difficult and everyone was rushing us. Fortunately, Greg R. was there to entertain with the bagpipes.

As the DJ introduced each pair, the bagpipes played after Mom & Dad went down and Cherice had to escort Alexis, but we all made it in. I felt like letting out a whoohoo as we walked through all our friends and family! Dan began with a toast, and Darren followed, saying that Eric had a “good woman.” Eric’s Dad followed him with a touching toast and the Dad stood up to pray. He talked about how Eric was an answered prayer, and both Eric and I began to cry. His prayer was a prayer of thanksgiving to God for his new son-in-law as well as a blessing over the food. He ended in his traditional, “We pray all these things in the name of Jesus Christ, our Lord and our Savior, and our soon-coming King, Amen,” and I mouthed the words with him. It was beautiful. Then the DJ played, “Our God is an Awesome God…” Quite appropriate!

Then we ate. The meatballs were delicious, and Eric and I both ate almost everything on our plate! We staged a toast and kissed at the clinks of glasses. People came up to talk to us and to take their time capsule pages to the bin. It was great fun.

After we finished eating we began to walk around to as many tables as we could. We didn’t get to everyone and I felt like I missed so many, hopefully they will forgive. Before we knew it, it was time to cut the cake! First, Eric and I presented gifts to our parents, then we cut the cake and fed it neatly to each other. Then we danced our first dance to “What a Wonderful World” by Louis Armstrong. I remember telling Eric that I always wondered what the bride and groom talked about during their first dance. He spun me and dipped me and we danced two more slow songs with all our friends! Even Kristen was out there! Then the fast dancing began.

First, it was a fifties medley and Irene M. came up and danced once before she had to leave. Lots of people were dancing around me and we were having a great time! Next we did the Grease medley, and then I went back to be with Eric and visit some more. Next, I put on my boots…it was time for the line dance! When I pulled up my dress to reveal my boots, everyone was laughing! What fun!!! We made it through the dance and I watched and sang to Eric as we did it. It was great. There was more party and slow dancing and fun and people would tell me they were leaving and I would be so sad.

Finally, the crowd was dwindling, so we decided to toss the bouquet. “Circle of Friends” came on and we gathered all the single ladies in a circle and I spun around and looked for Elizabeth (not there). I tossed with my eyes closed and Mandy caught the bouquet! She passed it on to Alexis, kindly. Next we pulled the single guys out and Eric went for my garter. He tossed it back and his cousin David caught it. Greg would have, but he jumped the other way! Finally, it was time to change.

Eric and I and my Mom went to the classrooms in the back for Eric and I to change. Mom helped me with my dress and we talked. I put on a royal blue dress similar to the girl’s dresses. I was ready way before Eric and Mom went back out to the party. When Eric came out he looked so handsome in his new suit. We went back into the room and danced our last dance to “Love of My Life” by Jim Brinkman and Michael W. Smith. Others danced, also. Then the hug-fest started! We hugged everyone in our path on the way out of the Claridge Room.

When we saw the car….ugh! It had rained and there was toilet paper pasted to it…icky!!!! Eric let me in the car and I rolled down the window and blew bubbles out. Kristen pointed out that she was not in the back seat. It took Eric a while to get in the car. As we left we drove around the circle four times to rid ourselves of all the decorations. The last time, Eric’s dad explained to him that he had other things to do that night! We took off down the road. We took the back way to the Ramada Hotel off the BW Parkway and tried to clean it off the a bit. It was quite a mess. Then we checked in for the first time as Mr. & Mrs. Eric Freed! Huge!

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Starting Off

One of my favorite movies is JOE VERSUS THE VOLCANO (1990), starring Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan. I believe this was the first movie starring both of them, and they went on to establish an on-screen romantic rapport in several more, better well-known, movies, such as SLEEPLESS IN SEATTLE and YOU'VE GOT MAIL. But JOE... started things off. In the movie, Joe (Hanks) is living a miserable life, with a miserable job, poor health, and a generally poor outlook on life. Then he finds out he has a terminal disease and only a few months left to live. An eccentric millionaire (Lloyd Bridges) offers him a chance to live out his days like a king, but he must jump into a volcano on a South Pacific island as a sacrifice to the island natives' god, which will allow Bridges' company to mine a rare mineral found on the island. He accepts the offer and begins a fantastic journey. Along the way, he meets three women (all played by Ryan), and he falls in love with the third one. There is a scene in the movie where Joe is on a raft at night in the middle of the ocean, and the moon rises over the horizon. Joe is reminded that God is bigger than everyone, and he immediately thanks Him for his life. Later, at the end of the movie, again stuck on a raft in the middle of the ocean, Ryan's character asks Joe where they should go. Joe replies, "Away from the things of man, my dear. Away from the things of man."

That statement set me on my journey. I discovered, as an adult, that travel has a way of taking us away from the things of man, or the normalcy's we find in our life. Travel can be a spiritual journey, and many of my trips have been exactly that. I've found that road trips, especially solo trips, are best, when it's just me, God, my car, and the road in front of me.

My first major road trip was a solo trip from Maryland to New England, Atlantic Canada, and Niagara Falls, before returning home. The first day, I drove almost 800 miles, and I realized soon after I had to begin pacing myself or I might physically run out of gas before I finished the trip. I confronted one of my fears (of heights) the following day while driving to the top of Mt. Washington in New Hampshire. After a harrowing drive to the summit, I spent a frantic hour wandering around the gift shop at the top of the mountain wondering how I was going to get back down. After recording a Last Will & Testament on my camcorder and saying a lengthy prayer, I headed down the mountain and had no problem at all. I was so surprised that the drive was so easy. I determined that God really does answer prayers, and that my fear of heights is only present while going up, not down.

I met some interesting and wonderful people in Nova Scotia, including the desk clerk at the hotel in Antigonish who was fascinated about cartography (my profession), and the gas station owner in Dartmouth who allowed me to gas up my car at 5:30 a.m., even though he didn't open until 6. I drove possibly the most scenic road in all of North America, the Cabot Trail, around Cape Breton Island. I spent all of 2 hours driving through the narrow streets of Old Quebec City before heading out of town because I was so intimidated by the French culture there. And, after checking into a cheap hotel in Montreal and finding a condom on my nightstand next to the bed, I figured out why rooms could be booked by both the night and by the hour.

I confronted one of the most tragic moments of my life by returning to the spot on the QEW in Burlington, ON, where my grandparents were killed in a horrific accident as passengers in a car I was driving. We were hit from behind by a tractor-trailer going about 60 mph while we were stopped in heavy traffic. I was pulled from the burning car by my father, who was driving the rest of my family in our van in front of us when the accident occurred. While driving past the accident site, I realized the entire highway interchange had been redesigned, and I wondered if that was because of our accident.

The whole trip last about 10 days. I had rushed through it without really seeing much, other than the road itself. But having done it, I realized that I could travel by myself successfully, and I began planning more trips. God had been with me throughout my journey, and I felt closer to him than at any time in my life, to that point. I had traveled away from the things of man, and I was a better man for it.