It is Friday– a cold December Friday– in Albany, New York. The former DeWitt Clinton ballroom is as white as the glistening snow on the sidewalks outside. Upstate New York can be a cold, unpredictable mistress, but the warmth I feel tonight is not from the heating system alone. I am standing on the altar with my arms around the love of my life, feeling the intricate floral embroidery on the side of her bodice. She is looking at me in anticipation of two words that will bind us together for the rest of our lives. With such a dark past, I am baffled at what luck allowed me to find this woman.
Looking up, I see how beautiful the architecture of the Clinton is. The ballroom is highlighted by high ceilings, pillars with corinthian capitals, and tall windows looking out onto State Street. The entire room is white, and the huge chandeliers cast a warm cream glow upon the walls. The air has the sweet, forest scent of the bouquets set upon shining candelabras, making my wedding just as I have imagined it in my dreams.
I look out into the crowd and a thicket of faces returns my warm gaze. Sitting front and center are my sons. The three musketeers are matching in black suits and crimson ties, each with a single rose on their jackets. They look so handsome and mature. These young men are handling merging families with outstanding readiness and ability. They– one the competitor, one the creator, and one the controller– help me stand here with pride.
Our new family is a plant that has somehow flowered in the ruins of abusive parents. Not even one of the five of us has escaped some sort of abuse from our parents, and yet somehow we are here, sharing our lives with one another. My son has a different mother, her sons have a different father, and yet somehow love has been cultivated between them.
My son, the creator, locks eyes with me. I have noticed a subtle restlessness within him from the day I met him. He has been tense, almost nervous. Looking at him now, with a huge grin on his face, his shoulders completely relaxed, and without a worry in the world, I understand why. He has been waiting for this day. He has been waiting for us to make our family official.
The rabbi continues to read the vows, and as the moment draws closer I smile. I imagine the crows feet on my face deepen and the grooves of my face soften. Rocking slightly back and forth in anticipation, I hear the clack of my Dockers heels gently strike the carpeted wood altar.
I look back at my soon-to-be wife. She is beautiful. The stylist has brushed a light coat of makeup on her, pulled her golden blonde curls into a French twist, and has bedecked her in the most elegant dress I have ever laid eyes on. I haven’t seen her in a day, and in those hours between she became Venus, goddess of beauty. I am still suspicious of what circumstance allowed me to marry such a woman. It must have been that the unrelenting streak of misfortune that made up my life came to an abrupt, screeching halt six years ago when I met her.
I think of the long, tragic journey that has gotten me here. The countless nights spent in New York City bars drinking away the pain are behind me. The road trips to California with the burnt spoons, dirty needles, crushed pills, and blunt razor blades are behind me. The unyielding, agonizing urge to satisfy the addiction and the incredible, religious perseverance it took to defeat it are behind me. But somehow, even after the countless Alcoholics Anonymous meetings and conquering my addiction, blue skies didn’t appear. I went through two failed marriages, years of dating, and was ready to give up on finding a soul-mate until she chanced upon me. Our marriage is the epitome of the adage “third time is the charm.”
When the ghosts of my past exit the room, I realize everyone in the crowd’s expectant gazes are upon me. I look into her hazel eyes and I can see the endless love she holds there, waiting for me to receive and return. I feel the hair on the back of my neck tingle when my voice roars to the room, to the universe “I do.”
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