We've known the bride since her childhood in the early 1990's and she's an exceptional human being. Her parents are very dear friends. We met and bonded in Moscow during a two year tour in the Foreign Service.
"Actually it starts at 4:30," I told Ben, after our hour and a half long drive. We had pulled onto Rosemont Manor Lane at precisely 3:30.
"You mean it doesn't start at 4:00? Wow," said Ben. "You didn't say because you thought we'd get here late?"
"I only wanted to be sure," I said. "I wanted to be sure we'd arrive on time."
"Well," he said, "now we've got more than an hour before the wedding starts." He pulled the car round the driveway and headed back out to the main road. "Want to look around a bit?"
"Not more than an hour," I said. "Only an hour."
"Let's get a Christmas tree!" Ben suggested.
"Sure. Let's get a little tree. One to go in the window seat."
"I'm sure we can find a small one here."
"There again, Ben," I felt bound to point out. "We are dressed up for a wedding."
"So?" The air was cold and the sky was icy blue and the sun was very bright with a ring around it. I'd never seen a ring round the sun before.
"It means there are ice crystals in the air," said Ben, and pulled over the car to take a photograph.
"There's weather coming in," he said. "Tomorrow they might have got snowed in. It's good they had this beautiful day for the wedding. Yesterday and tomorrow would have been terrible. Come on. Let's go buy a Christmas tree."
|the picture Ben took of a ring around the sun|
We saw a sign for a Christmas tree farm, as we zipped down country lanes past colonial houses and old stone walls and bare trees standing out against the sky, across the fields.
At the tree farm we found acres of spruce and scotch pine. "You cut down your own trees here," Ben said excitedly. "Come on, Manda, lighten up. Why on earth are you making such a fuss about it?"
I was dressed in black laced ankle boots with heels, stockings and a cocktail dress, underneath my Italian coat. I was wearing perfume and jewelry and red lipstick and Ben was wearing a suit, smart shoes and an overcoat. A man in a checkered shirt and baseball cap lugged a pine tree over his shoulder to a pick-up parked beside us. His wife, in jeans and work boots, eyed us with amusement.
We got out of the car. The owner of the Christmas tree farm came towards us and burst out laughing. She had an open intelligent face and rosy cheeks from the cold. "Doesn't look like you'll be cutting down your own tree," she remarked. "But that's okay. We can cut one down for you."
"Listen," Ben said in his affable way, putting a hand on her shoulder. "This is our situation. We want to buy a tree but we are on the way to a wedding."
"No problem," said the woman. "You can pick from all the trees over there..." gesturing several hundred yards away, behind the farm house. "Don't want to pick from this lot though," she said meaning the one closest to us. She went on to explain the pricing. "You can also look over there," she said - pointing way far away across the grass to a distant field of spruce trees.
I tottered gingerly across the lumpy grass in my wedding boots, past a chicken coop where hens were clucking round the yard.
"I should take a picture of these and send it to the Molls," said Ben, meaning our friends who raise chickens.
I was annoyed. I wanted to get this done quickly. I scanned the trees for the ones with blue tags and also ones that were small enough to fit in the window seat back home. Then I checked my iphone. "Ben," I said, "it's now 4 o clock. The wedding starts in half an hour."
"What is the matter with you," he challenged. "We have plenty of time!" We passed a family bundled up in hats and gloves and boots, ambling down the tree rows. The heels of my boots sunk deeper into the mud.
"Ben," I said. "It will take fifteen minutes to pick out a tree, and then walk back and show him which one we want, and then have him cut it down and bundle it up and put it in the car and...."
"What is wrong with you? Does it make you feel good to be so frantic about it?"
"Not frantic," I said. "Not at all frantic. I'm only saying that we then have to drive back to the inn..."
"It will take us ten minutes, tops," said Ben with an authority that couldn't be denied. "And I can absolutely guarantee you that the wedding will not start on time."
"So we're going to be late because it won't start on time?"
"Why are you being like this, Manda?" Ben asked. I could see he was genuinely mystified.
"I'm going back to the car," I said, heading down the muddy lane past a man dressed as Santa Claus.
"Merry Christmas ma-am," said the Santa Claus.
I sat in the car and searched the glove compartment for tissues to wipe off the mud on my boots. I checked the time on my phone. The wedding began in fifteen minutes.
To make myself feel better, I tweeted about the situation. Let others share my predicament, I thought smugly.
Just then, Ben and the tree farm owner arrived at the car, chatting like old friends, with the bundled up Christmas tree, which they slid into the back of the car. It was very large and smelled of the forest.
"You see," said Ben. "It took ten minutes. Will your anxiety be erased when we get to the wedding on time?"
"The tree is lovely, but it's rather big," I said.
"It's fine," he said.
"It won't fit in the window seat," I said.
"Sure it will," said Ben. "What on earth is wrong with you?"
And so we said goodbye to the Christmas tree farmers. They waved as we pulled up the lane.
"Now we have to find our way back to the inn," I said.
"Don't you know where it is?" he asked.
"I have no idea."
"We were just there," he said.
"I know," I said, as the car bumped along the windy road, past those beautiful fields. The sun was coming down and it seemed to be taking longer to drive back than I remembered. The sky was melon colored in places, icy blue in others. "Look how beautiful it is," I said.
"Yes," said Ben. We were friends again.
At 4:25, we pulled into Rosemont Manor Lane. "Don't you want to bring your coat?" I asked.
"Nah. I'm leaving it in the car," said Ben. We headed up to the big house. "Oh," he remembered. "I didn't bring my phone. Do you have yours, in case we want to take pictures..."
"Yes," I said.
"...or should I go back to the car and get it?"
"NO!" I headed up the brick pathway, charmingly lined with lanterns.
Ben smiled, with a little bit of pity in his eyes. "You're a strange one, Manda, " he said. "We got here in time, didn't we?"
The inn inside was festive with Christmas trees, bunting and twinkling lights. It was warm and cozy and luxurious to be there at last. In the foyer we saw our friend Tony in his dinner jacket. He was the father of the bride, beaming and embracing us.
"Take one of these," he advised Ben - gesturing to a basket full of shawls. "You'll need it." The ceremony was taking place outside, on the veranda.
It was cold on the veranda. All the seats were taken except for the ones in front, reserved for the wedding party. We slid along the front row and draped the rug across our knees.
"Are you sorry you didn't bring your overcoat?" I whispered to Ben.
"Not at all," he answered. "Are you glad we didn't get here early, Manda, or we'd have sat here longer in the cold?"
PS. The tree does not fit in our window seat. It's far too big. Instead, we've put it downstairs. And yes, it's very pretty. And the wedding was beautiful - full of joy, of precious moments, of dancing and conversations underneath the lanterns. We danced and we were happy and we were thrilled for the bride and groom and for our wonderful friends. After all, we've been married for years and marriage is an invaluable institution. What would become of us without it?
|the beautiful bride, having her train adjusted|