MAN ON BOARD, PART IV: ONCE UPON AN ICE STORM


Jeff and Kim on their wedding day.
Jeff and Kim on their wedding day.

03-02-2014
1:00 p.m.

So, here we are — Jodi, my longtime friend and Matron of Honor, and me — clutching our yellow rose bouquets and waiting for “I Cross My Heart”, the last song in the wedding prelude. After an  electrifying five-second pause a soft guitar riff introduces Tracy Byrd’s song, “The Keeper of The Stars”.  As Jodi and I wait at the door of the women’s restroom  and listen for our cues to start down the aisle, my hands start trembling.

In less than thirty minutes,  I’ll be married!

Since I became single, I have become comfortable in my own skin. When I descended the courthouse steps, I vowed to myself, “That does it. Matrimony and I are done. Finito!”

Yet, my romantic spirit still longed to fall in love, feel comforted and secure with someone who “got” me. I yearned for a soul-mate.

Cynical brain snorted. “Soul-mate? Yeah. On which planet?”

My hopeful heart protested.

“Shut up, brain. My parents were soul mates. So there!”

I knew this could become a lifetime quest, but, hey, nothing ventured, nothing gained. Right?

So the procession of princes-cum-toads paraded before me. Each one glittered like Prince Charming, at first before his un-princely behavior showed me a sneak preview of my future with him. Old girlfriends, ex-wives, prison records — all crept out of dark corners and musty closets.

Yet, I soldiered on, setting up profiles on four of the more reputable online dating sites: Match, Christian Mingle, Our Time, and Zoosk.

If I learned anything at all, it’s that there are a lot — a lot — of lonely, desperate souls awake at two a.m. I cocked my head. Did I hear Brain’s sing-songy “I told you so”?

Had that old harpy been right, all along?

Fast-forward to Thanksgiving 2013. I was browsing Zoosk when I saw a cowboy with gray sideburns peeking out from his Stetson. Soft, sexy, pale blue eyes and lazy smile beckoned me to “wink”. and ask him about his hometown.

“New Braunfels? Hmmm, would I have passed it on my way home from Port Aransas.”

“Yes, ma’am,” he replied. “Sure would.”

Seeing where he currently lived, I bravely typed another question: “Frisco. That’s near Dallas, right?”

Again, another polite “Yes, it is.”

Hours later, I dined on an unconventional, solitary Thanksgiving dinner of ribeye, baked potato, salad, and Haagen-Dazs Swiss almond vanilla ice cream. Afterwards, I posted about my non-Turkey feast on Facebook and Zoosk before flopping out on the couch for a tryptophan-induced nap.

Cowboy’s been lassoed, already, I told Self when I logged back onto Zoosk. But, to my surprise, he asked me a question:

“How was your rib-eye?”

From that moment, we were off and running. Chat sessions, phone calls, text messages, and more chats led to our first date, scheduled for December 7. But, when that day arrived, an ice storm froze our plans.

Despite the icicles outside our windows, our ardor to meet each other burned. So, we waited until the next Saturday when we made the most of the beautiful, sunny but crisp weekend. By Sunday evening, we  agreed not to see anyone else.

The day after Christmas, we drove down to New Braunfels where Jeff introduced me to his family. During the Christmas break, we divided our time between my place and his.

In January, we started talking “marriage”, bought wedding bands, and kicked around dates and locations. Soon, we lined up the minister of my Singles’ class to tie our knot at a meeting room across from church on Sunday, March 2.

Thinking I had everything planned, I twiddled my thumbs.

“C’monnnn, February! Get a move on!”

Normally the shortest month of the year, February seemed endless until I realized I was nowhere near through with the details. I still needed to order cake, mix  punch, pick out flowers, decorations, wedding music, gifts for our attendants, and locate my  “something old, new, borrrowed, and blue”. All that and — ooooh, yes– shop for a dress to match my black-and-turquoise “wedding boots”. Before I knew it, February melted down to fewer than three weeks, according to the wedding day countdown app on my iPhone.

Soon, three weeks dwindled to two. I ticked off my list of “I-Do To-Do’s”: plates, cups, cutlery, a serving set, special wedding flutes for punch, Unity sand, and — lest we forget — the marriage license!

When I could count on my fingers to the big day, I started looking for my “something old and something borrowed”. “Something new” — my engagement ring and wedding dress — was a no-brainer. “Something blue”? A slam-dunk — my garter. When “something old” sent me prowling through my grandmother’s jewelry case, I found her onyx ring. Old, new, and blue — check, check, and check.

Now, as Jodi and Mindy, my soon-to-be sister-in-law, help me calm the pre-wedding jitters, Mindy yanks off her gold nugget ring and hands it to me.

“Need something borrowed?”

I nodded eagerly and extended my right hand.

“Thanks, Min.”

“I want it back after the wedding, y’know. It’s not borrowed if you keep it.”

After we hug, I glance at my watch.

“Yikes! Hey, ladies, it’s time!”

As Jodi rounds up my clothes and toiletries, Min phones ahead to her husband, Steve.

“We’re coming with Kim. Send Jeff to the bathroom!”

After sliding across the icy parking lot to the Community Enrichment Center, our wedding venue, I hand Jodi her bouquet, grab mine, and we disappear into the women’s restroom to wait out the first five songs: “You Had Me From Hello”, “Could I Have This Dance?”, ‘Me and You”, “I Do”, and “I Cross My Heart” — hand-picked because they tell our story.  Min, whom I appointed the “runner”, makes sure we come out on our cues and snaps our pictures a we start out.

To my surprise, my “other son”,Colin, the best friend of my son, Terry stands up, offers me his arm, and walks me down the aisle to Jeff who leads me to the cowhide rug where the ceremony takes place and the music dies down.

After we exchange vows and rings, we hear the intro to Steven Curtis Chapman’s song, “I Will Be Here” as Jeff and I take turns layering silver and turquoise sand  into turquoise-and-silver-beribboned Mason jars, spilling the sand, and bursting into nervous giggles.

After Cary pronounces us “husband and wife”, Jeff and I give the guests their money’s worth with the longest kiss anyone’s ever seen in church. On the riff of  “Forever and Ever Amen”, we –Jeff and Kim Schwarz– lead everyone to the reception table, where our wedding sheet  cake — half white and half chocolate, covered  white buttercream icing with our names in blue,  Jeff and I feed each other bites of cake and sips of white grape juice-and-ginger ale wedding punch.

After Jeff removes and tosses my garter and I throw my bouquet to the only remaining “singles”– gawking grandchildren of our guests — we  thank  everyone for braving the elements, begin picking up after ourselves, and rush out to our limousine –,Jeff’s red pickup.  After Cary tosses birdseed at us,  Jeff guides me over icy patches to his pickup before we leave for our  honeymoon hideaway– a suite at the Southlake Hilton, a gift from our gracious friend, Stephen.

04-16-14

Now, six weeks later, we’re officially “old marrieds” who  cuddle on the couch and watch Netflix with a bowl of popcorn between us. Life with the love of my life is simple, laid-back, and sweeter than I dared to hope it could be. My yellow-roses-and-bluebonnets bouquet, the jar of unity sand, and many cards, gifts, and flowers —  are mementos of a never-ending love story  that begins with the words, “Once upon an ice storm”.

 

 

 

 

 

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