The Wedding of the Drama Queen to the Absent Minded Professor
The day dawned grey, that was the weather we were getting for the past few weeks but it's England so that's what you'd expect. I wasn't too pleased about it as it was my wedding day and I'd already had enough drama around my shoes, I didn't need to worry about dodging puddles in three inch heels. Furthermore, we only have black umbrellas. My sister told me to buy a white one but there wasn't time.
I awoke in my home, my new home, with my sister sleeping on the fold-out in the living room and my best friend on an air mattress in the office. I wasn't nervous and I didn't have last minute jitters. I just wanted to make sure I got there on time and looked good.
[I awoke at 5am. Lying on a mattress on the living room floor I stared at the ceiling and wondered, "Am I supposed to have cold feet now, have second thoughts, even regrets? I was shocked by my calm happiness, so shocked that I racked my brain to find something that was negative, something that would make me feel like a normal groom instead of the goof that Kristen always says I am. After 15 minutes I gave up, grabbed the MP3 player and let the music lull me back to sleep.]
My husband-to-be would not be late, he had a thing about late and I didn't want to make him worry because he also had a thing about worrying.
I was concerned about my hair, the test hair-do on Tuesday was a bit fluffy and, truth be told, I had nothing else to worry about so hair and rain would have to do. Anything that went wrong would have to be fate because all the details had been fussed over ad nauseum.
So there I was, with my best friend and my sister, in my home, by the sea...the home I share with Mark. It was crazy, leaving a job I'd had for a decade...getting rid of a house I loved and had just renovated...not to mention disposing of practically everything I own (and that included nearly 40 pairs of shoes)...fostering out my two kitties to my and their utter heartbreak (I could tell)...and leaving the family I had created for myself in Denver as well as my relatives who were just a (now considered) cheap and quick plane ride away.
I can say, though, I made the decision lightly. It wasn't like that great bag at Coach that you have to walk away from and decide on later if you can't get it out of your head...it was like that great bag at Coach that you look at once and know you have to have so you grab it, take it to the till and buy it straight away. I quit the job, sold the house, found a home for the cats and left the family. It hurt and it was a pain but I did it. It's been five and a half months, but I haven't regretted it...in fact, writing that is the first time I even considered my actions and "regret in the same thought.
That grey morning, I sat in the kitchen and ate a chocolate chip muffin for breakfast. I stared out at the sea and thought of my friend Jody who was in Italy or somewhere else in Europe with her granddaughter. We had promised that on this day we'd share a mental moment. I figured if they have Dr. Pepper in Italy, she was drinking it at that time and thinking of me and I took a sip of coffee and thought of her and then of everyone who couldn't be with me.
Even though Kelly was around and her fried eggs are the best and she offered to make me breakfast, I had another chocolate chip muffin instead. By the time I arrived at the hairdresser (who, by the way, was trained by the woman who did all the wigs for the BBC miniseries "Pride and Prejudice so I should have just chilled) the day was sunny and bright. Kel managed to get hold of two sausage rolls that were cold inside and did an entire press-on nail job (that looked better than my manicure) in half the time it took me to get my not-too-fluffy 'do. Kel went off to take Dad and Crit to the limo and I went to the Zen Zone (not its real name) for my manicure.
Thirty minutes later, my cute English boyfriend called to tell me my father and brother hadn't arrived at the limo drop yet (it takes five minutes to get from one end of Clevedon to the other). The Zen Zone, a salon where everyone whispers, glides rather than walks and eschews Enya as being obnoxiously upbeat, didn't appreciate my mobile being set to ring with the music from The Exorcist nor the fact that it rang again and again.
Until the battery died in mid-instruction to Kel on how to find the limo drop.
So, I was officially nervous and being told in a whisper by my manicurist not to worry because everything works out in the end didn't help one damn bit.
She was right though.
I headed home to a pre-prepared peanut butter and GRAPE jelly sandwich and Erika and Kelly quickly became acquainted with the nervous drama that had come over me. They were both very cool and calm and managed not to tell me to take a flying leap or force feed me Valium when I snapped at the car packing negotiations or freaked at the traffic in Bath. Luckily Erika has good enough directional sense to realize we were about to enter the motorway going South to Weston-super-Mare where Mark works, rather than North, to Bath, where I was getting married.
The news that my dearest darling friends Danae and Dale, who were to come to Bath by train from London that day, had been evacuated from the train station didn't help the situation.
All the careful arrangements to keep the new-style American girlfriend away from her cute English boyfriend came to naught the minute I ran-walked, mind scattered and in a pair of khakis, flip flops and a white camisole nearly smack dab into the Absent Minded Professor who was standing at the entrance of the Hotel.
He looked so damn handsome and so Mark and the first thing I could think to say was, "You weren't supposed to see me.
One of the many, many things I love about my husband is that when he is nervous or worried, you rarely see it. He has a cool about him that seems unshakable (unless he is standing on the parapet of a five story keep with walls and floors that have rotted away over the last 900 years). I rushed around ordering people about, throwing on my gown, fussing about boutonnieres and corsages and obsessing about little wisps of hair that had escaped the twelve hundred pins that held the rest in place and Mark sauntered about acting only slightly less cool than he normally is.
[I wandered through the garden, trying to keep out of the way. With Tom I went to look at the room where we would later be eating. Everything was set out perfectly, and we took a few photos while it was quiet. A waiter was still arranging bits and pieces. He turned to me and said "I wonder if you could answer a few questions for me ' don't worry if you can't? He just wanted to know where to put the children's menus, and the vegetarian meal. I was about to walk back to the hotel entrance hall when I caught a glimpse of Kristen, beautiful in her wedding dress. I slipped back into the room until she'd gone.]
Everyone around me behaved like they were pins to my ever-expanding balloon except the doormen at Bath's finest hotel who refused to handle the car. Kelly and Crit had to rush around reparking and dealing with pay and displays while I stood with Dad at the front of the hotel wondering if the Registry Office would cancel our nuptials and go on to the next couple if I was late. Dad kept telling me the time (and I was convinced he was lying) and a man walked up to me from no where and told me it would be okay, not to worry, we'd get there on time.
I said, "Great, thanks, who are you?
He was the driver of the limo, arranged by Debbie, a man I didn't know existed until that very moment.
He got us there on time, thank you limo driver whose name I promised myself I'd never forget and forgot, thank you Debbie.
Standing at the door of the Registry Office were Danae and Dale.
I'm an emotional person. I stepped out and lost my mind. There are pictures of me losing it at the sight of my friends. I didn't know my mascara was waterproof but it was a good thing that it was. Dale clipped on my "something blue, a silver and blue topaz bracelet while Danae fretted that it "doesn't match yet to my eyes, nothing could have looked more perfect. I've rarely taken it off since.
Although we had two folders, seven pamphlets and a full-sized, 10 page brochure and I had made several phone calls asking questions, I was unaware that a marriage at the Registry Office was anything other than signing the marriage certificate in front of family and friends. I expected to walk in with my Dad and brother, stand with Erika, Kel and Felicity and sign a document. After my arrival in the waiting room, Mark whisked me into an antechamber where I was informed I had lines.
I had to say vows...in fact, Mark and I had to make an entrance.
While instructions were given, I stared at the door wondering why the Registrar's voice had turned into that of a Charlie Brown cartoon adult and where had Kelly, Dad and Christopher gone. I turned to Mark and said, "I hope you got that. He looked back at me blankly and I just figured that since it had worked for us so far, we'd just have to wing it.
[I actually said "Yes, don't worry, it will be OK but Kristen didn't hear me.]
The photos show me blushing, quite a bit. Mark had the worst of it. He had to say he was taking me, Kristen Aimee Lovell Mahan-Moutaw at least three times...whereas I got David Mark Ashley. Mark's Mum said the Registrar said my name haltingly, cautious of getting it right, while Mark just rattled it off as if it was his own. That's my man. I wasn't paying any attention, I was just looking at Mark and when I had to make my vows to him, concentrating on not breaking down. The English stiff upper lip was faced with the American flair for drama. I heard an abbreviated sob behind me and I still don't know who was crying but I bet she lives in Denver or if not, Rockville.
We posed for photos, pretending to sign the certificate and feeling foolish. I was drowning in flashes and smiles, the thirty sets of eyes on us feeling like thirty thousand. I wish I could say I'd had profound thoughts like, "He's mine, I'm his, we're one. or other such romantic meanderings but I didn't (and wouldn't because that's too precious...ick). Instead, I felt like I was simply existing in the moment and continued to exist in the moment until the limo took us back to the hotel and I had time alone with Mr. Ashley. In between, there was bubble blowing and picture taking and well wishing but I wasn't there for it. It wasn't until after the whole thing was over and we saw the photos that I saw that my bubble was one of protected happiness. I was, I can safely say, beaming at my husband's side with so many people we love and care for around us.
The limo driver offered to allow us to sit in the limo to take a bit of time for ourselves before the reception but being the control freak I am, I had to see that the tables were laid appropriately.
Mark and I got a snog in here and there, though. Poor boy...dear, departed cute English boyfriend and now Mr. Ashley, my darling English husband, trailing after his obsessive wife as she frets over favors and placecards.
The reception was a smash hit, everyone had a great time, it was relaxed and the drink flowed and everyone from any side of any ocean got along swimmingly with everyone else. Most pictures show me talking and gesticulating, nearly all pictures show me smiling, and if not, laughing and if not, hugging someone and looking on the verge of tears. Mark's look of the day asked "is it over yet?
The kids threw off their shoes and ran around the courtyard in their pretty dresses lending a background soundtrack of the wonderful noise of children's laughter. Conversation hummed while Danae and Dale took Crit under their wing, Erika and Kel quoted This Is Spinal Tap with Neil, Gwyneth and Annie got kicked out of the bar, Mike curtailed his speechifying, Isobel and Jenica kept telling me they had something to tell me and then bashfully running away, Jasmin and Imogen made sure I knew they liked my hair (proof positive it wasn't too puffy), Debbie tried to talk Baz out of leaving early, Mary tried to round up a girlfriend for her brother in Australia, Graham tried to convince me that someone had fiddled with the bed in our hotel room and Mark tried to keep up with Tom in the taking of photographs. Felicity gave me a harder hug than anyone that day (and I take great stock from hugs) and Jenica has finally warmed up to me.
The cake wasn't decorated as we wanted and I had a spot and the photos showed that you could see my navel through the silk of my gown...none of that mattered because the day remained sunny, warm and gorgeous. There was much laughter and revelry and the food was absolutely delicious. Every little touch had been attended and hopefully everyone felt as special as they are to us.
It lasted hours longer than expected, which is good. Finally Mark and I tucked a weaving Kelly, whose shoes, she declared, were getting bigger by the minute, into the waiting limo that would safely take everyone back to Clevedon. I had long since exchanged the three inch heels for the mink-trimmed Taryn Rose slippers Dale gave me. Mark and I did a once-through in the dining room but Dad and Erika had thoughtfully cleared the place of anything we'd want to keep. Some guests at the hotel were fascinated by us, me being American and us getting married in Bath was somehow novel and they spoke with us probably briefly but it felt like hours.
[While Kelly's shoes were growing as thought she'd had one of Alice's "eat me cakes, Erika turned to me and said "you realize we are family now? I said "yes at which point she hugged me and said "If you ever hurt my sister I will kick your ass. I swear she was about to start there and then, but I said "I will never hurt Kristen, never ever.]
Finally, Mark grabbed our luggage and I grabbed the flowers and we walked down what I consider Jane Austen's path to our hotel. A year earlier, Mark and I walked down that path while falling in love. I couldn't imagine anything more wonderful than taking a moonlit stroll in a pair of mink slippers and my wedding gown, hand-in-hand with my new husband down a lovely tree-lined path in one of the most romantic cities in the world. I made a mental note to share this with Dixie who would appreciate the decadent romance of such a moment.
The next day, I awoke and my hair hadn't changed a bit. I could have been married again and after the beautiful day before and the happiness, calmness, security and delight I felt (and still feel) I could have gone through another wedding even if I had to make an entrance.
[When we finally dismantled Kristen's hair we removed so much metal that I am still not sure how she kept her head held upright through the wedding day.]
After breakfast, we headed out early as Kelly was soon to be off on her 30 hour trip home to New Zealand and we didn't want to miss saying good bye.
[When we'd packed up our wedding clothes Kristen turned to me and said "Let's go home. I thought for a moment and said "You know, if this were a romantic comedy, that would be the last line. We hugged and wept and picked up our bags, and went home.]
Do you ever wonder about what happens to those people in the movies, the ones who comically or crazily or obstacle-ly challenged find some way to be together in the end? The end to the movie is always just the beginning but that doesn't seem such an interesting story to tell. Well, the beginning is just the beginning. I'm still beaming and Mr. Ashley, every day, looks just as cool and handsome to me. And nerves and drama and months of histrionics that don't seem bearable at the time all fade away just like everyone tells you they will and your loved ones go home to their families and you are left with him...and your beginning, that continues every day, hour, minute, second...each breath is just another beginning in your life with him. And what seems unbearable is the amount of happiness you are suffering. However, you realize that is something that you can easily handle. So the crazy idea of the American drama queen who seemed stuck in a crazy job and devoted to a beloved group of friends and completely incapable of taking risks can find and trust and throw it all away for the absent minded English computer geek who she can swear assists the sun to rise and helps it to set and can throw a compliment like, "Oh yes, you're casual...like Audrey Hepburn is casual. at her while walking down the stairs making her feel like the princess she was sure she always was...well, I'll take that beginning every day, hour, minute, second and if you are groaning out there get over it, because this unbearable happiness is what I've been working for for a long time and I'm sure as hell going to crow about it.