The flowers were dead. Not just a little wilted looking. Dead. And they were ugly.
I noticed the ugly before the dead. How simple bouquets of red roses could be ugly is beyond me, but they were. No pretty ribbon on the stems. Instead they were wrapped with what looked like the cheap plasticized ribbons you put on Christmas presents in a dull rusty red color. No bow, just an awkward knot. They were absurdly long for bouquets, and their ends were sharpened into points--dry, ugly diagonal points.
My mind raced--we could send someone down the road to the local Joanne's--they could buy some nice ribbon, we can grab a knife out of the church's kitchen and hack the ends off. Never mind that I was wearing a dress too ridiculously white for such a task. Never mind that the ceremony was going to start in less than an hour. My first thoughts were surprisingly calm, considering. It was all about fixing what was a cosmetic problem. I could handle it. We'd already lost one bridesmaid at the hair salon and duct-taped a flower girl's hem, this was just as fixable.
And then I saw it--the half opened bud wilted brown straight through where the stem met the petals, the flower's head drooping inconsolably. The rest zoomed into focus. They were dead. How can roses--the heartiest of flowers--be dead? I picked them for their simplicity and their ability to withstand the summer's heat, and the fact that I love deep, dark red roses. But these were not so much red as blackened, tinged with brown. My heart sank and panic set in.
I called the florist. I cursed at him on the phone and then cursed at him for making me curse in a church on my wedding day. I handed the phone off to my mom and she told the elfish man on the other end to come fix it. Now. I don't have much memory of what happened next. I was too panicked. We had spent far too much money on those flowers-- far too much money. But it was the one thing I was looking forward to. The girls picked out their own dresses, I backed down about wearing a veil and about having a white (rather than a deep, dark chocolate covered) wedding cake. The roses were for me. And they were dead.
I had to see J. My mom didn't want me to, but I do remember in the heart of that confusion, panic, and disappointment, I suddenly and quite clearly knew that none of it would matter if I could just see him. My brother, against my mom's better judgment, went to find him. My mom tried rigging up this thing where we'd be on opposite sides of the wall. It didn't work. I begged-- just let me see him. I knew that's what I needed.
And it was.
With his arms around me, it seemed simple: the flowers didn't matter. After a ridiculously long engagement, we were finally, finally getting married. In that moment, that was enough. That was everything. I would walk down the aisle with no flowers--it didn't matter if he was at the other end. I was fine.
And suddenly I was being dragged away--as though it mattered how much time we had together now that the grand "surprise" (one I was never set on in the first place) was "spoiled."
It's hard to believe that was five years ago. It feels like yesterday, and doubtless, many years from now I'll look back and truly know how short a time 5 years is. 50 years is.
It doesn't really matter that the elfish man came and I did have a (mostly) live bouquet, or that the great showbiz wonder--a family friend who was to sing for the wedding--didn't actually sing anything at all during the mass except the Ave Maria, which he belted out so ridiculously that it was all J and I could do to not visibly laugh while we were supposed to be praying. Or that we tore a hole in a flower girl's dress and the ring bearer's rented pants. Or even that we had the most fun we'd ever had at a party, dancing every dance together and leaving so exhausted that the walk into the hotel was excruciating.
It's easy to remember so much from that day, but really my favorite memory is that moment before the ceremony--just the two of us remembering why we were really there. And the feeling of complete calm and contentment that confirmed what I already knew many times over--that he's exactly, perfectly what I need, what I always will.
So happy anniversary sweetie. Here's to fifty or sixty more.