Monday, July 02, 2012

The Wedding that Survived the Storm

I just got back from a weekend in Alexandria, VA, attending the wedding of a friend I've known for nearly 25 years. He and my brother (who served as one of the groomsmen) have been close friends ever since my brother was perhaps 10 and the groom was maybe 3 years old. Although I wouldn't make the trip from California to Virginia for just anyone, this friend was definitely worth it. The weekend turned out to be an epic story that demonstrates just how much things can change in the time between one day and another. I only saw a small part of everything that happened, and therefore can only paint a partial picture, although I hope that what I have included gives an accurate idea.

Having arrived late Thursday night, I met up with my family from KY early Friday morning, and also with the groom's family, who I have not seen in several years. Besides the close connection between the groom and my brother, the groom's father was the pastor of my family's church while I was in middle and high school, and he was one of my first mentors. He and my own father share a love of railroading, and our families have spent a lot of time together over the years, and even after he left our church for another call, he and his wife still come to KY to visit my family at least annually. We still keep in touch on Facebook, but seeing him in person and hearing his voice as talked about the latest news reminded me of aspects of our relationship that I haven't thought about in some time. There is a sense in which I felt like I was stepping back in time, into my own past, a sense which repeated itself for several reasons as the weekend progressed.

We left before lunchtime that morning to visit Mount Vernon, home of George Washington. My maternal grandmother (who also joined us, in her case having caught a train from Northern California) tells me that we're distant cousins to the Washingtons, but don't ask me to connect the dots. We had a pleasant (if hot) afternoon walking through the grounds as we got a taste of what Washington's home life (apart from the chaos of war) was like, and enjoyed seeing the tranquil view from Washington's porch that itself is more than enough explanation for why he chose this site to build his home.

At the end of the day, the rehearsal dinner was held at the hotel where most of the guests were staying, and I was able to talk with some other friends from my Kentucky years that I haven't seen a long time. I was surprised to learn that they, like me, had gone to the Montreat Youth Conferences all five years they were eligible to do so (I was the only one from my church to do so from that particular era. These friends were only in elementary school at the time, and moved to another church by the time they were in high school). Naturally, they remember the conferences with similar affection.

I was staying in a different hotel, and as I was preparing to leave, I heard for the first time that a bad storm was brewing, and that I should therefore be careful. It turned out that the warnings were by no means exaggerated. After leaving my parents' hotel room, before my brother and I could even get to the elevator, the power blinked out. Deciding not to take our chances with the elevator, we used the stairs, and by the time we reached the ground floor, the power had gone out again. We got outside to find it was not only raining, but the winds were as fierce as I'd seen them in a long time. I drove slowly through the rain, and got to my hotel room safely, pleased to discover that it still had power.

It wasn't until the next morning that I discovered that Alexandria had suffered a major windstorm not dissimilar to the one I witnessed the effects of here in Pasadena only this past December. By Saturday morning, the storm was over, and the weather was surprisingly clear again (arguably even more so than the morning after the Pasadena storm), but the damage was done. Power was out in checkered areas all over the region, and trees blocked some of the major roads, with scattered debris everywhere. The hotel that I had left the previous evening was still without power, and it wasn't scheduled to be restored for another three days (truth be told, I haven't heard whether power is back on by the time I'm writing this) on what was likely to be one of the hottest days of the year thus far. To make matters worse, the power was also out at nearby Fort Belvoir, where the wedding ceremony was scheduled to take place late that afternoon, and where the wedding reception was also scheduled to be held.

I'm not the best person to relate the behind-the-scenes scrambling that took place to ensure that both the wedding and the reception still took place (the wedding remained in its originally-intended location, albeit without electrical power or air conditioning, while the reception was moved to the historic Gadsby's Tavern to remarkable success, although it did mean that we had to fit roughly 150 guests into a place that really wasn't intended to hold quite so many). It will have to suffice to say that a running joke of the event was to recognize the reality that life doesn't always turn out as one expects, but that when people work together, we can still find ways to work things out. A fitting illustration for marriage if ever I heard one. One thing is absolutely certain. My friend's wedding day will be a day neither he nor his new wife will ever forget!

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