“That is a very good question, Chris, and that’s why we would usually take four months to cover it all.”
“But we don’t have four months, Father.” Chris responded. “We don’t have four days! Could we just go over the details of the wedding, and then we will be able to finish running errands?”
“Chris!” Mia exclaimed. ” We still have time. The wedding is really simple, we don’t have that much to do.” Turning towards the pastor, Mia asked, “If you could give us a compact lesson of what it takes to make a marriage work, what would it be, Father?”
Thinking for a moment, Father Baaken quietly said, “Love, listen, give, and forgive…. I might also add to treat yourselves and each other with respect and honor. God does that with each of us, and we are his hands, feet, mouth and ears on this earth, so give to others as we receive from him.”
“So…. is that it? Are we done now?” Chris asked.
“Yes. That’s it.” Father Baaken said quietly. As he spoke, his eyes met Chris’s in a gentle way, filled with sadness for the path he felt the boy was taking. Turning to Mia, he noticed a tear escape from the corner of her eye, only to be swept away quickly by her hand. Mia’s eyes were downcast and she wouldn’t meet his questioning gaze. “So we’re set for Saturday, right?” The pastor asked.
“Yep… Saturday at ten in the morning.” Chris responded. “And we need to be done fairly quickly, ‘cuz we need to catch a plane at six that night, and its a two hour drive to the airport. So… not much time to spare.”
“Ok, then I will see you Friday night at the rehearsal.” Father Baaken concluded.
“Great!” said Chris as he pushed back the chair from the table and began to put his coat on. Mia slowly pressed her back into her chair, and began to ease it away from the table as well, as if a weight were dangling from the seat of her chair. Reaching for her coat, she watched as Chris turned and began walking the aisle to the door into the vestibule.
Pastor Baaken came behind Mia to help her with her coat, and softly said, “Mia, just remember that we are also your family here. This is home. You are ALWAYS welcome at home.”
“Thank you, Father…” she said, her voice quivering.
Despite her misgivings, Mia plowed through the rest of the week and the wedding as well. She responded to each task mechanically, as if she felt compelled to finish something she had started, yet without the passion of her heart. Chris, however, sped through everything and everyone seemed to get caught in the wake of his movement; getting sucked along in ever-increasing speed, finally ending with an explosion of fractious nerves and colliding schedules at the security checkpoint of the airport. The fathers of Mia and Chris had driven them to the airport, and as the four of them approached the security check point, after dropping off their luggage at the sidewalk baggage check, a large female security officer stood with a metallic wand in her hand.
“Tickets, please. Take your shoes off and empty your pockets.” The officer said in monotone habit. Chris gave the officer their tickets. “ID’s please…” the drone continued. As she viewed the materials, Chris and Mia removed their shoes and placed everything from their pockets in one plastic container, and placed their carry-on bags on the conveyor to be x-rayed. As Chris and Mia began to move up to the personal metal detector, the two fathers approached the officer.
Hank Desmond and Aaron Christianson began speaking at the same time, “We…have…don’t…tickets…our… children…” their words stumbled over each other.
“One at a time, one at a time…” irritation began to tweak the officer’s monotone… “I need to see your tickets. gentlemen.”
Looking at each other, Aaron nodded to Hank to speak, “We don’t have tickets, we just want to see them off. We’ll be glad to go through security!”
While their fathers were involved with the officer, Chris and Mia waited in front of the metal detector. One of the officers next to the detector instructed, “Step through one at a time, please…” Same monotone.
“Sir, I’m sorry, but only ticketed passengers beyond this point. I can’t let you pass…” The officer with Hank and Aaron responded.
While Hank and the officer began to discuss why they should or shouldn’t be allowed through the security checkpoint, a line of people began to form behind them.
“C’mon buddy, you’ll see ’em again next Christmas!” an irritated voice barked near the end of the line.
“Sir, I’m SORRY, but there are to be no persons without tickets past this line! Now if you don’t leave this area, I will have you arrested!” The first officer threatened.
“Go, Dad!” Chris said, “We will see you later! C’mon Mia, let’s go. We’re holding up the line.” He started to pull Mia into the metal detector with him and the nearest officer tersely said, “One at a time, please!”
As Chris walked through the detector, Mia turned to the burgeoning chaos swirling about their fathers. “Bye….. Dad….” she began, but her words were lost in the increased volume of people’s complaints about being delayed from their flights. Reluctantly, Mia turned and walked through the metallic portal to her new dimension, tears beginning to form in the corners of her eyes.
Hank Dresden and Aaron Christianson finally detached themselves from the angry line, and searched for their kids to at least shout one final good-bye, but all they could see were the last fragments of Mia’s “going-away-dress” enveloped by the hallway leading to their gate. Each father felt the whoosh of activity and motion overtake them in an explosion of silence. Unable to even go to a window to watch the plane leave due to the structure of security devices, they turned to leave and walked away in awkward silence; their hands shoved deep into the pockets of rented tux pants.
Chris and Mia arrived at LaGuardia Airport in New York at 11:30 the same night as the wedding. After deplaning, they made their way to the baggage claim area to retrieve their luggage. Upon arrival at baggage claim, they noticed a man dressed in a black suit, white shirt, black tie, and sporting a black driver’s hat. The man looked tired, but held a cardboard sign with the name “Dredsen” on it.
Chris approached the man and asked, “Are you looking for us?”
The driver wearily said, “I am if your name is Chris Dredsen…”
“It’s Dresden… The name is Chris Dresden… not Dredsen… and this is my girlfr… I mean wife,” he turned to Mia and chuckled, while she gave him a shy smile, “Mia Dresden.”
“Oh… sorry about that… my eyes get a little blurry when it gets later than ten.” After a beat, the driver asked, “Shall I get your bags, sir?”
“Uh… sure… Where are you parked?” said Chris, nervously.
“We are right by the curb, sir.” The driver pointed through the large windows acting as an exterior wall to the building.
After retrieving their bags, the driver pilfered a cart and followed the two out the door. “This is it, right here.” The driver walked to the side of a stretch limousine, opened the door and waited while the two of them entered. He then closed the door, and began to load the luggage into the trunk.
Chris and Mia looked around at a dark brown leather interior with seats all around the sides, and the back-end of the passenger compartment. Towards the front was a compartment for champagne glasses, and a door, within which Chris found several bottles of a variety of wine and liquor. Taking two of the champagne flutes, a cork screw, and a bottle of champagne; Chris began to open the bottle. Mia sat back in the lush seat and breathed deeply of the odor of the leather interior.
“Baby,” Chris said, “this is now our life!” He opened the bottle with a pop and the cork bounced off the ceiling and landed in Mia’s lap.
“Woo!” Mia jumped, and then laughed.
“Let me pour these drinks and I will be right there to git that!” Chris said with a smile.
After pouring the two glasses, Chris took his place in the seat beside Mia. The driver opened the front door and slid behind the wheel and pulled away from the curb.
“Could we have some music back here, driver?” Chris asked.
“Certainly, sir. The controls are just above your head in the ceiling.” He responded.
“Oh, thank you… and could you roll the window up between us?” Chris continued.
“That control is on the ceiling too, sir. Just behind the skylight.”
“Skylight…” Mia squealed excitedly. “Oh Chris, this will be a beautiful ride!”
“Sir,” the driver’s voice came through an intercom, “Your destination is the Waldorf, is that right?”
“Oh… yes, I almost forgot!” replied an embarrassed Chris. “Uh, driver, how long will the ride be?”
“How long do you need it to be?”